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Dec 18, 2021

How To Reduce Carbon Footprint at Work: Tips for Employers and Employees

When it comes to making your workplace more efficient, you might jump to ways to improve productivity. But there’s another type of workplace efficiency that’s just as important, if not more so. The carbon footprint of all of our offices and workplaces - whether it’s a skyscraper or a single-story industrial center - are a primary contributor to greenhouse gases.

As offices start reopening and employees return to the daily commute, it’s the perfect time to rethink how your business can reduce its carbon footprint. This can have both a positive economic impact on your business by reducing your operating costs as well as a positive impact on the environment. 

In this article, we’ll give you a whole bunch of ideas for ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint at work, as well as suggestions for employers to reduce their company’s carbon footprint.

What Is a Carbon Footprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere as a result of the actions and activities of an individual, organization, or community.

The overall carbon footprint of an office space isn’t necessarily just the greenhouse gas emissions coming directly from that office’s energy usage or office equipment. 

Everything involved in operating a business contributes to its carbon footprint, from the way employees get to the office, to the manufacturing processes, to its supply chain. 

Both business owners and employees can take steps to reduce the carbon emissions associated with their companies, thus doing their part to fight climate change and help preserve the natural environment.

8 Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Work

  1. Use energy-efficient office equipment
  2. Reduce office kitchen waste
  3. Commute efficiently
  4. Engage in carbon offsetting
  5. Limit business travel
  6. Use renewable energy
  7. Reduce, reuse, and recycle
  8. Refine your supply chain to include low-carbon alternatives


1. Use energy-efficient office equipment

If every company in the US alone used ENERGY STAR certified office equipment and appliances, it would reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 billion pounds CO2e, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Another way to reduce your office’s energy usage is to use energy-saving light bulbs. LED light bulbs and fluorescent lights both save energy compared to incandescent and halogen light bulbs.

Not only would making these types of changes in every office drastically lower the average carbon footprint of US-based businesses, but it would greatly increase their energy efficiency to save money and lower operating costs. When you use less energy, everybody wins.


2. Reduce office kitchen waste

Food waste and other waste associated with office kitchens is a big carbon emissions culprit. As much as 40% of all food produced in the US ends up in landfills around the country. 

To cut down on food waste, consider implementing an office composting system in your company’s kitchen, and engage a nonprofit like Replate to come pick up and repurpose at-risk food.

Other ways to reduce office kitchen waste include providing reusable dishes and utensils, purchasing napkins and other disposables that are made of recycled materials and are compostable, and installing a water tap filter to encourage people to drink tap water.


3. Commute efficiently

Personal vehicles are one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. 

If everyone you work with takes their own car to work, that’s going to raise the carbon footprint of your company.

So, what can you do to reduce the carbon output of commuting? Taking public transit and carpooling are both great options for employees.

For employers, offering incentives for employees to purchase electric vehicles is a great idea. Using a concierge service like Cartelligent can ensure you or your employees get the best deal possible. The easiest solution may be subsidizing employees’ cost of public transportation. 


4. Engage in carbon offsetting

It’s pretty hard to reduce your carbon footprint to zero, but there are ways you can offset, or try to negate, whatever greenhouse gasses you do produce.

There are different types of carbon offsets you can consider. For example, you could donate to programs that have a positive impact on the environment, such as tree planting programs. There are plenty of marketplaces available that offer a variety of available offsets for corporations. 

Be mindful of which marketplace and offsets you choose, as all offsets aren’t equal. Though offsets can be a great way to get to Net Zero, it is not your primary answer to environmental protection. Reducing emissions and waste on the other hand can help reduce your operating costs and stop the emissions before they are emitted. Bank offerings like Atmos offer individuals an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint ahead of purchasing offsets. 

Examples of carbon offsets that individuals or companies can consider financing are renewable energy programs and projects that help people in developing countries (where emissions of greenhouse gasses are higher) reduce their carbon footprints.


5. Limit business travel

Cars and planes create a lot of carbon emissions, so traveling for business can be extremely polluting.

Sometimes meetings, conferences, and other events are unavoidable. When possible, stick to video conferencing instead of traveling across the country to see a client or partner.

If you do have to travel for a meeting or another event, look for ways to make your travel more environmentally friendly.

For example, rent a hybrid car or an electric vehicle when you need to drive. Or, fly on airlines that are committed to reducing and offsetting their carbon emissions.


6. Use renewable energy

Renewable energy is one of our biggest allies in the fight against greenhouse gases and climate change.

Fortunately, more and more power companies are offering the option to purchase green energy, or energy that comes from renewable resources, such as solar panels and wind farms.

If your company isn’t using renewable energy yet, talk to your utility company about what green energy options they offer. If they don’t have any, consider switching to a different energy supplier. For individuals, services like Arcadia Power and Elephant Energy offer ways to start buying the entirety of your energy from renewable sources. 


7. Reduce, reuse, and recycle

Remembering these three Rs can help you greatly reduce your carbon footprint at work.

For starters, you can reduce office waste by doing things like limiting your use of paper and disposable items. 

Don’t print unless you absolutely must. These days, it’s easier than ever to create and even sign important documents online, so you really shouldn’t need to print that often.

Offices can reuse items that are already in circulation by purchasing refurbished electronic devices, including laptops and other IT equipment, instead of buying brand new ones. 

Finally, make sure you recycle everything you can. This includes paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, electronics, and pretty much anything else you don’t need to use anymore. 

If your company doesn’t already have a recycling program, start one and place clearly marked recycling bins around the office, then educate employees on how to use them to ensure everyone is recycling as much as possible. Clearly communicated policies for the three Rs can help all employees engage. 


8. Refine your supply chain to include low-carbon alternatives

One of the often overlooked ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by working with vendors that have a similar goal. A common tool utilized by B Corporations, using vendors that offer sustainable products will ensure your business has the smallest footprint possible.


Conclusion

The ideas above are a few of the best ways businesses can reduce their carbon footprints to fight climate change. 

Not only is implementing these strategies socially and environmentally responsible, but it can also provide other benefits for businesses.

For example, when you use less electricity and switch to using green energy that doesn’t come from fossil fuels, it can lead to increased efficiency and a lower energy bill, which can save businesses tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars every year.

So, what are you waiting for? Start trying some of these sustainable activities at work today!


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