9 Ways Small Business Can Reduce Carbon Emissions

Submitted by Mary Meade on February 4, 2019
RawFilm

Reducing Carbon Emissions is Good for Business

With the October 2018 UN report announcing that we have only 12 years to prevent devastating climate change, it’s time to talk about the role business can play in mitigating this crisis. If we make no improvements, climate change will damage economies, promote resource scarcity, and drastically increase the cost of doing business. Although 12 years is a short timeline, the future doesn’t have to be bleak if we act now.

The first step to reducing emissions is knowing how much carbon your business emits. Find out your emissions with this handy calculator from TerraPass.

1. Remember the Three R’s

There’s no doubt you’ve heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” – but any business new to the green movement will find its starting line here. The Three R’s should apply to every facet of your business – from packaging, to office supplies, to operations, and supply chains.

Always opt for reducing and reusing first, as these practices skim the excess. When there’s no reusable alternative or reusing simply doesn’t work for your business, start a recycling program in your office. You may find that there are some items your municipality does not accept – by partnering with TerraCycle, your organization can recycle many things that typically would end up in a landfill.

2. Reduce Your Food Waste

Food waste occurs at every stage of the food system and accounts for eight percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, food recovery is not only an environmental crisis but also a business one.

Your business doesn’t have to be a restaurant or grocery store to reduce food waste. An office that caters from local fares can still reduce their overall waste. By purchasing from other businesses that support local farmers and the community, you are indirectly reducing food waste by minimizing transportation in the food system. Additionally, creating an office compost program will recycle food waste into fertilizer. If you can't create an in-office program, findacompster.com lists service options available in your area.

3. Purchase Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsets are a form of trade. When you purchase an offset, you are funding projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. TerraPass provides a carbon calculator for you to determine the carbon emissions of your travel and then the monetary value of those emissions. Keep in mind that carbon offsets don’t reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere – they act as a balancing agent to negate the carbon emitted. Depending on what company you purchase your offsets from, they can be tax-deductible. We recommend including your offset costs in your annual budget.

While carbon offsets come with their own controversy they can be a convenient last resort when you’ve exhausted other options. Additionally, if the company you purchase from is transparent with their projects, carbon offsets can be a useful tool towards neutrality.

4. Invest in Renewable Energy

Solar and wind rank as the two fastest-growing jobs in the U.S.; electric vehicle production is growing, and utility companies are incorporating renewables in their portfolios. In 2019, purchasing renewable energy for your office space is a long-term investment.

For conventional workplaces existing on an established power grid, this may pose a significant challenge. In these cases, you can reduce your consumption by using high-efficiency lighting and powering off all electronics when not in use. And to be proactive with clean energy, purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) demonstrates your office’s commitment to clean energy.

You may also find it easier to convert your home office to on-site renewables. Depending on where you live, your local government may also offer subsidies and rebates.

5. Use Green Refrigerants and Appliances

Both refrigerators and air conditioning units release harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases that damage the atmosphere. The original culprits, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), were responsible for tearing a hole in the ozone layer in the 1980s. While these chemicals are not in use anymore, their replacement hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are still 1,000 to 9,000 times more potent than CO2 in terms of climate impact. Luckily, green tech has cleaner, friendlier alternatives: GreenFreeze fridges by Greenpeace and smart refrigerators.

Introduced in the 1990s, GreenFreeze refrigerators are used globally and stay cool using naturally occurring hydrocarbons that are far less potent than HFCs and don’t break down into toxins. Unfortunately, these refrigerators are not widely available in the US since the EPA only allowed manufacturers to sell in the states starting in 2011. Smart refrigerators may be a more accessible alternative. With the purpose of reducing your electricity bill, smart refrigerators are designed to cool around your opening habits. And when your refrigerator has reached the end of its life, choose to dispose or recycle it responsibly with RAD.

6. Use Sustainable Web Hosting Services

Hosting services are the invisible fossil fuel consumers. Unless you host your site yourself, your website likely lives on a data server in a warehouse powered by fossil fuels. Data servers consume huge amounts of energy because they need to be powered on and kept cool at all times. Sustainable hosting services purchase Renewable Energy Certificates to claim their renewable energy usage.

The Green Business Network is home to several certified sustainable hosting members like CanvasHost and Sustainable Hosting. By negating the environmental and social costs of fossil fuel-powered hosting, our members are leaders in green computer services.

7. Utilize Fairtrade

The least carbon-intensive option is the one that has traveled the fewest miles; however, the reality is that international trade will not stop for climate change. Sustainable solutions in globalization are imperative to reducing your business’s carbon footprint. This is where fairtrade can help.

Smallholder farmers in developing countries are and will be disproportionately affected by climate change. Fairtrade organizations aim to equip farmers with the tools to adapt to and combat climate change, such as developing nutrient-rich soils and investing in reforestation projects. These projects not only sequester carbon but foster environmentally sustainable agricultural production as well. Read more on Fairtrade and Sustainability here.

8. Educate Yourself, Your Staff, and Your Customers

Change begins with knowledge. More than half of Americans rarely – if ever – talk about climate change because they don’t know enough, are overwhelmed, or think it’s scary. All of these can be remedied with education and civil conversation around the topic. Your business can promote dialogue among your employees through company practices and policies around sustainability. Making your customers aware of your policies to reduce carbon emissions makes them aware of tactics they can use to reduce emissions as well.

9. Raise Your Business Voice: Support Policy Initiatives

Did you know your business has a voice? Customers want to purchase from a business that aligns with their values, and one of the best ways to illustrate this is supporting policy. When President Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, 2,160 businesses and investors pledged to continue working towards accord standards.

Backing policies that reflect your values are good for the bottom line, too. 87% of customers will purchase a product from a company that advocated for an issue they care about, and 82% of US Fortune employees want to work for the CEO of a company that is vocal about social issues. Depending on your supply chain and workers, this could include anything among the spectrums of human rights, climate change, cultural values, and public health, to name a few.

Business Not as Usual: A Catalyst Against Climate Change

Being a green business means taking traditional practices out of their linear state and thinking circular: how does this action affect my workers, my consumers, my planet, and back to my business? The days of the single-bottom line business model is not enough anymore because the newest generation of customers – millennials – represent $2.45 trillion in spending power with 70% willing to spend more on brands share their values.

With twelve years left, business leaders must step up now to reduce carbon emissions. Taking a stand only helps your business and the planet in the long run.

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