How to Reduce Your Small Business’s Carbon Footprint
As concerns mount about the alarming impacts of climate change, many people are on the lookout for ways to help decrease our collective carbon footprint. While we’re often conscious of the environmental impact of actions we take in our private lives, we tend to think less about what could be done to make our businesses better at reducing their carbon footprints.
For small business owners, a helpful first step is making a rough calculation of your current carbon footprint – several free online tools can help give you an estimate.
After that, it’s all about changing behaviour and evaluating alternatives to the status quo. Here’s a look at what your small business can do to help the planet.
Remember the Three Rs
Make it a business-wide goal to always Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. The more you’re able to do of the first two, the less you’ll need to worry about the third. Of course, there’ll always be things you need to get rid of – the trick is keeping them out of the trash. From paper and pop cans to old computers and unwanted office furniture, everything can, and should, be properly recycled.
Get creative with staff commutes
Simply getting all your staff to and from the office each day can be a big contributor to the carbon footprint of the overall business. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to put a significant dent in the amount of CO2 created by commuting. Encourage your employees to carpool, and encourage them to purchase green vehicles. Contract an electric vehicle to drive people to work, or possibly to and from the local transit hub. Provide secure parking for bicycles, as well as a place for people to clean up and change their clothes after riding to work. Consider giving your staff free or reduced-cost transit passes – they’ll be incentivized to use them at all times, not just when commuting. Finally, be willing to let people telecommute from time to time – working remotely even one day a week means a 20 percent cut to their commute.
Don’t travel unless you have to
Sometimes, there’s no substitute for sitting down face-to-face with a colleague or client. More often than not, however, modern technology has eliminated the need to travel far and wide for meetings and other business interactions. Flying is a particularly big contributor to global emissions, so cutting back on air travel is an easy way to shrink your carbon footprint by a few sizes. When you do travel, consider cars, buses, and trains as an alternative to airplanes. If that’s not possible, you can purchase carbon offsets to account for your emissions from any flights.
Strive for peak energy efficiency
Upgrade lighting systems, doors, and windows at your office to increase energy efficiency and reduce overall power use, as well as heating and cooling costs. Set your thermostat to come on just before staff arrive for work and switch off shortly before everyone heads home. Consider turning the temperature up (or down, depending on the season) by a single degree – your office doesn’t need to be boiling in winter, or an ice box in summer. As much as you can, use floor and ceiling fans to help people stay cool.
No matter whether you have power-hungry incandescent bulbs or energy-friendly LEDs, it’s always wise to turn lights off when offices and rooms are empty and consider using motion sensors to light some common areas. Stress to your staff that power-sucking monitors and computers should be shut down or set to sleep mode at the end of the work day, and also remember to power down printers, copiers, televisions and any other appliances that won’t be used after hours.
Finally, find out whether there are options for your energy consumption – a green provider, perhaps, or the opportunity to install solar panels or a wind turbine on your office roof. Depending on your location, there may be government subsidy and rebate programs to help offset the up-front costs of installation.
Upgrade your equipment
Consider buying laptop computers instead of desktops; they use far less power. Whatever you buy for your business, whether it’s computing equipment, a new refrigerator, or an upgraded HVAC system, look for a low-power version that’s rated for energy efficiency.
Make staff part of the project
Get people at your business on board with the idea of reducing your carbon footprint and give them a reason to make it a success. Consider setting targets, or splitting staff into teams to see who can recycle the most or come up with the best energy-savings plan. Encourage suggestions and ideas, and reward creative ideas and alternative thinking.