We are in a time of climate emergency, and all businesses could be doing more to minimise their environmental impacts. With so many simple ways to reduce carbon emissions, there’s no reason not to operate in an environmentally friendly way.
There are many steps businesses of all sizes can take to reduce their carbon emissions. This can be anything from implementing recycling collections all the way to actively planting trees. Here are 11 ways businesses can reduce their carbon emissions and safeguard the environment.
1 – Recycle
Recycling at your workplace is one easy way to reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint. When we recycle, we reduce the number of raw materials that need to be sourced to create products from scratch. For example, recycling a single tin can could save enough energy to power a computer for a full hour. Plus, there’s no limit to the number of times tin cans can be recycled. With paper recycling, a ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees from deforestation, as well as 7000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil, 4000 kWh energy, and 3 cubic yards of landfill space.
Implementing recycling collections at your workplace could also nurture a greener work culture. This is likely to be attractive to your customer base, and could even boost your staff’s morale. A 2019 study by TopLine Film discovered that 73% of office workers wanted their workplace to improve their sustainability efforts, and a huge 24% said they would refuse a job at an organisation with poor sustainability records.
When it comes to paper recycling, something else to be mindful of is confidential paperwork. At Shred Station, we both use and recommend to others a “Shred Everything” policy. This will avoid the potentially costly risk of an employee making the wrong call when it comes to which documents need shredding, and minimises the risk of a data breach. If your business uses an external shredding company for your regular shredding services, the provider should – at a minimum – be recycling 100% of the paper they shred on your behalf.
2 – Use Recycled Resources
As with recycling, using recycled materials can help your business to aid the conservation of the earth’s resources.
As an example, using recycled paper products can help to reduce deforestation and preserve natural habitats. The world’s insect population has declined by almost 25% in the last 30 years. One huge reason for this is the destruction of habitats. The UK’s butterfly population is in particular danger, with a fall of 50% in butterfly numbers since 1976. When insect populations decline, it affects the entire food chain. UK woodland bird populations are also down about 25% from 1970. Even hedgehogs are now listed as “Vulnerable to extinction” on Britain’s red list of mammals, having fallen up to 30% in urban areas and 50% in rural areas since 2000. Simply by using recycled products, we can both safeguard the natural habitats of our nation’s wildlife and reduce our carbon footprint.
While recycled options can sometimes be slightly more expensive, the environmental cost of using brand-new products is much higher.
3 – Use Sustainable Suppliers
It’s no longer enough to ensure your own business is doing its part to help protect the environment; you should also use sustainable suppliers. If you’re pulling out all the stops to minimise your environmental impacts, but support businesses who do nothing or the bare minimum to protect the environment, you could, in theory, be helping to fund unsustainable practices.
A good certification to look out for when selecting suppliers is ISO 14001. This certification provides proof that an organisation has environmental management at the heart of their Quality Management Systems, and are actively improving resource efficiency and waste reduction. Be wary of suppliers who do not have their environmental commitments at the heart of their corporate social responsibility efforts, and try to use CarbonNeutral® certified suppliers wherever you can.
4 – Switch to Hybrid or Fully Electric Company Cars and Fleet Vehicles
Ahead of the UK’s ban on new petrol and diesel cars coming into effect in 2030, now could be a good time to start thinking about investing in hybrid or electric vehicles for your company cars. Car manufacturers are making huge investments into developing their electric models, and electric cars are no longer Tesla-shaped pipe dreams. Many more affordable models such as the Skoda CITIGOe iV and SEAT e-Mii Electric (£15,000 and £16,000 new respectively at the time of writing) are now widely available, bringing the potential to own electric vehicles a more realistic possibility for businesses of all sizes. Of course, electric car leases are also available.
When you consider the number of cars on the road and the average distance driven per year, an estimated 38 million tonnes of CO2 per year is produced just by cars in the UK! This doesn’t take into account the emissions released by fuel mining and refining, either. If businesses, and individuals, all switched to electric, we could make a huge dent in the nation’s carbon footprint.
At Shred Station, we are pleased to say we can charge electric vehicles at all of our depots. Car charging has given us a head-start on the switch to hybrid or electric models for our company cars. Chargers can also be used by staff, further encouraging more sustainable road travel. We are also soon trialling the world’s first fully-electric HGV with Volta Trucks!
5 – Switch to Online Meetings and Online Events
As the majority of the UK’s working population made the transition to remote working through 2020 and 2021’s national lockdowns, we probably all had some kind of experience with virtual meetings. Be that with Zoom, Teams, Slack, Skype, or even Facebook Rooms. Instead of travelling long distances for business meetings or corporate events, consider whether that meeting could be hosted online. This will save your staff commuting times and travel expenses, and will also reduce your company’s travel emissions.
Transport accounts for around one-fifth of global CO2 emissions. So, if everybody travelled a little less, there is certainly room for large reductions in collective CO2 emissions.
6 – Use Public Transport or Car Share for Business Trips
If your business trips or events must be held in person, using public transport is another way you can reduce your carbon emissions, particularly if the journeys to these trips or events will be single-passenger journeys.
The below chart from Our World in Data shows the average carbon footprint of travel per passenger per kilometre by transport medium.
As you can see, a single passenger car journey in a medium, petrol car has a carbon footprint of around 192g per km. This is 42g more than the average carbon emissions of a long-haul economy flight per passenger! It is much more environmentally friendly to use public transport such as buses or national rail services. Car sharing is also a great option where possible. As the above table demonstrates, having two passengers in a petrol car produces fewer grams of carbon per passenger than bus travel.
7 – Invest in Green Energy & Green Office Equipment
Investing in green energy and green office equipment can be another great way to reduce your businesses’ carbon footprint. Most energy providers will offer a green tariff. Or, you could even invest in your own renewable energy sources. Solar panels are a great option if your business has the cash reserves.
Our Shred Station head office is powered by solar, generating the energy we need to power our computers, phones, hand dryers and even our much-loved coffee machine. Using solar allows us to reduce our carbon emissions and means we don’t have to worry about rising energy costs. Additionally, as electricity usage is assessed as part of our CarbonNeutral® company certification, using solar power helps reduce our offsetting costs.
When it comes to the physical workplace, here are a few easy ways to reduce your energy consumption:
- Use LED lighting and turn lights off once you leave the office. In the daytime, consider keeping lights off if there is enough natural daylight to work comfortably.
- Use kitchen appliances such as fridges or dishwashers that have a high energy rating.
- Enable energy-saving and battery-saving modes on all PC and mobile work devices.
- Reduce the office’s thermostat temperature. Keeping the thermostat down by just 1°c could reduce space heating energy by 13%!
- Encourage team members to dress appropriately for the season, or provide seasonal work uniforms. For instance, you could provide a thick jumper for the winter months and a lightweight polo for the summer months. This could save heating costs in the winter and air conditioning costs in the summer.
8 – Start Offsetting Carbon
Offsetting your carbon emissions is another way to balance your overall greenhouse gas emissions. You can even become carbon-neutral by offsetting your total emissions to net-zero. The cost of this would vary based on your carbon outputs, but a carbon-neutral certification partner will be able to help you find the most cost-effective option for your organisation.
Carbon neutral certification can also give your customers proof that you are committed to reducing your environmental impacts. The certification process often involves a greenhouse gas assessment detailing the emissions from your company’s usual operations. Assessments usually cover things like utility usage, miles driven in company vehicles, waste produced, and more. These will be verified by an independent party, who can then offer a range of projects to offset your emissions. These can vary from things like tree planting projects, all the way to investments into renewable energy farms.
However, offsetting carbon on its own isn’t enough to make up for years of throwing caution to the wind in terms of the carbon your organisation produces. You should also implement other environmental policies and ways of reducing emissions on top of offsetting.
9 – Plant Trees
Planting trees, or even having a staff garden, is a great way to boost staff wellbeing and further offset your company’s carbon emissions. If you don’t have space to plant your own trees or wildflowers, there are hundreds of tree planting projects online. With some projects, you can even plant trees for as little as a few pounds. While you may not be able to physically see the trees grow, you can still help contribute to tree-planting and vital biodiversity efforts in parts of the world where they are needed most. With some tree planting projects, you’ll even receive a certificate to show how many trees you’ve planted, where those trees are, and the amount of carbon the trees will sequester once fully grown.
At Shred Station, we have a Shred a Tonne, Plant a Tree scheme in place. This scheme means our customers can opt-in to have a tree planted for every tonne of paper they shred with us. The Shred a Tonne, Plant a Tree scheme is easy to manage and is also great for the environment.
10 – Buy Used Office Furniture
Buying used office furniture will not only save your company a bit of cash, it’s also better for the planet. As already mentioned, reusing and recycling goods avoids contributing towards further depletion of natural resources like woods and metals.
Buying used office furniture doesn’t have to mean you end up with low-quality furnishings, either! Whenever offices close or have a refurb, most companies will sell their old equipment to a used office furniture company. Even high-end office furniture brands like Herman Miller and Haworth can end up in these second-hand shops at a fraction of their retail price – often cheaper than new, low-mid range office furniture would cost!
Buying sustainably sourced or recycled office furniture such as recycled polypropylene canteen chairs and bamboo desks is also a great way of reducing your carbon footprint.
11 – Talk to Your Employees – and Your Customers!
Talking to your workforce about the environment and inviting them to offer their own suggestions on how your company can help combat climate change will encourage your workers to get on board with your environmental efforts. It can also help them to feel a sense of pride and purpose in reducing environmental impacts. Your employees will always be your best asset. Their ideas and involvement are essential for making sure the whole company succeeds with reducing emissions, recycling, and saving energy.
Your customers are also likely to respond well to your eco-policies and efforts to reduce your carbon footprint. Consumer preference trends indicate that people prefer to buy environmentally friendly products and services. They are even willing to pay a premium to do so.
At Shred Station, our CarbonNeutral® status and environmental commitments are big reasons our customers choose us over competitors. Not only can we operate in a way that satisfies our own ethos to cause minimal environmental damage, but we can also satisfy the wants of our customers at the same time. In short, operating in ways that reduce your businesses’ carbon footprint is a win-win-win situation, for you, for your customers, and for the planet.
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