Almost 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are from industry — a number that factors in the energy the sector consumes. With the current climate crisis we’re dealing with, decreasing business greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions) like this can play a big role in helping slow global warming and adhering to the targets set out in the Paris agreement.
And it’s not just large companies that impact the environment. Small businesses can play a significant role in GHG emissions and their reduction.
So, how can you go about decreasing business greenhouse gas emissions? Below, we outline a handful of ways your business can play a role in reducing emissions and helping slow global warming.
9 Ways You Can Start Decreasing Business Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Businesses play a significant role in global warming, but they can also play an equally large role in slowing it. These nine tips will help put your company on the path toward decreasing business greenhouse gas emissions.
1) Reduce Energy Use
The energy used to power a corporate building often makes up the lion’s share of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions). By reducing the energy your office consumes, you’ll save money on energy costs and reduce your carbon footprint. How can you go about this? Here are a few tips:
Switch to LED lighting: Switching to LED lighting can lower energy consumption a whopping 50 to 90%, saving upward of $3,700 annually per 25 incandescent bulbs switched to LED.
Use natural lighting: Replace curtains or blinds, or install skylights, to allow more sunlight to enter your building. This is a great way to help lower lighting costs and energy consumption.
Focus on airflow: Heating and air conditioning require a lot of energy, and a big part of the issue is airflow: The cooled or heated air simply can’t reach the entire building. This leads to using a lot of extra energy to keep the whole building comfortable. Heat and cool more efficiently by installing fans to circulate air throughout the building.
Power down: There’s no need for equipment to be up and running when no one’s in the office. So, increase your energy efficiency by setting up all the computers and other unnecessary equipment to power down after hours.
Educate your employees: When properly educated, employees can make a huge difference in reducing energy use. Have periodic meetings about saving energy, and encourage small changes, like unplugging cell phone chargers and small appliances when not in use. You can even add a bonus structure that passes a portion of your quarterly or annual electricity savings to your employees.
Lean into automation: Automation can make any business more efficient, but did you know it can also help in decreasing business greenhouse gas emissions? By automating your facilities, you can lower energy costs. This can include motion-sensing lights so you don’t have fully lit, empty rooms. You can also install smart thermostats that adjust the temperature based on when people will be in that area of the building.
2) Switch to Renewable Energy
Renewable energy or clean energy is a great way to dramatically decrease your carbon footprint and battle climate change without making major modifications to your offices and the way you work. A popular option is to install solar panels on your rooftop or somewhere on your property to provide you with some or all the energy you need right from the sun.
Yes, installing solar panels can be pricey, but the federal government continues to offer incentives for installing them. Any panels installed through 2033 are eligible for up to a 30% investment tax credit (ITC). The credit then drops to 22.5% in 2034 and 15% in 2035 before phasing out in 2036.
Do you live in a leased space you share with multiple businesses? You and the other businesses in the building can try lobbying the building owner to have panels installed.
3) Reduce Your Employees’ Carbon Footprint
It’s not always about the company lowering its carbon footprint. Sometimes it’s about lowering related GHG emissions, including those employees create when commuting.
With today’s technology, hybrid and remote working is a reality, proven successful amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of having employees slog through traffic, burning fossil fuels and dumping harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere daily, why not allow them to work remotely at least part of the time?
Sure, some employees simply can’t work remotely, like janitorial staff or security, but anyone who does most of their work on a computer can do it from home.
For those who can’t work remotely, encourage public transportation use by offering a public transit stipend. This may convince them to ride a more eco-friendly bus rather than drive themselves to work.
4) Look at Your Supply Chain
GHG emissions also arise along your supply chain. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines scope 3 emissions as indirect emissions created by activities from assets that are not owned or controlled by your organization but that affect the overall value chain. This includes things down the supply chain, like the raw materials you purchase to make your products, transporting finished products to customers, and even the end-of-life disposal of your product. By reducing your scope 3 emissions and considering sustainability when choosing vendors, you can reduce your product’s negative environmental impact.
Some ideas that can help you here include:
Switching to vendors that have net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions or those that are working toward emissions reduction targets and becoming carbon neutral
Making partnerships with vendors focused on sustainability
Using 100% recyclable packaging
5) Change your fleet
Does your business require a lot of vehicles to operate? Whether they are company cars for salespeople or delivery trucks, these can dramatically impact your carbon footprint. As you decommission and replace these vehicles, look to alternative fuels as replacements to help battle global warming. This can include plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), battery electric vehicles (BEVs), or even fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).
The federal government offers up to a $7,500 credit for commercial-use BEVs, PHEVs, and FCEVs under 14,000 pounds and $40,000 for those over 14,000 pounds. The exact credit varies by purchase price and type of vehicle as follows:
15% of the purchase price for a PHEV
30% of the purchase price for a BEV or FCEV
The great thing about this initiative is there’s no need to complete it in one fell swoop. Instead, you can replace them one vehicle at a time. So, when a vehicle has run its course and is ready for retirement, you can offload it and replace it with a green option. Yes, that green option will be more costly up front, but the tax credits on the back end should make it more than worth your while.
6) Enact Reuse and Recycle Initiatives
Keeping unnecessary trash out of landfills can go a long way in helping the environment. Launch an education program teaching your employees all about the value of reusing and recycling products to help keep your waste to a minimum. For example, distribute reusable water bottles to your staff instead of using plastic water bottles. You can also set up recycling stations throughout your buildings, making it easier for people to recycle instead of throwing things in the trash.
You can also find new lives for packaging from suppliers, like using plastic packaging to store office supplies, which will help with waste reduction.
3) Purchase Carbon Offsets
Some emissions are simply unavoidable in the industrial process and general business operations with today’s technology. Soon we may have alternatives to make these processes green, but the technology just isn’t there yet. To help offset these unavoidable carbon emissions, you can invest in green initiatives designed to reduce GHG emissions in other ways. Known as carbon offsets or carbon removal, these can help compensate for the metric tons of CO2 your company cannot cut at this time.
4) Plant Trees and Other Vegetation
Trees and other plants are excellent carbon sinks, meaning they absorb carbon from the atmosphere. If you have a large enough corporate campus, you can hold events where employees plant trees and develop gardens at the office. This is an excellent way to build employee morale and motivate them to do their part.
If you don’t have a corporate campus large enough to handle a project like this, you have options. You can find various tree-planting projects online that your company can help fund. While you aren’t directly planting the trees, your funds are making it possible to plant more trees in other areas to help absorb CO2 emissions.
5) Make Meetings Virtual
Business meetings are generally a must, and they are traditionally in person, leading to travel. However, with today’s technology, you can easily do meetings or presentations online. This can include everything from the quarterly board meeting to a sales meeting with a potential client. You can even present it as a green initiative to clients to help them understand why you’re having the meeting virtually rather than traveling to the prospective customer’s business.
Decreasing Business Greenhouse Gas Emissions Can Start With Small Changes
Decreasing business greenhouse gas emissions is a big part of slowing and hopefully reversing climate change over the long term. While that may seem a daunting task, it doesn’t need to be. As mentioned earlier, your business’s climate actions can start as small and simple as installing some LED lighting. More challenging climate actions are options too, such as switching to a zero-emissions or low-carbon fleet or installing solar panels.
Regardless of how big or small your climate initiatives are, you’re still doing your part to help with global warming by reducing your GHG emissions.
Is carbon removal included in your plans for decreasing business greenhouse gas emissions? Check out Terrapass’ carbon solutions for businesses of all shapes and sizes. If you’re unsure how much you need to offset, our business calculator can help you determine that.
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