As the world becomes increasingly aware of the impact of climate change, businesses, governments, and citizens are stepping up to reduce their carbon footprint and enable the transition to net-zero.
Businesses are significant contributors to GHG emissions, both directly through their operations and indirectly through their supply chains. One area where companies can make a significant impact is by reducing emissions in their offices. From energy-efficient technologies to sustainable transportation options, there are a multitude of strategies that businesses can implement to reduce their environmental impact.
In this article, we'll explore some of the most innovative and effective ways to reduce office emissions, helping you create a more sustainable workplace while also driving cost savings and improving employee well-being.
Why reduce emissions for your office?
Before we dive into the specifics of how to reduce emissions, let's take a closer look at why it is essential to do so.
First and foremost, reducing emissions is crucial for preserving the environment. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which contributes to warming of the planet and subsequent climate change. By reducing emissions, we can slow down the pace of global warming and meet global net-zero targets, under the Paris Agreement.
To put this into perspective, nearly 40% of carbon emissions related to energy usage worldwide come from buildings, contributing to a staggering 33% of global GHG emissions, while homes make up almost 20% of this total. These emissions from buildings result from two main factors. The first is the daily operation of a building, including the energy required for lighting, heating, or cooling homes, office buildings, and shopping centres. The second factor contributing to emissions from buildings is the materials used in constructing them. The production of building materials, such as cement, steel, and glass, requires significant amounts of energy and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Additionally, the demolition and disposal of buildings at the end of their life cycle is a contributing factor.
Ultimately reducing emissions isn't just good for the environment, it can significantly benefit your business and improve ROI. For one, it can save you money on energy costs. Knowing that around 80% of the buildings we have today will exist in 2050, we must retrofit them for energy efficiency. By reducing your energy consumption, you can lower your utility bills and increase your bottom line. Additionally, reducing emissions can improve your company's reputation and attract environmentally conscious customers. This customer base is growing exponentially as 84% of customers say that poor environmental practices will alienate them from a brand or company.
To address the issue of carbon emissions from buildings, several approaches can be taken. One is to improve the energy efficiency of buildings through measures such as insulation, efficient lighting and appliances, and renewable energy sources. Another approach is to reduce the carbon footprint of building materials by using recycled or sustainable materials, and designing buildings to be easily deconstructed and reused at the end of their life cycle.
Statistics show that offices have a significant share of a company’s footprint
- According to the International Energy Agency, commercial and residential buildings account for 36% of global final energy consumption and nearly 40% of total CO2 emissions.
- In the UK, commercial buildings account for approximately 18% of the country's total carbon footprint.
- The energy used in offices is responsible for over 60% of their greenhouse gas emissions.
- The buildings sector is a key contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, representing 35% of energy-related EU emissions in 2023. To reach net-zero targets energy consumption in buildings must drop by 25% compared with today, and fossil fuel use must decrease by more than 40%, together with a complete phase-out of the polluting traditional use of biomass by 2030.
- A typical office building in Europe consumes between 200-300 kWh/m² per year, while low-energy buildings consume less than 50 kWh/m² per year.
Different decarbonisation actions to take to reduce offices' emissions
We understand the problem, now let’s focus on the solutions to reduce emissions in offices:
- Use energy-efficient lighting: Using energy-efficient lighting such as LED bulbs, CFL or T5 fluorescent can save up to 75% of energy compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. According to the US Department of Energy, businesses can save up to $0.06 per square foot per year by using energy-efficient lighting.
- Optimise heating and cooling systems: Optimising heating and cooling systems with programmable thermostats, clean filters, and energy-efficient HVAC systems can save energy and reduce emissions. A well-maintained HVAC system can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%.
- Reduce paper usage: Encouraging the use of digital documents and reducing paper usage can help reduce emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, paper production and disposal account for 40% of waste in landfills.
- Encourage sustainable transportation: Encouraging sustainable transportation options such as public transportation, carpooling, biking, and walking can make a huge impact in reducing emissions from employee commuting. In fact, transportation accounts for 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- Choose sustainable suppliers and products: Choosing sustainable suppliers and products can help reduce emissions throughout the supply chain. This can include using recycled materials, reducing packaging, and selecting products with low-carbon footprints.
- Retrofit existing buildings: Retrofitting existing buildings with energy-efficient measures such as insulation, energy-efficient windows, and renewable energy systems can reduce emissions. A report by C40 Cities revealed retrofitting existing buildings with energy-efficient measures could reduce their carbon emissions by up to 50% by 2030.
- Use green certifications: Using green certifications such as LEED, BREEAM, or WELL to design and operate sustainable buildings can greatly reduce emissions. Buildings with green certifications have been found to emit 34% less carbon dioxide, use 25% less energy, and consume 11% less water than non-certified buildings, according to the US Green Building Council.
- Implement a sustainability policy: Implementing a sustainability policy and engaging employees in sustainable practices is a sure way to reduce emissions.
Reducing emissions in office buildings is essential for mitigating the impact of climate change. The carbon footprint of office buildings can be reduced through energy-efficient measures, sustainable transportation options, and choosing sustainable suppliers and products. Retrofitting existing buildings with energy-efficient measures and designing and operating sustainable buildings with green certifications can also significantly reduce emissions. By taking action to reduce their carbon footprint, offices can contribute to the fight against climate change while also benefiting financially and attracting environmentally conscious customers and employees.
Take action today to reduce emissions for your office and contribute to a more sustainable future. Book a demo with Plan A.