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Insulate your home

Introduction

There are many simple yet effective ways to insulate your home, which can significantly reduce heat loss while lowering your heating bills. 

Why

About a third of all the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls and around a quarter through the roof. All that wasted energy costs money, as well as contributing to climate change. 

Lagging water tanks and pipes and insulating behind radiators also reduces the amount of heat lost, so you spend less money on hot water and it stays hotter for longer.  

In an uninsulated home, around one-third of the heat escapes through the walls 

How?

Loft insulation is cheap and simple to install and should pay for itself in a year through lower energy bills – 23 years if you pay somebody to do it for youLoft insulation should be fitted to a depth of 270 mm. 

If you have cavity walls and they are not insulated, this is a sound investment. Solid walls are harder to insulate – the options are external cladding or cheaper internal insulation. For a typical Victorian terraced house external cladding cost around £13,000 and internal insulation around £7,500 in 2020.  

Insulated wallpaper is not as good, but you’ll still notice a difference and it’s significantly cheaper. 

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Encourage the use of electric vehicles by installing charging points

Introduction

Apply for support from the Workplace Charging Scheme to part-fund the cost of installing EV charging points

No time for slow travel?

The environmental benefits of EVs are mixed. Due to the energy-intensive battery manufacture, an EV’s manufacturing emissions are around 8.8 tonnes compared to 5.6 for a standard family car. However, the air quality benefits are undeniable.

If an electric vehicle is charged exclusively from renewable energy then the manufacturing cost would be its sole lifetime environmental impact, resulting in a net lifetime saving of 15 tonnes of carbon. With the current grid energy mix, the carbon saving is closer to 6 tonnes, but the renewables component is edging upwards. If installing on-site solar PV is an option, the emissions savings multiply.

For business owners, EVs benefit from considerable exemptions from Benefit in Kind Tax. The savings on a £30,000 EV versus a petrol or diesel car could be as much as £3,000 a year, making EVs an extremely competitive option for employees.

The Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) is a voucher-based scheme that provides support towards the up-front costs of the purchase and installation of electric vehicle charge-points, for eligible businesses, charities and public sector organisations.

Workplaces can apply for the Workplace Charging Scheme here.

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Work with your staff to embed change throughout your organisation

Introduction

A dedicated task force of individuals from across your organisation can channel all the ideas and energy you need to deliver lasting and meaningful change.

Why?

When it comes to reducing emissions, a significant part of the challenge is behaviour change. But in an organisation operating in a challenging environment, it’s easy for the day job to get in the way. Staff need to be involved in shaping the plan, empowered to act and supported to deliver.

Assemble the team

The people you need don’t necessarily need to be the green activists, as long as you can articulate the business case for taking part. Benefits include cost savings, brand building, improved morale and a sense of community.

The people you need are:

    • Enthusiastic
    • Good communicators
    • Keen to achieve

Ideally, your green team should be recruited from across the organisation and represent all levels of seniority. Senior management support is key to ensure staff have a mandate to invest time and energy and that projects aren’t blocked.

Get started

A great way to start is to outline the organisation’s climate change and environmental sustainability goals and challenge the team to come up with a programme of actions and activities that support them. That ownership is really beneficial in keeping staff motivated and maintaining momentum for tasks that are above and beyond their day job.

Acknowledge and Celebrate

When milestones and targets are achieved, make sure that credit is given to the green team and successes celebrated

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Reporting your environmental impacts focuses action on measurable improvement

Introduction

Even if your organisation isn’t required to do so by law, choosing to report your environmental impacts is a powerful signal of intent. 

Why?

Since 1st April 2019, large undertakings have been required to report their environmental impacts under Streamlined Environmental and Carbon Reporting (SECR). This affects organisations meeting two of these three criteria: turnover above £36M, balance sheet value above £18M or more than 250 employees.

Even if your organisation doesn’t meet the criteria, there is no reason why you should not report and it’s a great way of ensuring that environmental impacts receive the same attention as financial metrics. Indeed, a 2016 study by Henley Business School found that publishing carbon emissions results in improved share price performance and that there is “a significant positive relationship between corporate carbon disclosure and corporate financial performance”.

Most organisations begin by measuring their scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions; these relate to emissions from energy consumed on an organisation’s premises and burned by its own vehicles. When deciding which other impacts to report on, the best practice is to undertake a materiality study.

There are a number of reporting frameworks available, which allow impacts to be reported in a consistent way which is easily understood by stakeholders. These include CDP, GRI and SASB.

Once your organisation has decided to disclose its carbon emissions and other environmental data, the next logical step is to set targets to reduce them.

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Reduce – or eliminate – your organisation’s use of paper

Introduction

Printing and copying uses energy as well as paper; reducing it can significantly reduce your organisation’s footprint

Why?

Reducing office paper use is more complicated than putting “think before you print” messages at the bottom of emails, but with most data now stored and exchanged digitally the majority of documents never need to exist in hard copy.

Printers and copiers consume energy, ink and paper – but we should also consider the resources used to make them and the energy used to build and transport them. This hidden impact makes reducing paper documents one of the most effective things an organisation can do to reduce its environmental impact.

Manufacturing recycled paper is as energy- and water-intensive as virgin paper, although it doesn’t use trees. However, properly managed softwood forests for the paper and pulp industry provide a valuable carbon sink and can be readily replenished as they are relatively fast-growing. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies paper from well-managed forests.

For most organisations going entirely paper-free isn’t an option – it’s more a question of using paper only where it’s really needed.

How?

In most cases, reducing paper consumption requires a combination of behaviour change and technology. Just removing devices is rarely effective. Here are a few tips:

  • Begin with a good document management system, so staff have confidence that they’ll be able to locate the documents they need online.
  • Examine workflows to identify places where hard copy is still needed and determine what hardware is required to support those processes.
  • Choose multifunctional devices rather than separate printers and copiers; this reduces the number of devices, saving both materials and energy.
  • Consider implementing access control systems on devices; these can track and manage usage, which helps reinforce behaviour change.
  • PIN codes or swipe cards avoid documents being sent to print and then forgotten; avoiding both security risks and waste
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Eliminating single-use and disposable items in your organisation.

Introduction

As well as reducing carbon emissions and pollution, eliminating single-use items is a visible signal of intent that can help engage staff and customers. 

Why?

We’ll begin this section with a caveat – where there is no alternative, disposable PPE and other essential equipment to maintain COVID-19 is a necessary evil. However, avoiding such items in other areas helps to mitigate the substantial waste impact of new hygiene measures. For that reason, eliminating single-use items wherever possible is more important than ever.

While we’re on the subject of PPE, it’s worth mentioning that Terracycle offers a recycling service for used masks and gloves, as well as for other hard-to-recycle materials.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, here are some steps you can take to reduce the use of disposables in your office:

  • Issue staff with their own reusable hot drink mugs and water bottles, to avoid the use of plastic and paper cups for drinks.
  • Rethink the provision of single-use stationery items such as post-it notes – are they really necessary or does technology now offer better solutions?
  • Encourage staff to wear re-usable masks rather than disposables; you could get these made with company branding.
  • Avoid the temptation to provide disposable crockery and cutlery, even if it’s made from bioplastic, cardboard or wood. Single-use is still single-use, and their life is too short to recover manufacturing and disposal emissions. Conventional crockery and cutlery washed in a dishwasher is perfectly safe.
  • Source anti-viral sprays and hand gels in bulk and decant them into dispensers – the larger the package, the less material it contains in relation to the contents.
  • How?

    We are beginning to see sustainable PPE solutions – for example, this compostable visor made from plant-based materials and including a recycling service.

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Cook from scratch

Introduction

Processed and pre-prepared foods rely on energy-hungry industrial processes and often contain “hidden” ingredients like palm oil that are implicated in deforestation or biodiversity loss.

Why


Research comparing the life cycle environmental impacts of ready-made meals with meals prepared at home from scratch found the environmental impacts of the home-made meal were lower than for the equivalent ready-made meal. For example, the global warming and human toxicity potentials were up to 35% lower and eutrophication, photochemical smog and ozone layer depletion were up to 3 times lower. Cooking at home also

    • Avoids added sugars and other unhealthy ingredients
    • Reduces packaging waste
    • Provides full visibility of what’s in your food.

“Home-cooked meals have typically 35% less global warming potential than ready-made meals”

How?

Cooking from scratch takes more time, but there are many recipe books available that focus on quick and easy meals. A slow-cooker or crockpot is a low-energy way of cooking meals while you’re at work or away from home. Taking home-made lunch to work in a re-usable container is less expensive than buying food on the go and creates less waste, too.

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Choose local and seasonal produce

Introduction

By eating what’s in season and sourcing it locally, we can cut down on transport emissions and reduce the resources needed to buy and store produce.

Why


As a nation, we’ve got used to being able to buy fresh produce of every description at any time of the year. But that often means that it has to be shipped for thousands of miles, frequently in refrigerated containers. Growing food out of season – or storing it so that it can be enjoyed out of season – requires more energy, water and chemicals, too. Choosing local food that’s in season means

    • minimal miles from farm to fork
    • support for the local economy
    • fresher, tastier produce

How?

Visit a farm shop or farmer’s market or subscribe to a veg box service. There are even services that deliver fruit and vegetables that would have otherwise gone to waste. Some supermarkets also have an area dedicated to local produce.

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Eat more vegetables

Introduction

What we eat makes an enormous difference to our carbon footprint but if we all followed the recommendations of the government’s Eatwell Guide we’d each have a much lower environmental impact and be healthier!

Why


According to a study by Oxford University, food production accounts for a quarter of all greenhouse gases and meat and other animal products are responsible for 58% of those, despite providing only a fifth of the calories we eat and drink. Eating less meat – especially beef and lamb – is one of the most effective ways to reduce numerous environmental impacts, including:

  • Deforestation to clear land for cattle grazing
  • Methane production by ruminants
  • Biodiversity impacts of large-scale monoculture to provide animal feed

Eating more plants and less meat is good for your health. Processed and red meat is linked to heart disease, bowel cancer and other illnesses.

How?

If you don’t want to cut out meat entirely, try having one or two meat-free days each week. With the money you save, you could spend a little more on better quality local meat and dairy products which won’t be contributing to biodiversity loss in places like the Amazon rainforest.

Many shops now stock a wide range of plant-based milk alternatives. Oat milk is widely considered to have the lowest environmental impact.

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Fly less

Introduction

Even if you take other measures to reduce your carbon emissions, a single flight can wipe out those savings.

Why


Until it was interrupted by COVID-19, aviation was the fastest-growing contributor to carbon dioxide emissions globally. Although aviation currently makes up less than 5% of global emissions, this is because most people on the planet have never been on a plane; these same people will be hit first and hardest by climate breakdown.

For those who can afford it, flying can make up the single largest part of their carbon footprint. And having been grounded for a few months, maybe it will be easier to break the habit.

How?

If you used to fly for pleasure, why not try holidaying in the UK? Or take a trip by train or ferry – both of which have substantially lower footprints than a flight. The Man in Seat 61 is a great source of inspiration for holidays by rail.

If your air travel was mainly for business, videoconferencing and other online meeting technologies are now well-adopted – even if some international meetings still need to be held face to face.