5 Ways to Start Reducing Energy Use and Emissions for your Business during COVID-19
There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our relationship with the office. While many are returning to offices and workplaces, others are adopting a hybrid work from home model, and still others have realized that a physical office is not as necessary as once thought. Depending on your situation, you and your colleagues may be spending far less time at the workplace and far more time doing your tasks in your own home.
This change in workplace behaviour is an interesting one in terms of reducing energy use as a business. Working from home certainly saves energy in the form of car emissions that are avoided by a handy Zoom call, but there is also an increased use of energy in the form of home appliances and heating. Public health is certainly the most important issue when it comes to being flexible with work-from-home solutions, but it does raise the question of how we utilize the now emptier office .
So, in this new business landscape, how do we make sure that our business is still making steps to carbon neutrality? How can we reduce energy consumption for our business during COVID-19? Here are 5 ways to reduce your business’ energy use.
1. Communicate with your team
The most important step to developing and executing a sustainable energy plan for your business is to communicate clearly with your team. I suggest scheduling a video call with your team to discuss and brainstorm energy saving ideas: find out what they are already doing, and address any concerns that may come up. Doing this kind of meeting early-on will ensure that any new energy policies for the office have a better rate of up-take among your team. Remember that people choose to engage with energy saving strategies for different reasons: some do it because it makes them feel good to do something for the environment, while others are cost motivated.
Furthermore, now that we are working from home more than ever, how each team member uses energy at home is an important piece of the carbon-neutrality goals of your business. Discuss how you are reducing energy use in your own home, and ask how your team members are doing the same. Does someone on the team require assistance with upgrading outdated appliances to Energy-Star rated ones? How is their home heated? Could someone on your team use assistance with communicating with their property manager to improve the energy efficiency of their building? Having this conversation together as a team can bring into light what can be improved, and how your business can help.
2. Re-think your away-from-office energy strategy.
Your store hours may be shorter than they were before, or there may only be people in the office for a couple of days a week. What does your office space look like when it is empty? Are all the lights, computers, printers, and other appliances shut off and unplugged when possible? Is the heating turned as low as it can be, or even turned off to conserve energy while no one is in the facility? If you have an office fridge that is standing empty now, can you clean it out and unplug it until people will make use of it again? Is it possible to adjust the water heater settings? Revisiting how your facility exists in “hibernation mode” is a good idea to do if you haven’t already.
An alternative to going into hibernation mode at the office is to think critically about whether your business still requires use of that space full time. Is there a local group that needs access to a space during the hours your business is usually closed? What are your building’s policies about co-working spaces or sub-letting sections of your office to make use of the space that is now standing empty? These can be interesting ways to support local community groups, lower your costs, and even make revenue.
3. Post reminders
This one may be obvious, but I’ve included it because more so than ever we are working separately from each other with different schedules than usual. While I do not think that posting a note next to the light switch is any replacement for a conversation to ensure the whole team is on the same page with regards to conserving energy, I do think that helpful visual reminders can aid in reducing energy use. You can find downloadable ones online by Googling “turn off the light/heater posters”, or you can create your own fun one with a graphic design website like Canva.
4. Embrace virtual and paperless business tools.
If you are still on the fence about virtual and paperless business tools, now is the time to test them out and see for yourself how much they can help save money, time, and reduce carbon emissions. Pre-Covid 19, businesses were recommended to create a business travel policy with the aim to reduce travel emissions from employees attending meetings by up to 20% by the amazing team at Synergy Enterprises (you can check out their free webinar on reducing carbon emissions in the tourism industry on their website). Now we have been forced to use virtual meeting tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts more than ever, and I think it’s time to make the commitment to using such tools into perpetuity.
Think about how many of the meetings you have been a part of since the start of lockdown in Victoria. How many of those do you think really would have been better as an in person meeting? My bet is far fewer of them than you might think to begin with. Most people I’ve spoken to have realized that many of the virtual meetings could be reduced even further into an email! Now is the time to recognize that as business opens up to be more in person, perhaps most meetings could still remain virtual, saving your business money and emissions!
5. Get familiar with your energy bill.
This tip is one that really is the foundation of knowing how your business uses energy. Look at your energy bill. Your energy provider shows you how much energy you use each pay period, and often you can get more detailed information to show energy use changes day by day, or even hour by hour. With a little bit of digging, you can figure out how much your business is normally using, which will help you tremendously in tracking your progress with reducing your energy use. You can also take steps to learn this information about your home office, by dividing your home energy bill by the square footage of the space you use for your business during the day.
If you want to take a step further, you can calculate the emissions that result from your energy use by using globally recognized emission factors. These are published by the GHG protocol, and are free to access on their website (another globally recognized source for this information is the ISO 14064). The result of your calculations will be how much carbon dioxide equivalent emissions your business produces, and is the basis of all carbon accounting services like the ones Synergy Enterprises and EcoThink Productions provide. Even without doing the calculations however, you can start with reducing your carbon impact in your business by reducing your energy use. Keep in mind that the type of energy your business uses is also important, as hydro-electricity has a lower emission factor than energy sources like natural gas.
These 5 steps to reduce energy consumption for your business during COVID-19 are going to save your business energy costs, put you on the path to reducing your emissions, and guarantee that you and your team build a sustainability plan that is resilient and long-term. If you have already implemented these, I recommend going further and taking the Synergy Enterprises webinar series on Carbon Management for Tourism, which is free and has a lot of great insight into how your business can start reducing your carbon footprint today. The GHG Protocol website also has a lot of free resources for your business to delve deeper into the topic. Of course, if you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!