Going back to the office soon? Here's how to lower your emissions.

You might be heading back to the office in the coming months and wondering about how you can make it a more sustainable place.
Csaba Szabo
3 mins

You might be heading back to the office in the coming months and wondering about how you can make it a more sustainable place. There can be an information overload when it comes to taking action so the best place to start is by measuring your carbon footprint and understanding which areas of your business are driving the emissions.

Where to start?

When a company starts to think about being more sustainable, they typically focus on the amount of paper that's being used and enacting policies to help reduce it. However, it's the burning of fossil fuels that drives the greater proportion of emissions within the company. Paper waste actually accounts for less than 1% of emissions on average!

Based on data from our customers, the average tech or services company drives 50% of emissions from travel & commuting, 20% from its offices & services, 20% from the software & hardware it uses, and 10% from other activities such as marketing, mobile plans, and company food. Using this breakdown, we've highlighted 5 ways to make your office more environmentally friendly so that you can lower your company's carbon footprint.

Switch to renewable energy

When it comes to your carbon footprint, ensuring your electricity is from a renewable source can be low-hanging fruit. With so many renewable energy providers in the UK such as Bulb and Octopus, switching to renewable energy has never been easier. However, if you are in a shared space or are renting a room, this process can be trickier and will often require you to work with your building manager to switch the building's energy. These green electricity providers are very competitively priced in comparison to traditional ones so it can be an added incentive for the company to make this switch.

Change commuting habits

Commuting falls under a company's scope 3 emissions (see here for more). When trying to enact policies on commuting, it's important to first analyse your employees' current habits such as the average journey length, mode of transport, and total distance to help determine which type of initiative would work best. You can do this through a simple survey such as this one.

There are a few ideas for when you know this information 1) Cycle to work scheme: You will need to set this up through payroll, but this scheme can have a big impact on reducing emissions and also help employees save up to 25% on a bike as an added incentive. 2) Offering a season ticket loan: bus and rail season tickets can help employees save up to 20% by buying an annual ticket instead of a monthly one. This can be an expensive purchase for some on the team, so your company can offer a commuting loan to help employees to make the switch. 3) Lastly, if most of your team travels by car, a carpool system might be a useful way of reducing overall emissions. This can be relatively easy to set up using a simple spreadsheet and a weekly schedule for employees to gets started.

Encourage working from home

Whether your office has switched completely to working from home or flexi-time, this study found that if everybody was able to work from home for just one day a week "it would save around 1% of global oil consumption for road passenger transport per year. Taking into account the increase this would bring in energy use by households, the overall impact on global CO2 emissions would be the equivalent of removing the bulk of Greater London’s annual CO2 emissions." As we've seen from our data, 50% of emissions can come from company travel. Switching to working from home and using video conferencing even for a few days a week can result in huge savings on time and emissions.

Using sustainable software & hardware

If you are a services-based company, your team will probably be using lots of hardware (like laptops) and software (like Amazon AWS) to get their jobs done. On software, your company might run most of its tech on servers that use up lots of electricity. Depending on the provider that you use, and the location of their servers, this can have a significant impact on your carbon footprint. The good news is that there are some sustainable alternatives out there. For example, Google run all of its technology on renewable energy so your servers can be 100% carbon neutral. On hardware, Apple has started to publish the emissions that are generated for each of its laptops, and are working to ensure the materials they use are more sustainable. As a policy, you can also enact schemes to recycle or even refurbish any hardware that is being used within the company.

Recycling & reducing paper waste

As mentioned above, paper waste only accounts for a small percentage of emissions but it's still important to tackle. According to a 2014 study by PaperKarma, if the US cuts its office paper use by just 10%, it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 1.45 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for an entire year. Simple changes like this can also help to visually reinforce your company's mission to reduce its emissions and help employees to get on board.

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