Quick wins: How to reduce your carbon footprint – Part 1

22/04/2022 08:00

The following quick wins come from CAFA (Climate Action for Associations). CAFA help professional and trade membership associations all over the world work collectively to address the climate emergency and drive faster, efficient climate action for and on behalf of the industries, professions and communities they represent.

As your membership association we will regularly impart knowledge, guidance and resources from our membership of CAFA. Starting with the quick wins we will, over time, build up to templates, policies and commitments to help our sector accelerate towards net zero. So here’s our first set of quick wins, which can be applied to the office or home-work:

Purchase eco-friendly products
With a little bit of time and attention to detail, buying eco-friendly is an easy habit to get into once you have the correct mindset. Focus on purchasing recycled or re-usable products, as this will greatly reduce your workplace’s volume of “mixed waste“.

Paperless office
Folders and cabinets full of paper are inconvenient and a pretty inefficient way of running an office in the 21st century. Best of all, the less paper the better for the environment, so avoid printing wherever possible by getting into the habit of electronic-only communication and document storage. The savings and benefits to the environment are immense – reductions in paper waste, ink cartridges and electricity used by printers. A small business in the CAFA network of less than 10 people, gradually went paperless and in its first year saved more than £6,000 in paper ink cartridges and hardware. A saving that went straight to its bottom line.

One of easiest ways to reduce waste and improve resource efficiency in the
workplace. A best practice office or shop will be operating efficient recycling schemes for paper, cardboard, glass, cans and toner cartridges at the very minimum. Ensure your waste collection is reliable, and regular. Ensure any private waste collection suppliers are reputable. Enquire and ask for references for how the company treats and processes waste.

E-Waste (i.e. waste that originates from IT equipment)
53.6 million tonnes of e-waste was produced globally in 2019, an increase of more than 20% compared to five years prior. There are now facilities that wipe clean, take apart the hardware and recycle the internal parts at home and/or export overseas. Many computer and telephone devices contain valuable metals, making the business of e-waste very lucrative.

It sounds so obvious, but stick to natural light wherever possible by opening blinds and curtains and positioning desk stations closer to the light, as this reduces the need for powered lighting to be switched on. Research also shows that natural light has a number of health and well-being benefits, such as being a source of vitamin D as well as boosting employee productivity. Choose LED lights over any other lightbulbs as they are significantly more energy efficient. Install timers on your lighting and/or motion activated light sensors which will turn on for a designated period of time or whenever there is activity in the room. Introduce an internal ‘last to leave lights off’ policy for employees in the entire building or shop and specific areas of the workplace. Incentivise behaviour change by rewarding and communicating with employees as they adopt new practices.

Electronic machines and equipment that are plugged in but not being used or on standby account for a considerable amount of electricity consumption. So get into the habit of unplugging everything or turning off machines when not in use. This is especially true of computers and monitors, where it is common to leave them not only plugged in but also switched on in screen saver mode. Switching off will also boost your organisations cyber security.

So – in summary:

  1. Focus on purchasing recycled or re-usable products
  2. Instill a habit of electronic-only communication and document storage
  3. Employ recycling schemes for paper, cardboard, glass, cans and toner cartridges that you know are effective
  4. Have your old e-hardware wiped then recycled
  5. Stick to natural light wherever possible
  6. Unplug everything that you can when not in use.

>> You can view Part 2 here