A quick guide to going green

Tips on being eco-friendly and saving money

All businesses should care about green issues and the environment. However, questions over the cost and benefits to the business get asked when I talk about 'going green'.

There are plenty of sobering predictions about energy consumption, so reducing your carbon footprint and improving your image as well as your bottom line may be attractive for a business.

Energy reducing methods

  • · Use low-emission materials
  • · Reducing power consumption and improving lighting
  • · Introduction of sustainable landscaping
  • · Improving waste recycling
  • · Using eco-friendly company vehicles

Low-emission materials

LED lighting: LED lamps are much more efficient than traditional bulbs; they offer longer life and lower heat output. Using them in combination with some of the lighting tips above will help reduce your energy usage. The lower heat production of LEDs also cut the amount of cooling needed within the office.

Paint: Traditionally paints contain formaldehyde, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The VOCs are emissions which are given out for up to five years after the paint is applied.Eco-friendly paints have low VOC emissions and are often water-based rather than solvent-based, so help protect the quality of the air that you breathe. The leftovers from these paints are compostable and kinder to your pocket too.

Carpet: Love the smell of new carpet? That smell is actually the evaporation of chemicals (i.e. VOCs). To get rid of these emissions choose carpet with a high wool content. Wool is a completely natural, sustainable product. It is also very hard-wearing if you get the right quality.

Wool-based carpets are lower in carbon emissions than other more processed products and opting for a brand manufactured in the UK reduces your carbon footprint further.

Also, look for carpet with an eco-friendly backing made from polymer granules rather than plastic. The right eco-friendly carpet can also save 15 percent on heating costs.

Power consumption

Heating: Heating systems can be unreliable and leak out heat in areas that don't need it. Get your heating system checked annually to ensure it is running efficiently and the thermostat is set at the right temperature; look at zoning the building so only essential areas are heated.

Cooling: Many companies use traditional air conditioning which uses lots of power and carries a weighty carbon footprint. When the office is not too hot or cold, consider switching the air-con off. Also, here's a novel idea, why not open the windows (if that's possible) to cool things down - fresh air is free and eco-friendly.

Hardware: Computers, printers and other devices can often be switched off at the day's end. Install a smart meter to show you what's using the most power.

Lighting: Approximately (source: Carbon Trust) 40% of a company's electricity is used on lighting. Try these tips:

Asking staff to dim or switch off lights when the last person leaves a room will significantly reduce your electricity usage.

Automatically adjusting the lighting depending on the amount of natural light can save 25 – 50 per cent. Cleaning all windows, skylights and light fixtures regularly can also reduce the amount of artificial light needed. Installing low-cost motion sensors for stairways, corridors and restroom areas to reduce consumption.

Sustainable landscaping

Sustainable landscaping is based on producing an outside area which requires minimal resources to maintain, such as fertilizer, pesticides, fuel, time and water.

Many businesses don't have an extensive 'garden' area, but if you have the space consider planting trees, a wildflower strip or a sedum roof which would dramatically improve your environment. And if everywhere is tarmacked, introduce raised beds made of recycled materials e.g. sleepers or tyres.

If the area outside is restricted, a nesting box, a bird feeding station or window boxes with bee-friendly plants show visitors that you are making an effort towards caring for the environment. But do ensure someone is responsible for maintaining these.

Waste recycling

Each year, England alone generates approximately 177 million tonnes of waste, more than half of which still ends up in landfill. Businesses can do a multitude of things to combat the amount of waste that they produce, like:

  • · Reusing the reverse of printed sheets in your printer (if the content isn't confidential), and for note taking.
  • · Buy recyclable office products.
  • · Buy office stationery which has been created from recycled material.
  • · Encourage staff to use hand towels and loo roll economically.
  • · Introduce recycling bins in the staff kitchen to take paper, cardboard, food, tins, plastic, etc.

Company vehicles

Businesses in great locations often attract staff who live close by, so another way of improving your green credentials is to encourage them to walk or cycle to work. Perhaps provide electric bikes, or have a 'cycle to work' scheme. If employees drive to work, or if you have a delivery fleet, consider more environmentally conscious vehicles such as electric or hybrid cars/vans.

The benefits

  • · Reduce your energy bill
  • · Reduce your carbon footprint
  • · Increase staff moraleI
  • Increase new business interest from other companies who want to work with suppliers who are more environmentally friendly.
  • Jack Bedell-Pearce has over 12 years of commercial, operational and technical experience. He is responsible for the day-to-day running of 4D Data Centres, a colocation and connectivity supplier for SMEs in the South East.