Carbon footprint: where to start?

You may not have thought of measuring your carbon footprint. But knowing your business’s carbon footprint means that you have a baseline from which to develop sustainability strategies, goals, and key performance indicators. It’s hard to argue with facts and numbers.

But getting started can involve a steep learning curve. Following our step-by-step guide can help your business to make a start. These measurements and actions will vary from sector to sector and business to business.

Step 1 Measure

  • Pick a year to take your baseline measure and stick to that for all of the key areas. 
  • Take a snapshot of 12 months of bills to work out your total energy consumption (bills have cost as well as usage e.g. kilowatt hours used).
  • What to measure:
    • Energy 
    • Buildings
    • Travel
    • Water 
    • Waste
  • You now have your baseline year.

Step 2 Mitigate

Some of these are quick wins, some are more complex to implement. It will depend on your business model and operations so these are just some indicative ideas.

  1. Energy

Switch to 100% renewable energy. LED-bulbs are more expensive but last 5 times longer and you could save up to 75% on your electricity bill. 

  1. Buildings
  • Install an Energy Management System (EMS), and sensor lights which only come on when a room is in use.  
  • Reducing thermostat set temperatures by 1 degree can reduce heating costs by up to 10%.
  • Turn off energy using equipment when not in use. Set up automated reminder emails before long weekends and other holiday periods.
  1. Travel – Switch to virtual meetings. Find out how employees get to work and encourage public transport use or cycling where possible.
  1. Water – Put in low flow taps and shower heads, and consider installing a grey water system. Automatic taps in bathrooms can save on water and energy costs. According to the EPA a hot water tap left running by mistake for 10 minutes in every hour of a working day will cost €6,000/annum.
  1. Waste – Separate at source into recyclables, food waste, and general waste. Train staff to recycle properly, and incentivise them by creating competition between departments and  floors. 

Now that you have your baseline year it will be easier to know where to focus your efforts each year. Once you have implemented the 5 mitigation steps you can measure your carbon footprint again after 12 months. Your net carbon footprint is the difference between your baseline year and the current year being measured. 

Don’t be disheartened if your improvement isn’t as big as you had hoped. There could be other factors at play, such as changes in your market, events outside of your control (a pandemic, for example) or growth in your business activities. The important thing is to keep making changes to improve from the baseline year.  

Measuring your carbon footprint is an important tool to measure the impact of your business and its activities. You can take the first step by doing our free Green Zebra Audit.