Three Dozen Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

August 21, 2008 — 1,320 views  
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Toyota plans to offer solar-powered air conditioning on its Prius cars in the future ... Whole Foods bans plastic bags in its stores nationwide ... Bayer is working on "eco-commercial buildings" that produce zero emissions ... A Colorado brewing company switches from electricity to wind power ... Mohawk recycles nearly three billion plastic bottles into carpet each year ... DoubleTree Guest Suites in New York's Times Square has "green" rooms with features like energy-efficient light bulbs, water-saving shower heads, refillable shampoo containers in the shower and optional daily sheet changing ... Wal-Mart announces it will dramatically increase the amount of local produce sold in its stores -- a move that will save millions in fuel costs.

Every day, new initiatives like these are announced by corporations in an effort to reduce waste, energy, water and emissions.

What can your business do to become greener? Depending on your industry, you can improve production processes. For example, Sony has initiated several changes, such as using more vegetable-based plastics in its products; shifting more long-distance transportation to rail and sea, which emit less carbon dioxide than trucks and introducing reusable international shipping containers for parts.

But no matter what your industry, there are probably ways that you can improve your organization's environmental stewardship.

Here are 36 ideas to consider:

  1. Urge employees to use mass transit instead of commuting to work by car. As an inducement, provide monthly transit passes as a fringe benefit. For example, your company can authorize payments on a pre-tax basis (like a 401(k) plan) or the company can foot the bill itself. For 2008, an employee may receive mass transit benefits valued up to $115 per month without owing any federal income tax. Note: Some states provide additional tax benefits.
  2. Offer telecommuting options so some employees do not have to drive into the workplace every day.
  3. Encourage employees to turn out the lights when they leave offices or work spaces, even for a short time. Put lighting systems on timers.
  4. Use occupancy sensor lighting in seldom-used areas such as store rooms.
  5. Consider replacing gas guzzling vehicles used for deliveries and by sales people with hybrids (such as the Toyota Prius) or high-mileage vehicles. Other choices are the high-mileage Smart fortwo and MINI Cooper cars that are light and small enough to park in tight downtown spaces. Companies often get a double whammy by saving fuel and using the exterior of the eye-catching cars for advertising. Another bonus: Your company may qualify for a tax credit for hybrid vehicles or certain other vehicles using alternative fuel sources. Car and Driver just released its list of the most fuel-efficient cars. They are: Toyota Prius Hybrid; Honda Civic Hybrid; Smart fortwo; Nissan Altima Hybrid; Toyota Camry Hybrid; Volkswagen Jetta TDI; Ford Escape Hybrid; Toyota Yaris; Mini Cooper; and Honda Fit.
  6. Install skylights and place work areas near windows to provide more natural light and cut the need for lighting. (Studies have shown that natural light increases productivity and boosts retail sales.)
  7. Install solar panels and solar shades for heating and cooling.
  8. Make your building more energy efficient and collect a federal tax credit in the process. Owners of commercial buildings qualify for a special tax deduction if certain standards are met. For qualified property, the deduction is generally equal to $1.80 per building square foot less any deductions claimed in prior years. The building must achieve at least a 50 percent energy reduction for its type of building. A partial deduction of $.60 per square foot may be available if it reduces energy costs by at least 16.66 percent. (This deduction is scheduled to expire after 2008.)
  9. Make your IT department greener. This can, of course, involve steps like setting computers to power down automatically after 15 to 20 minutes of idle time. But it can also involve larger initiatives such as finding and removing duplicate data in your computer systems -- a process known as data de-duplication. By getting rid of duplicate data, you can reduce energy output, storage requirements and carbon dioxide emissions. You also get a more accurate view of your organization.
  10. Provide a van or company-owned commuter highway vehicle for employees to commute back and forth to work. As with the mass transit passes described in #1, the maximum tax-free monthly benefit an employer can provide for 2008 is $115 per employee. To qualify, the vehicle must seat at least six adults (not counting the driver) and at least 80 percent of the mileage must be attributable to transporting employees. In addition, at least half of the seating capacity (not counting the driver) must be occupied during trips.
  11. Reduce outdoor water consumption used in your company's landscape by replacing conventional sprinkling timer systems with smart" irrigation control systems. These products regulate watering based on weather conditions and atmospheric moisture, rather than a fixed schedule. (Bonus: Fewer problems associated with overwatering such as parking lot cracks, mold and foundation rot.)
  12. Use drought-tolerant landscape plants.
  13. Look for other ways to reduce water. Install sensor bathroom faucets that turn water on when hands are placed under them. These faucets save water and help prevent germs from spreading.
  14. Turn to the Internet for meetings with videoconferencing. Combine the Internet with cameras and microphones and you have instant meetings that save time and money, as well as improve productivity, since participants don't have to travel. A number of companies provide this service including WebEx, BizConference, GoToMeeting and Glance.
  15. Reduce the amount of e-waste that winds up in landfills, and if possible, help your customers do the same. This involves recycling and properly disposing of computers, cell phones and other electronics containing hazardous wastes. Some manufacturers have set up takeback programs, which allow consumers to return electronics to collection sites or recyclers. They are finding that many consumers won't buy new products unless they can responsibly dispose of old ones.
  16. Set the thermostat a couple degrees lower in the winter and a couple degrees higher in the summer.
  17. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs. 
  18. Plant a green roof. Covered with vegetation, green roofs decrease storm water discharge and help cool the building. In some cases, a water-capturing system uses run-off for non-potable purposes, such as toilets. 
  19. Consider using Segway Personal Transporters in your business. Many organizations currently use gas-free Segways to get around warehouses, large complexes, golf courses and resorts. Other organizations use them to make deliveries in urban areas.
  20. Install a water cooler in the office. That way employees will be less likely to bring disposable water bottles that end up in the trash.
  21. Use dual computer monitors. Adding a second monitor (or more) makes it possible to eliminate a lot of unnecessary printing. At the same time, proponents of the dual-monitor system say it greatly increases their productivity.
  22. Find other ways to cut back on paper. According to the Institute for Sustainable Communication, paper and printing related expenditures typically represent 15 to 30 percent of every corporate dollar spent, exclusive of labor. One way to use less paper: Add fax capability to PCs so employees don't have to print a document, fax it and then deal with the printed copy. It also saves time -- by not going to a central fax machine -- and limits the chance that sensitive information could get left on the machine. Other options: Use handheld scanners if your business copies a lot of documents. Send interoffice communications by e-mail when possible. Also, create a company Intranet for posting paper-free memos and other information. 
  23. Install air conditioning that uses non-ozone depleting HFC refrigerants. 
  24. Take a look at your packaging. Is there excess material involved in your packaging that ends up in the landfill, not to mention, adds to your cost unnecessarily? One company switched to boxes made of 100 percent post consumer newspaper with no petrochemicals used. Their customers responded enthusiastically when informed of the change. 
  25. Reward employees who carpool with low-cost benefits such as prime parking spots, or the privilege of arriving ten minutes late or leaving ten minutes early. 
  26. Consider flexible scheduling when possible, such as working four ten-hour days instead of the standard 5 eight-hour days. That reduces fuel consumption and may allow your company to take advantage of less lighting, cooling, and heating. 
  27. Install low-energy, high efficiency hand dryers in bathrooms and remove paper towels.  
  28. Expand your C-suite by adding a Chief Energy Officer or VP of Sustainability to manage energy strategies and measure their return on investment. These executives enhance the C-suite by improving corporate reputation, lowering costs and boosting profits. 
  29. Conduct a survey of your employees to collect green suggestions from them. 
  30. Encourage employees to stay on the premises rather than driving to lunch, by having enough refrigerator space and microwave ovens. 
  31. Limit incoming catalogs and other direct mail that goes straight to the trash. Many vendors send multiple copies of their catalogs or flyers even to very small offices. Contact vendors and ask them to send one per office (or none) then have a designated area to post flyers and place catalogs. 
  32. Remove disposable cups, plates and utensils from the break room and replace them with reusable dishes. Provide dishwashing soap and ask for volunteers to take turns washing. 
  33. Check into an energy audit. Many utilities perform on-site consultations of businesses and inform them how they can reduce use and save money.  
  34. Switch copiers to duplexing mode. That makes it easier to copy on both sides of the paper when appropriate. 
  35. Refill or recycle ink cartridges. Or, donate them to a not-for-profit organization that uses them for fund raising purposes. 
  36. Examine all aspects of your organization's supply chain to ensure if you are using green supplies, working on energy-saving equipment and recycling as much waste as possible.

Rea & Associates, Inc.