Are you energy saving conscious? Increasing awareness of energy conservation means that people are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint at home, but are you also transferring these responsibilities to the work place? There is a great chance that you spend a large percentage of your time at the office or work place, as do the rest of your colleagues, using a lot of energy and creating a lot of waste; therefore it is equally important that you attempt to make a difference there and encourage others to help you in reducing your company’s carbon footprint. Here are 10 ideas to help reduce your work place carbon footprint, creating a greener, more climate-friendly environment.

1. Monitor your carbon footprint

It is important that you understand how big your carbon footprint really is and are aware of how much energy you consume as an organisation. Without realising this, you will not be able to appreciate the environmental and financial results of your efforts.

You can monitor your energy consumption by installing energy monitors on various pieces of office equipment, as well as looking up how much carbon dioxide (CO2) your organisation has emitted on your energy bills. IBM save more than £370,000 each year by monitoring their electricity (Source: The Climate Group).

From here you can decide on the best ways your organisation, as a whole, can work towards reducing its carbon footprint and energy bills as well as setting targets.

2. Switch off lights and equipment (do not leave in standby mode)

Lighting an average-sized empty office overnight wastes enough electricity to make 1,000 hot drinks or print 800 sheets of paper. One solution is to arrange a rota whereby 1 person each week is responsible for ensuring that all lights are turned off at the end of the day or when rooms are not in use, and asking after hour’s cleaners to do the same. Or create a culture whereby everyone takes responsibility of making sure lights in unused rooms are turned off. Some businesses use occupancy sensors, or if your office is naturally well lit with large windows – why even use lights?

Other office equipment that is unnecessarily left on over night and could easily be switched off or turned down includes computers, TV screens, vending machines, air conditioning units, etc.

A survey conduced by the National Energy Foundation (NEF) and computer company 1E revealed that 1.7 million computers were left on overnight and at weekends in 2005, creating emissions equivalent to 120,000 4×4s and costing £115m in electricity.

Putting your computer into sleep mode will reduce the amount of energy it uses by 60-70 per cent. Most IT equipment now has power-management features, whereby you can automatically set your PCs to turn on and off at the required times.

3. Unplug chargers

All chargers (laptops, mobile phones, etc.) continue to charge even when not attached to the device. This uses up to 95 per cent of the power, so don’t forget to unplug the chargers when not in use.

4. Print responsibly

Printing e-mails is often unnecessary and a waste of both paper and electricity. Think before you print a document, consider whether you need a hard copy and if you can reduce the amount of pages printed to what you actually need via the print settings.

If you do have to print e-mails, ensure you only print the pages you need, or paste the relevant sections into a Word document and only print that. Duplex printers print double sided and as a result, halve paper use and reduce energy consumption by an estimated 25 per cent.

Try to purchase recycled paper from well-managed forests ­ look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Also look out for paper that’s not as white as standard paper, as the less bleach used, the better it is for the environment.

5. Recycle

The UK has one of the worst recycling records in Europe, so more businesses recycling would make a big difference. Provide recycling bins for paper (the average individual users more than 200kg of paper each year with only around 65% of this being recycled).

UK businesses throw away more than 1.5 million computers every year. More than 90% of these are fully functioning and less than 5% are refurbished for reuse. Printer cartridges can also be recycled.

Set up recycling bins for glass, cans, plastic, cardboard, etc. Any remaining waste that cannot be recycled is converted into fibre fuel, which generates electricity.

6. Reduce or choose alternate business travel

Traditionally business is done face to face, but with today’s technological advances there are often far more environmentally friendly ways to communicate than taking the car, train or plane which all adds to your carbon footprint.

If you do need to travel, consider your options: flying from Glasgow to London generates six times as much carbon dioxide as going by train. Taking the train also saves you time, as there are no lengthy check-in queues or security checks, and you can work more easily on the train, so travelling time is more productive.

Video conferencing is the next best thing to face-to-face meetings and the benefits are not just environmental but economic too. For larger corporations, in particular, installing unlimited video-conferencing facilities can result in major savings in annual travel costs, as well as reduced CO2 emissions.

The CO2 emissions produced from travelling to and from work are equally important to address. Organise car-sharing, cycle, walk or use public transport. The savings made can be up to 0.5kg of CO2 for every mile you don’t drive. Employers can help, too, by providing loans for season railcards and gradually reducing spaces for parking.

7. Buy energy-efficient equipment and appliances

Products carrying the Energy Saving Recommended logo, such as insulation, light fittings, glazing and appliances, will save your company up to around 190kg of CO2 emissions and £45 a year

All electrical kitchen appliances are rated from A-G, with A being the most energy efficient. A similar system applies to IT and other office equipment. The Energy Star rating denotes the most energy efficient computers, monitors, copiers, printers and fax machines, etc, so make sure any new equipment your company buys carries this logo.

Poorly functioning office equipment will cost you money and increase your carbon footprint. Review maintenance and cleaning schedules to ensure the optimum efficiency of your office equipment is achieved.

8. Buy green electricity

Energy generated from the sun, wind, water or biogas produces fewer or no CO2 emissions and most energy suppliers offer competitive tariffs that provide green or renewable energy to help considerably reduce your carbon footprint.

9. Install micro-renewable technologies

Micro-generation equipment, such as solar panels and wind turbines, has become more main-stream and is even available from some DIY stores. You can install this equipment In addition to buying green electricity, to generate your own energy on-site from renewable sources. The cost of solar panels and wind turbines starts at a few thousand pounds, and grants are available from the government.

10. Champion change and increase awareness

We can all play a part in reducing our carbon footprint at work, every little helps. Raising awareness through events is a great way of getting others in your organisation to play their part and champion change. Encourage your colleagues to pledge their time and resources to benefit the environment.

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