Many businesses make no attempt to systematically track and reduce their carbon emissions. All businesses are different, and therefore the list of methods a business can use to reduce their emissions is a long one. Companies that do take steps often make easy onsite changes, such as recycling their paper or switching to LED lights.
However, neither of these are likely to represent more than a tiny fraction of a business’ carbon emissions. For lasting change, your business needs to make systematic changes to the way it understands its emissions. To do this, businesses need to start taking the first steps towards comprehensive carbon accounting.
The very first step towards a more sustainable approach to emissions is to find out what your business’ baseline carbon emissions are. From here, your business can develop a phased reduction plan, focusing on the most important areas of emissions and incorporating many of the ideas below, based on the results.
Thinking about the ways employees travel to and from meetings and work trips is an important part of reducing emissions. Indeed, the emissions caused by employee travel may at first seem tangentially related to business emissions but they are in fact directly related.
How much does air travel contribute to carbon emissions? Aviation is responsible for 2% of global carbon emissions and frequent business flyers are largely to blame.
With new technology, the ease and quality of telecommuting can mitigate the effects of a lack of flying or any other inefficient travel. If travel is unavoidable, the emissions produced from an economy flight ticket are much lower than business or first-class flights.
Businesses that require extensive road travel from employees would benefit from tracking the emissions of these vehicles. Tracking this information can lead to more informed decisions about carbon efficiency. In many instances, there are grants and subsidies to be obtained from the UK government regarding electric or hybrid vehicles.
For many service sector companies, significant electricity and resources are consumed due to the printing of documents and communiques.
Thankfully, there is a growing trend towards web-based communication. Novel and streamlined technologies make web-based communication swift and simple.
In addition to this, web-based communication reduces paper consumption meaning it is an easy and convenient way of becoming more carbon efficient.
Web-based communication is a good starting point as it illustrates how businesses should be thinking about carbon efficiency. Paper recycling can reduce the emissions caused by a business’ use of paper but web-based communication can remove the need for paper entirely.
Food Production and Food Waste
Food production and transport have high associated emissions. For companies that have onsite catering teams, or if food is a part of your business, this may be a critical focus for emission reduction. Each business will require its own bespoke solution to the issue of food production and waste.
Tracking overall food consumption and food waste could lead to some easy changes in the volume that is produced, therefore reducing the volume that is wasted.
Furthermore, certain foods have higher associated carbon emissions. By providing tasty vegan and vegetarian options, a business can further reduce supply chain emissions.
Heating and lighting are often the two largest sources of energy use in offices. The first step towards more efficient lighting is switching to LED lights. LED lights are up to 80% more efficient than incandescent lights. LED lights have long-lasting effects and are a quick and easy method of carbon reduction.
However, with modern technology, there are various methods of optimising office lighting. Motion sensors mean rooms can be lit only when they are in use. Dimmable lights allow reductions in energy usage when required.
Natural light can also be a solution in certain situations. Natural light is known to improve sleep and reduce certain health risks.
A key takeaway for office lighting is that every office is different and therefore the problems and solutions are different too. By doing a phased carbon emissions plan, each business can discover the right solutions for itself. Indeed, this is a key step in a carbon accounting strategy.
Heating and Cooling Systems
Heating is often up to 40% of energy use in offices. Temperature controls can optimise heating and cooling to match office hours and outside air temperatures. Many offices suffer from inefficiencies when heating and cooling systems compete with each other.
Issues like this can be solved by removing locally controlled thermostats and instead relying on a centrally controlled thermostat.
Window film may be a wise investment depending on the position the windows are in and the number of windows in an office. Window film allows light in but reflects heat, reducing the need for cooling in the summer. It can also be reversed in the winter to reflect heat back inside the office.
Data and communications rooms with large computer servers often require specific heating and cooling systems to prevent overheating. Many of these rooms are set at 19°C yet studies have shown that they can be maintained safely at 23°C, reducing emissions by 8% for each degree increased.
Every Business is Different
Every business is different. The most easily avoided carbon emissions generally come from inefficiencies and, inevitably, every business has different inefficiencies.
Therefore the easiest way of reducing emissions is understanding where your inefficiencies are and discovering the right solutions.
The first step towards reducing emissions is finding out what your business’ baseline CO2 emissions are and coming up with a phased plan for reducing these emissions. This plan will streamline the process of figuring out what’s the most cost-effective way of reducing that footprint.