Millennials, typically defined as the generation born during the 1980s and 1990s, are many of today's business owners. This Millennial generation is more environmentally conscious than previous generations, although Generation Xers and Baby Boomers have also increased their environmental awareness in recent years. But while these business owners may take great pains to incorporate carbon-conscious decisions into their home lives, it is generally acknowledged that businesses hold the key to making a lasting impact on the environment. Here are five suggestions for businesses that wish to reduce their carbon footprint:
One way to not only reduce a carbon footprint but create a carbon offset is through plants. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce oxygen. The carbon dioxide is converted through photosynthesis into sugars that the plant uses for energy to grow. When the plant dies, the carbon that the plant absorbed during its lifetime is sequestered in the soil where the plant decomposes.
One acre of lawn absorbs about 3,600 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. This is reduced by the amount of carbon dioxide used to plant and maintain the lawn. Hydroseed contractors combine seed, mulch, fertilizer, and healthy soil amendments with water to form a thick slurry. The slurry is then sprayed under pressure onto the soil where the seed germinates and lawn grows. One of the advantages of hydroseeding is the ability to plant over a large area relatively quickly, and thus, with less energy use. Moreover, the hydroseed slurry applied by hydroseed contractors as well as the hydrograss that eventually grows from the hydroseed will provide erosion management solutions for land that is prone to runoff.
Grass can be combined with trees to create an even larger carbon offset. One acre of trees can absorb 10,000 pounds or more of carbon dioxide per year. Hydroseed contractors can apply hydroseed around the trees or other landscaping features more evenly than conventional seed broadcasting and more efficiently than turf laying. Hydroseed contractors can also reach more inaccessible land, such as steep slopes, turning otherwise bare, eroded land into a carbon sink.
The majority of energy use in a business goes to lighting, heating, and cooling the workspace. Changing incandescent light bulbs to LED light bulbs can save 70% to 90% of the energy used to light the business. Additionally, LED light bulbs produce 70% to 90% less heat than incandescent light bulbs, so they also reduce the energy needed to cool an office.
Simple steps such as installing window coverings can reduce the energy required to cool an office by over 30% by reducing the temperature gain from the sun. During heating season, window coverings can reduce heat loss through windows by as much as 40%. The most efficient window coverings include insulated cellular shades, roller shades, and curtains. While blinds and window films can reduce the heating caused by the sun during summer, they are less effective at reducing heat loss during winter.
While recycling was the trend of the 1990s and 2000s, the current trend is to bypass paper altogether. Paperless offices make a huge difference in an office's carbon footprint. Paper is produced from wood pulp, which means that carbon-capturing trees are cut down to produce paper. Energy is required to produce and transport paper. Even when paper is recycled, energy is required to transport and recycle paper. Paperless offices avoid all these carbon-producing activities.
Laptop computers consume less electricity than desktop computers, with the caveat that chargers should be unplugged when the laptop is fully charged to realize the greatest amount of energy savings. When chargers remain plugged in after fully charging a battery, the energy consumed by the charger is mostly wasted.
For you and your employees, commuting is one of the major sources of carbon dioxide. Personal vehicles are responsible for about 20% of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Once freight transportation is added in, cars, trains, ships, and airplanes emit more carbon dioxide than any other source. Working from home, or commuting when traffic is lighter, can reduce emissions substantially.
In sum, there are simple steps businesses can take to reduce or even offset carbon emissions.