Looking for areas where your business can save energy? We dig into both large-scale and easy ways your business can lower energy consumption and reduce your carbon footprint
There’s never been a more important time to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint. Actions taken now to limit your negative impact on the environment can pay significant dividends for the planet, and this is even more true for businesses than for individuals — the former of which are responsible for the vast majority of harmful emissions.
Here’s a quick guide for businesses (large or small) on the most important ways to reduce your carbon footprint and help contribute to the wider climate solution.
While it’s not the easiest implementation on the list, it may be the most important way to save energy. Depending on where you live there are a few ways to ensure your business runs on renewable energy.
Request renewable energy from your utility provider
Depending on your country or state, you can call your utility provider and request that your building(s) receives only renewable power. This is an excellent, low-lift method for reducing your carbon footprint, and it saves you the cost and time of installing your own renewable system. However, you may incur some additional charges for set-up or encounter variance in the price.
Generate your own renewable energy with solar panels
If you live in a place without the option for off-site renewables from your utility company, consider investing in your own renewable system like solar panels and battery storage. Between the independence gained, possible tax incentives and the option to sell excess energy back to the utility company, this is a wise investment for many organizations (and individuals, too).
From banking to waste management, there is always a climate-friendly option for business partners and vendors. Check out our sustainability strategies guide for businesses to get an in-depth look at how to seek and assess partners on the basis of sustainability.
You may not always have the option or the resources to choose the most sustainable partner, but adding environmental impact to your regular vendor assessment process can strongly reduce your carbon footprint — and help to create an incentive for vendors to do the same.
This is something that’s easy to automate and, if you’re a smaller team looking to minimize upfront costs, easy to do manually, too. Lights, temperature control and electronics should be turned off when they’re not in use. Smart thermometers and IoT devices can help prevent air conditioners and lights from staying on during off-hours and help you save energy on the daily. Larger software offerings also exist to help companies manage groups of buildings and systems from one source.
Many recycling regulations are local — but the best practices are universal: Educate employees on the types of plastic to help them make smart choices about what goes where. Instruct everyone to make sure recyclables are empty, clean and dry before going in the bin. And above all, don’t put stuff that doesn’t belong in a recycling bin. Follow those rules and make sure your teammates do too — it’ll go a long way in preventing carbon-intensive processes like creating new materials.
Smart shipping is a topic that deserves its own deep dive — we have a couple already — but the idea is that there are smarter ways of shipping key supplies and products that limit the number of trips, emissions and the total carbon footprint of these intensive processes. By combining shipments where possible and opting for more sustainable methods of shipment, companies can greatly reduce their carbon footprint.
A Spanish research group found that working from home four days a week would reduce nitrogen dioxide, the main harmful emission from travel, by 10%. While this won’t be possible for every business or organization, it can be an easy way to reduce your environmental impact (and your total overhead costs if you’re able to cut out office space expenses). In addition, limiting commuting, and confining energy consumption to one space – either at home or in the office – is the best way to reduce excess waste and costs.
Along the same lines as the above tactic, consider which business trips are essential to your company’s success and cut out the trips that aren’t. Not only can reduced business travel have a positive effect on your employees’ work-life balance and mental health, but it can do the planet a huge favor as well.
At the end of the day, not buying something new is usually more environmentally friendly than buying something new, even if that thing has a slightly better day-to-day carbon footprint. A great example of this is LED lightbulbs, which use far less energy than their incandescent predecessors. However, the carbon released in the process of creating, shipping and installing new lightbulbs may occasionally eclipse the carbon reduction. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of needed repairs and replacements to make environmentally savvy choices.
When a lightbulb burns out, replace it with an LED. When a window breaks, consider a model that reduces your energy usage. Businesses often have to make these kinds of infrastructure updates on a set basis to comply with regulations. The best path here is to take advantage of those moments to choose better options.
As a reminder, your carbon footprint isn’t synonymous with the waste you produce or the carbon you release into the atmosphere, but it is equal to your final, total impact. The difference here is that there are preventative steps (like many of the above) and after-the-fact steps, like carbon offsetting, which work to mitigate your impact through partnerships and carbon reduction. Both routes are valid when pursued honestly and consistently.
Committing your business to lowering its carbon footprint is often the right economic choice, but, even more importantly, it’s the right choice for your people and your planet.
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