The Internet consumes 10 percent of the world’s electricity, and IT-related services account for 2 percent of all carbon emissions. Even sending an email increases an individual’s carbon footprint by 4 grams. It may not sound like a lot – and it’s certainly less than delivering that same correspondence by truck, plane, or ship – but it adds up.
Fortunately, tech trendsetters like Facebook and Apple are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. You can do the same in your small business by following these tips.
1. Identify your company’s carbon footprint
Companies like Intuit and Sony invested time and money into determining their carbon footprint in order to improve it. A business’s carbon footprint includes not just direct factors, like electricity used in the office, but carbon emissions from employees who commute, and even carbon emissions created by the products a business creates.
A carbon footprint calculator may help solopreneurs and microbusinesses calculate their company’s carbon footprint. Small businesses with more than a few employees may want to enlist the help of a professional for an analysis.
2. Monitor and manage your building’s energy use
Building-wide energy management equipment helps companies reduce their carbon footprint by alerting personnel when lights, HVAC, or technology systems are running in unoccupied rooms. To start, you can utilize smart products like a Nest thermostat to help you see when you can improve your energy consumption. Telecom provider Verizon recently deployed smart metering to monitor energy use.
3. Encourage your employees to shut down their computers at night
Energy conservation can begin with small steps. Help establish best practices for employees that include shutting down computers when not in use and turning lights off when no one is in the office.
4. Use renewable energy
With leasing programs, tax credits, and incentives available, small business owners can reduce their carbon footprint and lower monthly expenses with renewable energy. Facebook uses wind energy to power its Texas data center, reducing the carbon footprint of one person’s use of the social media platform to the same carbon footprint as purchasing a specialty coffee. Apple is purchasing solar power to run its California retail outlets, headquarters, corporate offices, and a data center.
5. Switch to energy-efficient LED bulbs
No matter the size of your business, you can learn from the convenience store and gas station giant, Sheetz, by switching to LED bulbs. The company reports saving 45 percent on its interior lighting and has increased sales, because customers find the brighter facilities more visually appealing and safer. Get rid of those flickering, energy-hungry fluorescent bulbs and you could create more productive employees as you reduce your carbon footprint.
6. Upgrade to virtual servers
In addition to switching to wind power, Facebook reduced its data center energy consumption by 75 percent by switching to cold storage methods for older photos. Smaller businesses can reduce server energy use by transitioning to virtual servers. Virtual machines reduce the number of servers required in your equipment room, which not only reduces the amount of energy the machines use, but lowers cooling costs, as well.
7. Upgrade your office technology
Older desktop computers and laptops use more energy than newer models. Upgrading to newer, EnergyStar rated machines can substantially reduce your company’s carbon footprint. With newer, faster computers, your employees may also be more productive. Some companies may even be able to replace some of their employees’ computers with tablets or Netbooks for even greater energy savings.
8. Don’t forget to recycle the old equipment
JD Pro AV, a small Staten Island-based audiovisual systems integrator, recycles all the old technology the company removes from a job site to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as that of their customers. Office superstore Staples takes back old computers and other office equipment, or you can contact your municipality to find out about other electronics recycling programs in your area.
9. Choose supply chain partners who support green practices
Tech giants including Dell, Apple, and HTC launched an initiative to encourage their supply chain partners to reduce their carbon footprints. Smaller businesses may not have the buying power to exact this kind of change, but they can still choose vendors who take steps toward sustainability.
10. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Reduce your small business’ carbon footprint by going back to basics. Minimize printing or print double-sided when possible, recycle any paper you use, or transition completely to a paperless office. Replace that single-serving, pod-based coffee maker with a regular coffeemaker and thermal carafe to keep coffee warm. Give every employee a reusable coffee mug. Encourage recycling of paper and plastic in the employee breakroom.
Small Changes Can Yield Big Results
Whether you choose to employ a few of these tips or all 10 in your business, every change you make can help reduce greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, creating a healthier world for generations to come.