Businesses however big or small can reduce their carbon emissions, there are many changes that can be made to business operations in order to do this.
We have compiled 10 actions you can take to significantly reduce carbon emissions.
1. Switch to renewable energy backed by REGO certificates
REGOs – or Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin assures that the energy supplied to you is 100% renewably sourced.
The GHG Protocol market-based calculation method to calculate your carbon footprint focuses on the fuel mix of your electricity supplier. Consequently, if you use renewable energy you will reduce carbon emissions for electricity to zero!
2. Reduce carbon emissions from air travel
Increasingly, even before the Coronavirus crisis companies were opting to travel less for business. Instead, opting to use popular software programmes such as Zoom and Skype to conduct meetings. Now it seems to be the new normal.
If you have to travel, consider travelling by train domestically to reduce emissions from air travel. However, if you have to travel by plane, investigate the flight class that is being used. Using the 2019 UK Defra Carbon Factors for a long haul flight, the emissions per passenger km for first class travel are 0.60kg CO2e, for business class 0.43kg CO2e and for economy 0.15kg CO2e. This is calculated by the amount of space taken up per seat on the plane.
This means a one-way flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK airport will have a carbon footprint per person of 3684kg CO2e for first class, 2671kg CO2e for business class and 921kg CO2e for economy class. For those undertaking several trips per year, a switch from business to economy class will mean a reduction in comfort but also a significant difference in the associated emissions.
3. Reduce carbon emissions from road travel
If you have your own fleet install a telematics system (GPS tracking) to allow the collection of data that can help analyse your fleet’s usage and make your fleet more efficient. Analysis of telematics data could inform criteria for future purchase/leasing decisions.
Choosing more fuel efficient or alternatively fuelled vehicles such as alternative fuel or electric vehicles. Government grants are available to subsidise the cost of new low-emissions vehicles. As with the cost of alternative fuel or electric vehicles the government also offers subsidies to those installing charge points at home.
It is worthwhile engaging with The Energy Saving Trust (EST) who can carry out several different reviews to help you make your fleet greener and more efficient. EST’s Green Fleet Reviews are usually available at no cost for most private and public sector organisations in England as they are paid for by the UK Government to promote energy efficiency goals. Green Fleet Reviews identify opportunities to reduce emissions, fuel costs and expenditure.
- To apply for a Green Fleet Review email firstname.lastname@example.org
- EST also offer a series of best practice guides.
- And a ‘Fleet Healthcheck’ tool which uses the answers to a five minute questionnaire to give some indicative answers of the type that a full review would provide.
Additional, try raining drivers in ecodriving techniques to save fuel and reduce emissions. In summary this consists of teaching drivers how to drive with more anticipation of road conditions and more consideration of fuel economy.
4. Increase the efficiency of your office lighting
Changing lighting throughout a building to more energy efficient options such as LED can make a big difference and is a quick win with long lasting effects. Ensure that natural light is used when adequate, many offices are artificially lit unnecessarily. Natural light saves energy and has been found to improve sleep and avoid health risks associated with unnatural lighting such as an elevated stress response.
Solar shading and transparent film can be used to help to minimise glare and excessive heat. There is also an array of technology available, such as motion sensors which will automatically ensure lights are switched off if rooms are not in use. Dimmable lights are another method to ensure lights aren’t at their brightest maximum when not required.
5. Reduce energy usage in your data centre and comms room
Set cooling systems to a higher temperature to save energy and increase cooling capacity
Often data centres are set around 19°C resulting in unnecessary energy usage. Data centres can save 8% to 9% in energy costs for every 1°C increase in server inlet temperature. 23°C is the optimum temperature for many data centres to save energy without risking overheating.
Set up hot and cool isles
Typically, only 40% of the electricity consumed in a data centre is used by IT equipment. A staggering 60% is consumed by the server room infrastructure: air conditioning, lighting, UPS systems, etc. Reorganising your aisles into either hot or cold air containment systems could save you 20% to 40% in annual cooling system energy.
Install plastic curtains
The most simple and cost-effective hot air containment system we found is used by Google and involves placing metal-end caps on rows and vinyl plastic curtains, such as those used in meat lockers. This prevents air of different temperatures from mixing, whilst maintaining ease of access and flexible rack layouts.
6. Optimise your heating and cooling systems
- Implement temperature controls, ensuring heating and air conditioning is timed correctly and appropriate for the outside air temperature. This can minimise over heating or cooling. Lots of energy can be wasted if heating and cooling systems are competing, this can be avoided by installing a Building Management system. Additionally, make sure energy isn’t wasted by excessive heating/cooling overnight.
- Ensure staff are trained on local heating and cooling units to avoid dramatic swings in temperature or take away the capability to manually adjust the thermostat and have them centrally controlled.
- Make sure your boiler is regularly serviced to ensure it is operating as efficiently as possible. In addition, regularly clean fins on heating and cooling appliances.
- Consider installing window film, that allows light in but reflects the heat back out during the summer. This gives you the benefit of natural light without causing increased need for air conditioning. This film can be reversed in winter so that heat is reflected into room.
7. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Thinking about sustainable procurement can act as an exercise to engage employees with ways they can reduce consumption of items such as water, paper, food and drink, laptops, phones and packaging. Manufacture and transport of all these items has an associated carbon footprint, therefore, minimising consumption reduces carbon emissions.
Purchasing recycled paper or refurbished phones and IT equipment is an easy way to reduce your businesses carbon footprint. Buying recycled paper instead of primary production reduces carbon emissions as stipulated by the GHG Protocol. If your business has a large supply chain, then it is particularly important to ensure that sustainability is fed right through.
8. Reduce carbon emissions from food and food waste
- Food takes a significant amount of energy to produce and transport. Therefore, food waste can be source of carbon, particularly if your business has a canteen serving fresh food daily. Check with your waste contractor if food waste collection is possible.
- Ensure that kitchen staff are all trained and aware of the issue, and provide proper facilities, in kitchens, dining rooms and canteens for employees to dispose of any food waste they may have. Additionally, it is worth looking into food waste apps like Olio for example.
- If your business has a canteen or café it is worth making sure you have vegan and vegetarian options available to encourage staff to choose to eat food with fewer associated carbon emissions. 18% of global emissions are associated with livestock agriculture (FAO Report). Providing employees with good vegan and vegetarian food options can help to reduce your businesses carbon footprint.
9. Minimise single use plastic
By introducing sustainable procurement policies as suggested above, your plastic waste will be reduced. The next step to reduce plastic is to look as removing all (or as many as possible), single use plastic items from your business model.
Be cautious of biodegradable or compostable materials as many of them can’t be combined with food waste. Here is a more in-depth article outlining suitable alternatives to single use plastics.
10. Print as minimally as possible
Many offices consume vast amounts of paper. Take action to cut down paper usage, especially by reducing printing, and digitising (e.g. online contract signings, avoiding printing emails, presentations and annotating on screen instead). Energy is used to manufacture and transport paper, you can reduce carbon emissions by minimising paper consumption.
If printing is required, ensure double sided printing is set as a default. Having ‘follow me’ printing services across office printers can also help cut down any accidental or unnecessary printing as options can be altered at the time of printing.