It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by conflicting statistics and information about climate change, carbon footprint, sustainability, and more… We want to make a difference in the world but don’t know where to start.
With that in mind and in order to help minimize the information overload, we’ve put together 5 easy ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your workday routine.
First things first, let’s start by introducing some important concepts.
What is a carbon footprint?
Whether we realize it or not, from the moment we wake up to the moment we rest our heads at night, we’re contributing (and not in a good way) to our own carbon footprint.
But what exactly is a carbon footprint? It corresponds to the whole amount of greenhouse gases generated by our actions to support - directly and indirectly - our lifestyle and activities.
It includes carbon dioxide - the gas most commonly emitted by humans - and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. These end up trapping heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming.
Check this two-minute video - it explains this process in a simple but appealing way.
What is carbon neutrality?
Linked to the carbon footprint concept, we often hear “go carbon-neutral”. But what does this mean?
Being "carbon-neutral" means that you emit the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as the amount you offset by some other means.
Achieving carbon neutrality means that your CO2 output has a neutral impact on the environment, and it can help stem the effects of climate change. Greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide increase average temperatures worldwide, thus the importance of planting more trees - as they grow and perform photosynthesis, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. But that’s not nearly enough.
Adding solar panels to your home, or switching to an electric vehicle are also examples of things you can do to reduce your CO2 output, but there are easier ways to reduce your carbon footprint in all spheres of life. The following examples concern your workday routine.
5 easy ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your workday routine
1. Drive less, bike more
According to the statista, in 2018 the transportation sector was considered the major polluter and responsible for approximately eight billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that year.
Research at Lund University and the University of British Columbia reveals that going carless for a year could save about 2.6 tons of CO2. But how could we do that? Well, why not ride a bike? It’s a win-win situation: noise pollution is reduced as well, and since bikes require no gasoline, no antifreeze, and such, it’ll help ensure those fluids don’t make their way into local waterways or the environment itself.
If you really need to use the car, then there are ways to make your trip more eco-friendly. Go easy on the breaks, by driving efficiently you will be reducing emissions; reduce your use of air conditioning, it can make emissions creep up; don’t weigh your car down, consider removing anything you don't need to lighten your vehicle; last, but not least, don’t forget carpooling, this way you’re splitting emissions between the number of people in the car.
2. Cut down on waste
One of the simplest ways you can reduce your impact on the planet is by cutting down on waste. According to The World Counts, right now we need 1.7845103866 planet Earths to provide resources and absorb our waste. The number is increasing by the second - in the fraction of time it took to write this sentence, the number went up to 1.7845104916.
Globally, this year, the number of tons of waste dumped is about 805,604,747 - also growing by the second. It’s scary to think that if all this waste was put on trucks they would go around the world 24 times, but it’s the reality we live in.
What we can do is cut down on waste. Since we are talking about a workday routine, reducing waste is even good for business because it can save money. Use reusable coffee mugs, plates, and silverware; go for a compostable or high post-consumer waste content paper napkin; replace disposable plastic water bottles with reusable ones; turn off everything you are not using; reuse packaging; bring in lunch from home and reduce plastic wrapping; purchase everything from coffee to sugar in bulk. Keep finding new ways to cut down on waste, we can always do more and better.
3. No paper is the greener paper
The environmental impact of paper is significant. The printing press and the highly mechanized harvesting of wood caused disposable paper to become a relatively cheap commodity, which - of course - led to an increase in consumption and waste.
Worldwide consumption of paper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years, with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture. What can we do to stop (or at least reduce) this from happening?
We should look back on our usual workday routine and think about all the paper we could easily avoid wasting. For instance, do you use both sides of the paper when printing? We should only print if really necessary, but when we do, let's print both sides of the paper and reduce paper consumption by about fifty percent.
Whenever we receive a package, let’s avoid throwing it away. They can easily be reused - we could label them and use them as organizers or reuse them for shipping (just make sure all the previous labels or barcodes are covered).
Ditch the post-it notes. Reuse scrap paper instead or consider taking notes on your tablet, computer, or smartphone for example.
4. Virtual meetings are the way to go
One of the easiest and most effective ways that businesses can become more sustainable is by holding more virtual meetings. Your workday routine will be much more eco-friendly if you don’t have to leave your home. Virtual meetings reduce all manner of activities that eat up resources or contribute to pollution.
You’ll be reducing gas consumption, which at the current rate of extraction (oil reserves) will only last for about 50 more years. The fewer cars on the road, the more gas is saved and the longer oil reserves will last.
You’ll also be keeping CO2 emissions at bay. Business travel is a major contributor to carbon emissions. It’s estimated that Americans alone make 488 million business trips a year: a third of these trips are by air, but most of the rest by car. If you want to feel good about your carbon footprint try meeting virtually more often. There’s even a new study showing that if you turn your camera off during a videoconference, you can reduce your environmental footprint in that meeting by 96 percent.
5. Look for green practices and products
Changing a few office habits and adjusting how you purchase and use products can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint.
Many products used in the office environment contain unpleasant substances: from chemical cleaning products and toxic printing consumables that need to be handled with care and disposed of correctly, to air fresheners that can emit over 100 different chemicals. Go for homemade natural cleaning products and eco-friendly candles.
Choose some beautiful air-purifying plants to decor your office. Besides bringing us closer to nature and improving our well-being, they can filter a range of chemicals from the air, according to a study conducted by NASA. Peace Lily and Golden Pothos are just a couple of examples of many other air-purifying plants.
Also, use refills to dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. According to the EPA, Americans throw away 1.6 billion disposable pens every year.
These are just a few tips for easy ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your workday routine, but there are many others to consider because no matter your title or role, you can always help make your workplace more eco-friendly and reduce emissions that are contributing to climate change. Feel free to check out 100 simple ways to help save the planet and learn more tips to help the environment on a daily basis. Let’s all start to think green and make the world a better place.