Across the world, businesses are operating in increasingly stringent environmental legislative regimes, while customers are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to business ethics. Accordingly, almost every commercial enterprise these days has an environmental policy and a dedicated manager – or team – in place to implement it. Here, we look at the eight most significant ways that businesses can reduce their carbon footprint.
1 – The sun and the wind – sources of power
An increasingly common sight on residential properties, solar panels can make a big difference to the nature of energy consumption at business premises too. Exactly how much can be saved depends enormously on a wide range of factors. The nature and scale of a company’s business, the number of people it employs and the size of its estate will all affect how much energy is consumed – and how much can be generated by solar panels. That said, many business sites can generate upwards of 20% of their energy needs from solar panels. Internal displays can also be installed to show exactly how much power the panels generate.
Also on the increase is wind power. Many larger organisations are now investing in turbines that harness the power of wind to generate electricity.
2 – Ground source heat pumps
The ground beneath us can provide heat during the winter and coolness during the summer. This is because at depths of 90 – 150 metres, the ground temperature is constant all year round. In the cooler months, ground source heat pumps – plastic pipes that extend deep into the ground – are used to extract heat and further raise its temperature before introducing it into buildings with underfloor heating. In the summer they can deliver the coolness from the ground to areas such as offices, receptions and workshops.
3 – Lighting
Many businesses can reduce the electricity they consume for lighting by up to a third by adopting energy-saving light bulbs and other technologies. Using motion sensors, for example, can further enhance savings as these ensure that light is only provided as and where it is necessary. Externally, many businesses are also switching to LED lighting to illuminate their signage – saving up to 60% of the energy used by conventional systems.
4 – Water conservation
Every business consumes water, even if it’s simply to make the coffee and ensure the cleanliness of sanitary areas. Wastage of this precious resource can be minimised by the use of water-efficient low flow aerated spray heads and dual flush toilets. Buildings can also be designed to collect rain water from the roof for use in the drier months.
5 – Green walls and roofs
Green – or living – walls and roofs provide a wide range of environmental benefits. Essentially lawns used for plant growth and vegetation, they provide effective drainage during heavy rainfalls and keep rooms cooler during the summer months. This reduces the amount of ventilation required in populated areas, in turn reducing energy consumption. Green walls and roofs also enhance biodiversity, provide a space for growing organic produce and can vastly improve a building’s resistance to the elements, not to mention its appearance!
6 – Sustainable building materials
Using sustainable materials wherever possible when designing or refurbishing commercial premises help to make the very most of the world’s resources. Recycled steel for example, is an ideal material for internal office and warehouse partitioning, while sawdust and particle board can be reused in flooring. The environment also benefits where the use of concrete is minimised and where rain water can flow directly to soil.
7 – Packaging materials
Packaging has a major environmental impact, accounting for up to 33% of domestic waste alone*. Thankfully, there are recyclable solutions to most packaging needs these days, from cardboard and paper to glass, aluminium and compostable bags. Sustainable alternatives to bubble wrap that can protect delicate items are also being developed, enabling manufacturers and suppliers all types of products to include packaging in their environmental policies.
8 – Education and training
Of course, a green policy is only as effective as the people putting it into practice. This is why staff training – both about carbon reduction in general and the company’s policies in particular – is central to any well implemented initiative. Many businesses now invest in their staff’s appreciation of the environment and incentivise them to make their own contribution. Staff programmes range from training on recycling to tax-efficient cycle to work schemes.
Drew Davies writes for Big Yellow Self Storage, which has 76 purpose-built self-storage sites across the UK. Find out more about Big Yellow’s green solutions, and for more tips on storage see their blog.