6 Meaningful Ways to Reduce Your Company's Carbon Footprint Businesses implementing successful green programs have seen cost savings, improved public image, boosted morale, and reduced environmental impact.
Reducing your carbon footprint isn't just good for the environment — it's good for business.
Companies switching to greener policies ultimately save money, drive innovation, and win over employees looking to be part of a sustainable organization.
A study by IBM's Institute for Business Value (IBV) found that 67% of employees want to apply for and accept jobs from environmentally sustainable companies, and 68% are more willing to accept positions from such companies.
What is a carbon footprint?
For those not down with the current eco-terminology, a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases, predominantly carbon dioxide, released into the atmosphere over a specific period. This is measured in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) units. By assessing their carbon footprint, businesses can identify areas where they can decrease their emissions and reduce their environmental impact.
There are consulting companies you can hire to assess your carbon footprint and give you an actionable green plan, but for those who want more of a DIY approach, here are some practical ways to reduce your company's carbon footprint.
1. Use energy-efficient lighting
Switching your old bulbs for LEDs is a no-brainer. According to the US Department of Energy, LEDs use up to 90% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Also, be sure to switch off lights and equipment when not in use. You can also install motion sensors to automatically turn off lights in unused areas.
2. Use energy-efficient appliances
There are a number of energy-efficient appliances and equipment that businesses can use. Some ideas.
- Install energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Use programmable thermostats to control heating and cooling based on occupancy.
- Use energy-efficient computers, printers, and other electronics that have earned the ENERGY STAR certification.
- Use energy-efficient copiers, scanners, and other office equipment. Turn off equipment when not in use and use sleep mode settings to conserve energy.
- Install efficient hot water systems, such as tankless or solar-powered systems.
- Use low-flow water fixtures to reduce water usage
- Insulate walls, ceilings, and floors to reduce heat loss and gain, which will reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the building.
3. Install renewable energy sources
Renewable energy sources, such as solar power, can greatly impact climate change, but most companies are intimidated by the high cost. However, there are many financing options for commercial solar installations. In the US, power purchase agreements (PPAs) can reduce costs. PPAs use special purpose entities (SPE), which oversee installing solar equipment and the energy system operations for a time, gradually transitioning ownership back to the customer to reduce upfront costs.
Ultimately, reducing the reliance on the power grid greatly reduces utility costs. According to Energy Sage market data, the average business owner in the U.S. can reduce overall energy costs by 75% by going solar.
4. Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups
Seems like a minor thing but just switching to reusable cups and bottles significantly reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills or incinerators. According to some estimates, each year, Americans use over 100 billion single-use cups and over 50 billion single-use water bottles, which end up in landfills, litter the environment, or require significant energy to recycle.
For an added company perk, consider putting your company logo on the bottles. Fill it Forward makes branded bottles, cups, and bags with a QR code. Every scan unlocks a $0.02 – $10.00 donation, which is funded by product sales and corporate partnerships.
5. Start a green travel policy
Encourage employees to use public transportation or carpool. Also, put a limit on the amount of business trips employees make, replacing these trips with online meetings that will reduce the environmental impact. Provide your employees with all the digital tools to be able to avoid all those trips that are not essential.
6. Implement a waste reduction program
Conduct a waste audit of your company to identify the types and amounts of waste generated by the office, and where the waste is coming from. Patagonia conducted a waste audit and found that almost two-thirds of their environmental impact comes from producing raw materials, so they focused on using recycled materials in their products.
Companies can reduce paper waste by implementing paperless office practices, like using digital signatures, online documents, and cloud storage. Aetna has implemented a paperless billing system for its customers, reducing the amount of paper used for bills and statements.
You can also partner with a local recycling company or hire a waste management company that specializes in recycling. For example, the fashion company H&M has a garment collection program where customers can bring in old clothes to be recycled.
While no single program or initiative can solve all of the environmental challenges we face, every small step a company takes toward reducing its environmental impact can have a positive impact on the planet.
Implementing a green program can have a ripple effect that goes beyond just the immediate impact on the environment. By demonstrating a commitment to sustainability, businesses can inspire and motivate others to take action as well. This can lead to a cultural shift towards more sustainable practices, which in turn can lead to greater awareness and understanding of environmental issues.