When it comes to carbon footprints — estimations of the amount of carbon you, your business or a product add to the atmosphere — smaller is definitely better.
But how do you shrink your company’s footprint?
The first step is reducing your greenhouse-gas emissions. In order to do so, target a few key areas of your company’s operations: energy use, commuting and business travel.
For most small businesses, energy use is second only to travel as the largest portion of a company’s carbon footprint. To reduce your energy use and slash your electricity bills, follow these guidelines:
Turn off and unplug electronics when not in use. Even when they’re off, many appliances continue to draw power. Try plugging your computer, printer and scanner into a single power strip, then turn the power strip off when you leave for the day.
Turn your thermostat down in winter (between 65 and 68°F during the day and 60 – 65°F at night) and up in summer (between 70 and 80°F during the day and 80°F overnight).
Switch to energy efficient bulbs such as CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) or LEDs (light-emitting diodes).
Upgrade your appliances to Energy Star-certified models, and consider investing in EPEAT-registered computers. EPEAT criteria require that registered computers eliminate materials such as cadmium, use a minimum amount of post-consumer recycled plastic and be Energy Star-certified. The manufacturers of EPEAT computers must offer take-back services for used computers and demonstrate corporate environmental responsibility.
Another way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint is by switching to green power. Many utilities allow users to pay a small premium (e.g. 12 cents per kilowatt hour) to buy electricity from solar arrays, wind turbines or low-impact hydro-electric dams. Check with your utility company to see what options are available.
According to The Nature Conservancy, driving accounts for 16% of the average American’s carbon footprint. To shrink that figure, encourage employees to carpool, take public transportation or telecommute. New federal legislation allows employers to offer up to $115 per month in tax-free commuter transit benefits. For more ideas on green commuting, check out the Center for Urban Transportation’s Best Workplaces for Commuters employer toolkit or CommutingGreen, where you can request a report that assesses the total impact of your employees’ commutes.
Just a few flights a year can inflate your company’s carbon footprint. For example, according to TerraPass one round-trip flight from New York to San Francisco emits 2,010 pounds of CO2.
To reduce the impact of your business travel, try remote meetings technologies such as audio conference calling, Web Conferencing or virtual conferences instead of meeting in person. And, when possible, combine business trips to minimize the number of flights taken.