5 Carbon Reductions That Will Actually Save You Money

June 14, 2021
Not all carbon reductions are a burden. These five "no excuse" actions will not only shrink your footprint, but also save money.

Every year, every Climate Neutral Certified brand must commit to two substantive carbon reductions that can be enacted in the next 12-24 months. Brands are encouraged to think of meaningful reductions that are tailored to their business, but the reality is that there are some reductions that all businesses can and should be making in order to improve our chances of achieving global climate goals.

While it’s true that reducing your carbon footprint is hard work, not all reduction measures are a burden–we’ve seen lots of brands make commitments that reduce their carbon footprints while increasing efficiency and lowering costs. We label these reductions as “no excuse.” Now is the time to put an end to the bad habits that are just waiting to be broken. The climate, and the balance sheet, will thank you.

1. Stop overnighting things!

If you can avoid it, choose standard shipping when you order items for the office. Whether you’re getting supplies, samples, or other necessities, try to plan ahead in order to save on both cost and emissions. Overnighting things usually requires air freight, which is much more carbon intensive than ocean, rail or road freight. This Vox video and article explains the problem and suggests solutions. A 10-lb package shipped from NYC to Boston via USPS would cost about $53 to ship Priority Mail Express vs. just $8 to ship via Priority Mail.

If you need to ship things, the same rules apply. Work with your clients and partners to make sure there’s enough room in the schedule to accommodate standard shipping, and see if other options are available such as video-conferencing samples or sending 3D digital files when speed is of the essence. These options are often faster, less expensive, and less carbon-heavy than overnight air shipping.

2. Optimize shipping routes

Last-mile delivery is a problem faced by all ecommerce businesses. While not every brand will be able to let customers choose an optimal shipping day (e.g. your “Amazon Day), there are other low-cost ways to optimize shipping routes for both low prices and low emissions.

Brands looking to make their shipping routes more efficient can start by thinking about ways to reduce single-item shipments. For example, Protector Cellars created a shopping experience where customers must purchase a minimum of 3 liters in order to proceed to checkout. Wherever possible, optimize orders to only be shipped when full, and adjust your logistics team’s process and incentives to align with sustainability goals.

Back-office solutions may also come in handy for shipping optimization. Consider working with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) that will optimize shipments. For those doing their own fulfillment, consider investing in software that plans efficient routes.

3. Use the train for business travel

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that business can go on without significant amounts of travel. Choosing NOT to travel could save serious travel budget and do wonders for reducing GHG emissions. However, for those times when a virtual conference or phone call won’t suffice, consider rail as an alternative to air travel. According to the BBC, The International Civil Aviation Organization found that, “An economy-class return flight from London to New York emits an estimated 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. While you couldn’t take the train from London to New York, traveling the equivalent distance by rail would produce less than .04 tonnes of CO2e - approximately 17 times less than flying. Where rail travel is impossible, land travel will almost always beat air travel, and high-density options like carpools and busses will always beat single-occupancy gas and diesel vehicles.

On one common route, Boston-to-NYC, a trip booked one-month in advance would cost $232 by air (economy), $59 by express rail (business),  $29 by regional rail (coach), and less than $30 by bus. Rail and bus options also have the advantage of dropping you in the heart of your destination city, making transit from the terminal to your destination easier, less expensive, and less carbon-intensive.

For those times when air travel is unavoidable, you can take measures to keep your footprint as low as possible. Take non-stop flights whenever possible, as takeoffs and landings use more fuel than cruising; fly economy, where you take up less space and therefore less fuel; and pack light. The BBC offers some additional useful tips for lightening your carbon footprint when you fly.

4. Eliminate single-use company swag

Does your company regularly give away branded items like pens and desk toys? Do you still use business cards? Consider cutting these items whenever possible. If you can’t see a way around a freebie, then look for alternatives to these corporate gifts that can be reused or repurposed. If your company wants to create branded items for the team or to give away, then consider buying from other Climate Neutral Certified brands whenever possible.

5. Be more energy efficient at your office

Making your office more energy efficient tackles scope 1 and 2 emissions. Office energy efficiency can go much further than simply reminding your team to turn off the lights on the way out. We recommend making a strategic plan, looping-in key players like office administrators, and investing time in employee training. Tools and practices such as outlet timers, start-up and shut-down procedures, and temperature set points can make a significant impact. As with anything, simply monitoring and analyzing energy consumption can help expose new opportunities for savings.

For those businesses that can make capital investments in energy savings, efficiency measures like upgrading building materials and implementing smarter controls can lead to greater HVAC efficiency and thus energy savings. Smart thermostats and building controls may also be able to provide real-time data that can help guide future reductions. More resources are available from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Last, but not least, we recommend identifying any local incentives, rebates, and/or offers for energy efficiency upgrades. To get started, check out Energy Star’s Rebate Finder and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

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