The country is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To do this all of us, consumers and businesses, need to reduce our carbon footprint. There are many ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a business. Here are 10 to consider. The numbers shown are indicative, the actual saving for a specific business need to be calculated individually.
1. Switch to green energy
For any business with premises, by far the quickest and easiest way to reduce its carbon footprint is to switch to green energy. Electricity from 100% renewables is carbon neutral. It is hard to source gas from 100% renewable sources at the moment, but some of the smaller providers supply green gas and some of the others will offset the emissions from the gas purchased to make it carbon neutral. It is not necessarily more expensive these days either.
As an example, a member of Go Climate Positive, with a relatively modest 500 sqm premises, recently saved 6.5 tonnes of CO2e
per year by switching to renewable electricity
2. Fit LED Lighting (and switch them off when they are not being used)
Replacing lighting with LEDs is another relatively quick and easy thing to do. The financial pay back period can be less than a year and the carbon savings can be considerable.
As an example, if a 90W traditional light fitting was replaced with a 14W LED fitting this would save around 225kWhs per year (assuming it is on for 8 hours a day) which equates to 71 kgs of CO2e per fitting, using the UK average fuel mix. With 100 light fittings this would save 7 tonnes of CO2e per year.
An even easier thing to do is to make sure lights are switched off when they are not being used. Even an LED light fitting will create 25 kgs of unnecessary CO2e if it is left on all year.
3. Fit solar panels
If the business has a large roof space, and a reasonably high electricity use, fitting photovoltaic (PV) solar panels can be a very cost-effective investment that will enable it to generate its own 100% renewable electricity. Modern PV technology requires very little maintenance and is still effective on a cloudy day.
A typical example of a 100,000 kWh installation might be expected to save around 24 tonnes of CO2e per year, with a payback period of around 5.5 years, generating a 65% cost saving compared with grid supplied electricity. In some cases, finance can be arranged, such that there will be up-front capital and in some areas there may be grants available that will fund part of the costs.
4. Do follow-up meetings on video
During the pandemic lockdown, everyone got used to making video calls and discovered that they can be very effective. It’s understandable that first time meetings might need to be face-to-face meeting but perhaps follow-up meetings can be made by video call.
If a person has 3 meetings per day driving on average 20 miles there and back in a typical diesel car, around 4.7 tonnes of CO2e per year will be generated. Replacing 2 of these meetings with video calls would save over 3 tonnes of CO2e (even once the emissions of the video call have been considered) and probably save 2-3 hours per day increasing productivity or improving work-life balance.5. Cut down on flights – both personal and for freight
Flying is a very carbon intensive activity and the most carbon intensive way to travel. Just one flight from London to New York generates around 1.2 tonnes of CO2e.
Sea travel is substantially less carbon intensive than air travel. Air-freighting a tonne of goods from Shanghai to Worcestershire will generate around 11.7 tonnes of CO2e compared with the 0.5 tonnes CO2e generate by sea-freighting. That is a 95% saving of 11.2 tonnes of CO2e per shipment
6. Upgrade computers rather than replace
It has been estimated (by Mike Berners-Lee in his excellent book “How bad are bananas”) that a desktop computer contains around 800kgs of “embodied” CO2e. Embodied CO2e is the total greenhouse gases that were emitted in order to make it.
Most PCs are replaced after about 3 years, but this could be extended by 2-5 years through careful upgrading. So roughly speaking, upgrading a computer rather than replacing it could halve the carbon footprint of a business’s computer purchases. If an average of 10 PCs are replaced per year this would give a saving of around 7 tonnes of CO2e per year (once the embodied carbon of the upgrades are taken into account)
7. Encourage suppliers to reduce their footprint
A great way to reduce the footprint of a business and multiply those efforts many times over, is to work with suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint.
Let us say that a business buys 100 products from a supplier, each with an embodied carbon footprint of 10 kgs. If that supplier reduced their footprint by 10%, that would reduce the footprint of the business by 100 kgs of CO2e, generating a worthwhile saving. However, if that supplier makes 10,000 products per year the total carbon saving would be 10 tonnes of CO2e
8. Switch vehicles to electric when it is time to replace them
All vehicles have a huge embodied carbon footprint, and so it makes sense to keep them running for as long as possible. However, the carbon savings to be had from running an electric vehicle compared with running one on fossil fuels are substantial.
In a recent study by Go Climate Positive, the total lifetime costs and carbon footprint of an electric car vs a diesel doing 40,000 miles per year over 4 years were compared. The total cost was very similar, despite the £22,445 premium in the purchase price. The carbon saving was nearly 7 tonnes of CO2e per year (even taking into account the extra embodied carbon of the batteries and attributing all of the embodied carbon to the first 4 years of the car’s life).
9. Archive unnecessary data
It has been estimated that 1 MB of storage in the cloud has a carbon footprint of around 1.5g of CO2e per year. Thus 5 TB of storage generates around 6.7 tonnes of CO2e in a year. Archiving 1000 GB of data onto a permanent storage device (such as a DVD) would save around 1.3 tonnes of CO2e per year.10. Cut down on waste then reuse or recycle everything that is left
All of the waste that a business generates has a carbon footprint associated with processing it. Food waste in particular generates a large carbon footprint if it is sent to landfill due to the methane that is produced when it biodegrades. This is why it is important to use separate bins for food waste, so that it can be sent for composting (which doesn’t produce methane) or anaerobic digestion where the methane is captured. One tonne of food waste sent to landfill, produces around 600kgs of CO2e
Calculating your carbon footprint
It is important to calculate the carbon footprint of each business annually, to prioritise and understand how effective reduction measures have been.
You can read more about how to do this here.