Businesses of all sizes must now think about how they can reduce their energy use. As well as doing their bit for the environment, it also means they become more efficient and save money.
According to the Carbon Trust, office equipment accounts for 15 per cent of UK energy consumption. It’s an alarming figure – but hardly surprising, given that even the smallest office is full of electrical equipment and needs to be lit and heated during colder months.
More and more businesses are trying to find ways to cut their energy usage and reduce their carbon footprint. Many bigger companies are guided by the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which requires them to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.
Many smaller businesses want to do their bit, so how can firms set move closer to becoming carbon neutral?
Everybody knows that they should switch off their monitors and lights and only print when necessary, but what else can you do?
Energy monitoring systems measure how much energy you are using, how much it costs and the amount of carbon that is being released by equipment. You can then identify which pieces are wasting energy or perhaps are just not very efficient. It is what you do with the collected data that will ultimately lead to energy savings. Some equipment can be accessed remotely and even programmed to come on and off at certain times, thereby ensuring the water and heating for instance is only on when you need it or that computers aren’t left on standby overnight.
Everyday acts such as driving, flying and using equipment consumes much energy and produces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. You can compensate for unavoidable emissions by paying someone to make an equivalent greenhouse gas saving. This is known as ‘carbon offsetting’.
After calculating your emissions you can buy the equivalent amount in ‘credits’ from emission reduction projects. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects such as wind farms, hydroelectric dams or solar energy can be good projects to support. They can have immediate benefits to the environment as well as making renewable energy more affordable and reducing future greenhouse gas emissions to make up for our daily travel and electricity use.
When purchasing offsets, look out for international standards (VCS, VER+, Gold Standard, CDM CER) to ensure that they receive recognised and reputable credits. CERs are verified by the UN and meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. To help guide you on the quality of offsetting schemes, the government is developing a code of best practice for companies that sell offsets.
You may also look at becoming ISO 14001 compliant. The standard promotes the decrease in resource wastage and aims to reduce pollution. It can be a lengthy and expensive process, but your clients may look favorably on it.
Alternatively, look at BS8555, which has been designed specifically with SMEs in mind. It breaks down the process of gaining ISO 14001 into six clear steps. It provides an SME with a phased approach to implementing an environmental management system and gives them better control over the process. BS8555 details six clear phases and provides an organisation with clear milestones by which they can demonstrate their achievements to their customers both internally and externally.
- Monitor your electricity use. Configure energy-saving monitors using time switches. Choose energy-efficient equipment.
- Encourage your staff to walk, cycle, car-share or use public transport.
- Switch off lights in empty rooms and corridors. This can save up to 15% on your energy bill.
- Recycle – paper, cardboard, tins, plastic and glass. It will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfills.
- Fit energy saving light bulbs and clean them yearly.
- Set your workplace thermostat at 19 degrees C – costs rise by 8% for every 1 degrees C increase.
- Turn down/off heating during holidays and weekends and don’t heat unused space.
- Install a water softener. Most of the UK suffers from hard water, causing pipes, heating elements and appliance to become clogged with limescale and use much more energy than they should.
- Use an energy-saving kettle and only boil the amount of water you need each time.
- Fit water saving device in your cistern to save when flushing, this can save you three litres per flush.
Isabel Duckworth of www.monitormyworkspace.com