The Independent readers’ 10 ways to cut your carbon footprint

August 8, 2007 at 11:20 pm | Posted in Britain, Carbon emissions, Carbon footprint, Climate action, Climate activities, Climate awareness, Climate challenge, Climate education, CO2 emissions, CO2 reduction, Electricity bill, Emissions costs, Emissions reductions, Energy efficiency, Energy usage, Energy-efficient, Environment, HSBC, Independent, UK | Leave a comment
  • Quick checklist of 30 ways to reduce carbon emissions (comprehensive details follow for each point):

The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint suggested by readers of The Independent

  • 1 Buy local produce
  • 2 Reduce your meat consumption
  • 3 Avoid over-packaged goods
  • 4 Join a car pool or club
  • 5 Cut down on junk mail
  • 6 Reuse and refuse plastic bags
  • 7 Holiday in the UK
  • 8 Be eco when staying in hotels
  • 9 Don’t bin things: reuse, Freecycle and buy second-hand
  • 10 Keep your clothing footprint small

The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint at home

  • 1 Change your light bulbs to eco ones
  • 2 Insulate
  • 3 Change your boiler
  • 4 Recycle
  • 5 Draught proof and/or double glaze your windows
  • 6 Compost
  • 7 Full loads only
  • 8 Only boil enough water for your needs
  • 9 Conserve energy when cooking
  • 10 Don’t leave appliances on standby

The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint at work

  • 1 Measure and monitor your carbon footprint at work
  • 2 Switch off lights and equipment when not in use
  • 3 Unplug chargers
  • 4 Print responsibly
  • 5 Recycle in the office
  • 6 Think before you travel on business
  • 7 Buy energy-efficient equipment and appliances
  • 8 Buy green electricity
  • 9 Install micro-renewable technologies
  • 10 Champion change and increase awareness

It is always useful to get an update on the latest situation. Although all these specifics apply to the UK, each bullet point can be applied in the US (and other countries) too. We are way ahead in terms of labelling and extent of food choices in British supermarkets like Tesco compared with the stuff that US stores like Safeway offer members of the public. Whole Foods Market in America is like heaven compared with the alternatives. Meanwhile, British are way behind in recycling efforts—moving to England from California I am, fair to say, shocked at the lack of recycling done in Britain. After going as far as possible with one-off projects like installing insulation and regular actions like turning off unused energy sources, it’s recycling that really needs a massive change of heart and habits in Britain. So, without further commentary from me, here are the relevant details on those thirty points:

The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint suggested by readers of The Independent

We’ve brought you ten ways to cut your carbon footprint at home and ten ways to cut your carbon footprint at work, now we feature ten ideas from readers of The Independent to help you lead a greener, cleaner, less polluting and less carbon-heavy lifestyle
Published: 09 August 2007

The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint suggested by readers of The Independent

1 Buy local produce

There are many reasons for buying local. Often it’s just nice to know where your food comes from, but most of the time there’s a reduction in your carbon footprint too. This is because, in a world of globalised food production, most food travels a long distance, releasing CO2 all the way.

One estimate concluded that feeding each of us for a year requires transporting the equivalent of a 12-tonne container load of food for more than a 100km. The trucks involved emit 170kg of CO2 in Britain and another 150kg abroad. A further 30kg comes from air-freighting your perishables, such as vegetables, fruit and fish. Organic food, incidentally, is no better. Twice as much organic food is imported as domestically produced, or as much as three quarters by some estimates.

Most of these transport emissions can be eliminated by buying local produce. Supermarkets are increasingly good at labelling this clearly, and farmers’ markets usually sell nothing else. There are more than 500 farmers’ markets in the UK, and more are starting up all the time. Check where your nearest is by going to

To be doubly sure of having a low carbon footprint, it’s a good idea to make a point of buying produce when it’s in season. That way, you avoid the CO2 emissions from heating greenhouses, which can sometimes be as great as air-freighting from foreign lands. For a guide to what’s in season when, see

2 Reduce your meat consumption

The carbon footprint from producing animal protein is typically eight times greater than that from vegetable protein. Animals are not very efficient protein converters and a lot of energy is lost along the food chain. Much depends on how the animals are fed. Those raised on natural pastures have CO2 emissions 50 per cent less than those raised on concentrated feed grown using artificial fertilisers.

Free-range is best. That’s partly why British lamb, for instance, has a bigger carbon footprint than New Zealand lamb, even when the latter has been shipped halfway across the world. You may think that all lamb is free-range, but British lambs are given fodder, rather than eating pasture, for some of the year. The slaughtering rules and supermarket requirements also mean that British lamb is often trucked all over the country, adding to its carbon footprint.

In addition, farm animals directly produce another potent greenhouse gas. The guts of ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc) generate methane while digesting food. Cattle belch and fart a lot and methane is also generated in slurry tanks. All told, every kilogram of beef raised in a feedlot can be responsible for more than 30kg of greenhouse gases.

So, reducing your meat consumption is good for your carbon footprint. And cutting out beef is best of all. But a word of warning: this good work could easily be undone if you increase your dairy produce intake to compensate. The reason: dairy cows typically produce twice as much methane as beef cattle. That’s why you should manage your dairy intake, too, if you want to reduce the carbon footprint of the food you eat.

3 Avoid over-packaged goods

We all complain about excessive food packaging, but supermarkets say we are reluctant to buy loose food. We should get serious about this, however. One estimate is that the manufacture of packaging for British food produces 10 million tonnes of CO2 in Britain each year, or 170kg for each one of us.

Some retailers claim that extra packaging reduces damage to food – and so wastage – during transportation, but a lot of packaging has more to do with presentation than anything else. And if all that packaging is really necessary for safe transportation, then that’s another reason to buy local produce, which generally has the least packaging.

If we must have packaging, does it matter what kind? Plastic is usually bad news, as it takes more energy to produce than cardboard. And whereas most cardboard can be recycled, many types of plastic can’t. Aluminium cans have the biggest carbon footprint of any form of packaging because it takes a large amount of energy to smelt the metal. This means that draught beer is best and bottles are better than cans. If you do buy a can, make absolutely sure that it’s recycled.

Some people are concerned about waste being exported for recycling, but the evidence is that, whether in Beijing or Birmingham, there can often be a good use for our rubbish, so don’t be put off. Even so, it’s better to avoid packaging in the first place.

4 Join a car pool or club

Every day, there are 10 million empty seats in cars on our roads. Sharing your car journey to work could save you hundreds of pounds a year, as well as easing traffic congestion, saving wear and tear on your car and cutting your carbon footprint. Put four people in a car and commuting can become as low carbon as taking the bus. You can, of course, car share informally with work colleagues, but there are also car-sharing websites to match you up with fellow commuters.

Do you commute to work by public transport but keep a car for occasional weekend trips? If so, think about joining a car club, where you just pay for a car when you need one. To work well, car clubs require a critical mass of members because you don’t want to have to travel far to pick up the car. So far, they’ve made most progress in London, encouraged by the big population, high parking charges and large number of people who generally use public transport and only need a car occasionally. Other cities across the country, including Brighton and Southampton, have similar schemes.

5 Cut down on junk mail

Your mailbox is clogging up with CO2 every day. The average adult gets 19kg of junk mail a year, with a carbon footprint from its manufacture and distribution that’s several times greater. The Royal Mail will stop delivering unaddressed junk mail if you e-mail it at optout@ To ask not to receive the junk mail with your name and address on, sign up with the Mailing Preference Service at

Fearful of losing profitable business because of a green-minded backlash against junk mail, the Royal Mail has announced a responsible mail service. This will offset the CO2 emissions from the paper manufacture, printing and transportation of your mail. Don’t let this deter you from stopping your junk mail, though. As every climate activist will tell you, offsetting emissions is very much second best to preventing emissions in the first place.

6 Reuse and refuse plastic bags

We get through 17 billion plastic bags a year, which is approaching one each every day. Reduce this plastic trail by taking plastic or reusable bags shopping with you and asking staff not to give you a bag when you pay. This is becoming a worldwide movement. It started in small communities, where retailers agreed not to hand plastic bags out any more, but is growing fast. Later this year, San Francisco will become the largest US city to date to ban the plastic bag.

The supermarkets see this as a sales opportunity, of course. They want to sell us reusable, “bag for life” bags. This is fine, but all bags are reusable, unless they break, and your home is probably already full of them, so start by reusing those. And here’s another use for plastic bags: use them to line your rubbish bins at home.

7 Holiday in the UK

Maybe, after this year’s wet summer, this isn’t the best time to mention it but Britain is one of the world’s top holiday destinations. People cross the globe to sample our delights, so why miss out on a good thing? Check out our back yard and cut your carbon footprint into the bargain.

Holidays are among our biggest sources of CO2 emissions and the main element is the flight. An economy return flight from the UK to Florida or New York creates emissions equivalent to a year’s car use. And a return flight to Lanzarote emits as much as a power station generating your share of domestic electricity for a year. For millions of us, our carbon footprint from flying is bigger than for everything else we do and buy.

Unlike most other parts of our lives, there are no off-the-shelf ways of being a greener flyer. For many of us, the single biggest step we can take to cut our carbon footprint is to stop flying and start holidaying closer to home.

If you don’t want to holiday in the UK, restrict yourself to Europe and go by train or ferry rather than plane. It is slower, and probably more expensive, but you can make the journey part of the holiday. Through the Alps, down the Rhine, across the lagoon into Venice: all are great journeys. You’ll wonder why you ever flew.

8 Be eco when staying in hotels

We’ve all seen the signs in hotel rooms asking us to reuse the towels. We wouldn’t change our towel at home every day, so why do it on holiday? And just because you’re not paying directly for the electricity, don’t leave the lights on. Do the energy-saving things you would do at home. Take a shower not a bath, don’t use or remove all the (probably imported) soaps and lotions, don’t leave the TV on standby, don’t have the air conditioning on all the time and always turn it off when you leave the room. If your room’s only a couple of floors up, take the stairs rather than the lift – you know you need the exercise.

Try and find a hotel that plausibly advertises its green credentials. Look out for hotels belonging to the Green Tourism Business Scheme or with the Energy Star rating, but don’t be too seduced by eco chic. The good news is that the hotels with the smallest carbon footprint are, often, the simplest and cheapest.

Research the public transport system where you’re going beforehand (many publish their routes and timetables online) and pick a hotel close to a station or bus route, so you aren’t dependent on taxis and hire cars.

9 Don’t bin things: reuse, Freecycle and buy second-hand

The car may not be green, but the car boot sale certainly is. And don’t just sell your stuff there, buy as well. Green chic comes cheap and cheerful and from the school playground on a Saturday morning.

The green consumer also goes to jumble sales, buys used books, searches out bargains in antiques shops and checks out charity shops for clothes and other goodies: it’s all had one life already, so it’s carbon neutral. By keeping old products in circulation, you’re preventing them from being dumped or put in landfill and preventing their carbon from leaking back into the atmosphere.

While your friends are bargaining away on eBay, why not go one step further and check out the Freecycle network? It’s dedicated to giving used things away. Freecycle started in the US, but there are local groups all over Britain now, as you will quickly find at

10 Keep your clothing footprint small

A low-carbon wardrobe is also a small wardrobe. Buy second-hand whenever possible and when you buy new, ensure they’re things you really like and will wear for years. Fast fashion is bad for your carbon footprint. And bear in mind that the majority of your clothing footprint probably comes not from the purchase but from keeping it clean.

Here’s the equation for a cotton T-shirt. Growing the cotton generates about 1kg of CO2, mostly from manufacturing the fertilisers and pesticides used and from pumping the 30 or so bathtubs of water needed for irrigation. Turning that cotton into a shirt and transporting it to a store near you generates around another 2kg. However, you’ll use around 4kg washing and tumble drying it a typical 25 times. Denim jeans and cotton knickers come out much the same.

Other fibres, such as viscose and polyester, take more energy to make than cotton but use less subsequently because they’re often washed at lower temperatures and dry more easily.

To minimise your clothing footprint, you should wash at a lower temperature than it says on the label (even Marks & Spencer now recommends this) and always put a full load in the machine. Mothball that tumble drier because it’s one of your home’s biggest energy guzzlers. Invest instead in a washing line and an indoor clothes dryer. And forget about ironing, unless it’s essential.

That’s the full story in today’s Independent.

Here, for the record, are the other two lists from The Independent in Association with HSBC:

The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint at home

According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average British household emits around six tonnes of CO2 and spends around £870 on power and fuel a year, but both figures can be massively cut with a few simple steps. Julia Gray looks at some of the measures you can take at home to slash your emissions and save you money

Published: 21 June 2007

The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint at home

1 Change your light bulbs to eco ones

One of the simplest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is replace your home’s conventional light bulbs with energy-saving ones. The latter used to be really expensive but prices have dropped dramatically and they come in all shapes and sizes, as well as different wattages and hues. Low-energy light bulbs last up to 12 times longer than conventional ones, and just one bulb will save you around £9 and 40kg of CO2 emissions a year. Incredibly, if every household in the UK had just three of these eco bulbs, we’d save the equivalent of the annual output of a power station.

2 Insulate

Insulate your loft, walls and hot water cylinder (unless you have a combination boiler, in which case you won’t have one). British homes lose enough heat through their walls and roofs to heat approximately 3,000,000 homes every year. Almost a quarter of heat loss is through the roof, but adequate loft insulation will save you around £180-£220 and one tonne of CO2 a year. Similarly, cavity wall insulation will cut your heat loss by approximately 60 per cent, saving you around £130-£160 and one tonne of CO2 a year. Walls leak more heat than any other part of your home, so if you have cavity walls (and not everyone does), get them filled with insulation. Finally, your hot water cylinder: fit an insulation jacket and you’ll save around £20 and 150kg of CO2 a year. You should also lag your pipes to save energy and money.

3 Change your boiler

If you have an old boiler, it’s almost certainly inefficient and so costing you money, as conventional boilers are only 60 per cent efficient and waste 40 per cent of their heat.

All new boilers (with a few exceptions) have to be energy-efficient condensing ones, which retain heat from the gasses usually expelled down the flue. Have one of these fitted (by a CORGI installer) and you’ll cut your heating bills by around a third and emit one tonne less of CO2 a year. Combine this with upgraded heating controls and the reduction will be as much as 40 per cent. Thermostatic radiator valves, for example, allow you to precisely control the output of each radiator in your home, so you need never have a radiator turned up too high.

4 Recycle

Now that doorstep collections of recyclable goods are commonplace, there’s no excuse for not doing your bit. While it’s true that some councils only collect the basics – glass, paper and cans – others are more proactive and take everything from foil and fabric to cardboard and plastic bottles (the problem with plastic is that there are several different types and only certain ones are generally recycled). If you don’t have full doorstep facilities, there’s always your local recycling centre or tip, providing you don’t drive there specially, which would probably cause more environmental damage than good.

Shockingly, Britain’s recycling record is one of the worst in Europe, according to the most recent comparable figures, with only Greece and Portugal recycling less. Of the 600kg of waste generated by each of us in Briton a year, 74 per cent goes to landfill, 8 per cent is incinerated and just 18 per cent is recycled or composted, compared to 65 per cent in the Netherlands and 58 per cent in Germany.

There’s no excuse for this and if you’re not already recycling everything you possibly can, you need to get into a recycling routine without delay. Place recyclable objects by the front door so you take them out with you each morning to put in your council recycling bin, or set up a special bin or bins in your kitchen for recyclable goods. Your local council will have information about what can and can’t be recycled in your area, so contact it for a full list. You should also recycle at work and encourage your employer to provide recycling facilities, if it doesn’t already.

Buying recycled goods (something many of us forget but also vitally important) and increasing your home recycling by just 10 per cent will save around 90kg of CO2 a year. And don’t overlook charity shops – donate to and buy from these to improve your recycling credentials.

5 Draught proof and/or double glaze your windows

Single-glazed windows and poorly insulated frames can result in a fifth of all heat loss. Double glazing can reduce this loss by 50 per cent and save you around £80-£100 and 570kg of CO2 a year. If you can’t afford double glazing (or secondary double glazing), invest in draught excluders for your windows and doors (both internal and external) instead. There are lots of inexpensive draught-excluding measures you can do yourself, including weatherstripping, draught-excluder brushes, long, lined curtains (though don’t cover warm radiators with them) and fabric “sausages” for the bottom of doors. Draught proofing your doors and windows will save you around £20 and 140kg of CO2 a year.

6 Compost

As well as collecting standard recyclable items, many councils also collect food scraps and garden waste from your doorstep. While the UK is only, of course, recycling and composting about 18 per cent of its waste, a third or more of household waste can actually be composted.

If your council doesn’t collect compostable items or you have a garden, you should be making your own compost. In fact, councils often sell compost bins at a discount to encourage you to do just that. Alternatively, if you have room, build a timber frame for your compost heap and cover it with old carpet or plastic sheeting to retain the moisture and heat. As well as green and food waste, you can compost all kinds of things you might not consider suitable, including kitchen roll, shredded paper, cardboard and vacuum cleaner bags.

If you don’t have outside space, you can get compact compost bins and sprinkle on a Japanese substance called Bokashi, which breaks the matter down quickly and should take care of any unpleasant odours. You could even have a communal compost bin if you live in a block of flats.

Other benefits of composting include fewer bin bags to contend with when putting out the rubbish, knowing you’re contributing less to landfill and having an end product that will enrich your garden and house plants. Many people go one step further and get a wormery, in which worms do all the hard work for you – and they don’t waste much time.

7 Full loads only

Never put a washing machine or dishwasher on without it being full, unless you have an economy or half-load programme, because you’re wasting water as well as energy. Wash your clothes at 30Þ and you’ll save around 40 per cent of the energy your washing machine uses.

According to research for Ariel, as a nation, we’re wasting £170m worth of energy a year by washing our clothes at higher temperatures.

Energy-sapping tumble drying should also be ditched in favour of drying clothes outside, on radiators and clotheshorses or in the airing cupboard. Tumble driers are one of the worst offenders in the home for CO2 emissions: a year of not using yours will save you around £75 and 635kg of CO2.

8 Only boil enough water for your needs

It’s all too easy to turn the tap on and fill the kettle up without considering how much water you actually need, but again you’re wasting both water and electricity. Only boil enough water for your needs – at home and work – and you’ll make big savings. It’s estimated that if all of us stopped “filling” the kettle, enough energy would be saved to power between 50 and 75 per cent of the UK’s street lights. If you’re struggling to get warm in the colder months, do boil the kettle for a hot water bottle and do put on more clothes but don’t immediately turn on the heating.

9 Conserve energy when cooking

Chop food into small pieces when cooking, as it will cook quicker and use less energy. It’s also important to boil water for cooking in the kettle and then transfer it to the hob, to only boil enough to just cover the food, to put the saucepan lid on and to ensure the pan’s the right size for the burner or ring you’re using, otherwise energy will be lost around the sides. Ovens and saucepans can be turned off before the food is completely cooked because it will continue cooking in the boiling water or hot air. If you want to warm up the kitchen, keep the oven door open once you’ve finished cooking but don’t be tempted to do this when it’s on/lit.

10 Don’t leave appliances on standby

That little coloured standby light uses 10-60 per cent of the energy needed to power the appliance when in use, so always switch it off at the socket. Alternatively, invest in a Bye Bye Standby kit, which cuts power to appliances left on standby so you don’t even need to think about it. Eight per cent of UK households’ energy, or four million tonnes of CO2 annually, is wasted by appliances left on standby. Stamp out standby and unplug chargers and you could save as much as £130 and 560kg of CO2 a year. Another useful gadget is the Electrisave, which shows how much electricity you’re using so you can identify the most power-hungry appliances in your home.


The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint at work

You’ve probably already taken steps to reduce the amount of energy you use at home, but what can you do at work? It’s equally important to make a difference there and if you’re not in a position to make the changes that will cut your company’s carbon footprint, then lobby those who are. Here are some ideas for a cleaner, greener, more climate-friendly workplace

Published: 02 August 2007

The Independent & HSBC: Ten ways to cut your carbon footprint at work

1 Measure and monitor your carbon footprint at work

If you are not aware of how much energy you consume at work or how big the carbon footprint of your organisation really is, you won’t be able to appreciate the financial and environmental benefits that result from your efforts to reduce it!

Install energy monitors on different types of office equipment to find out just how much energy they use. Look at the energy bill for your organisation and find out how much carbon dioxide (CO2) has been emitted. Monitoring electricity use saves IBM more than £370,000 every year*.

You can then identify the best ways your organisation can simultaneously reduce its carbon footprint and its energy bills. This will also provide a baseline from which to set office targets for energy reductions. You can set targets to reduce your overall energy consumption (by X per cent) and for specific activities, such as substituting business trips with video conferencing (see point six).

2 Switch off lights and equipment when not in use

How many office buildings and shops do you see all lit up long after the employees have gone home? Lighting an average-sized empty office overnight wastes enough electricity to make 1,000 hot drinks or print 800 sheets of paper. One solution is to appoint someone (on a rota) to ensure everything is turned off at the end of the day and during the day if it’s not needed. If you have cleaners who come in after hours, ensure they do the same. Occupancy sensors work well for some businesses (the lights only come on in rooms/areas in use) and if your workplace has lots of windows, do you even need the lights on at all, especially in summer?

At the HSBC Headquarters Building in Mexico City, around 75 per cent of the occupied spaces have natural illumination. The light levels are closely monitored by an intelligent system that adjusts the artificial lighting, as required, to reduce energy usage. Implementation of this system will save 200 tonnes of CO2 each year.

But it’s not just lighting. A typical office is full of equipment left on unnecessarily after hours, including computers, TV screens, vending machines and air conditioning units, all of which can be switched off or turned down. Marks & Spencer has achieved 5 per cent reductions in energy use each year by tracking in-store electricity use every 30 minutes via a computer system*. This means air conditioning, lighting and other equipment cannot be left on when not in use.

A survey conduced by the National Energy Foundation (NEF) and computer company 1E revealed that 1.7 million computers were left on overnight and at weekends in 2005, creating emissions equivalent to 120,000 4x4s and costing £115m in electricity. How many times have you sat at your desk with your computer on when you’re not actually using it? While you may find it inconvenient to turn your computer off and on several times a day, the computer monitor is another matter. Monitors use about two thirds of the energy required to power the computer, so turn your monitor off when you’re not using it. And you may think the screen saver is saving energy for you but, in fact, a moving screen saver saves no electricity at all.

Putting your computer into sleep mode will reduce the amount of energy it uses by 60-70 per cent. And if you can, turn it off. After just 16 minutes of not using your computer, it’s more energy efficient to turn it off and restart it than to keep it on. Most IT equipment now has power-management features, so make sure these are activated on yours.

3 Unplug chargers

You may not realise it but laptop, mobile phone and BlackBerry chargers continue to charge (using up to 95 per cent of the power) even when no longer attached to the device. So you must remember to unplug chargers and if you turn your mobile phones and BlackBerries off at night, you’ll only have to charge them half as much.

4 Print responsibly

Printing e-mails is often unnecessary and a waste of both paper and electricity. How many times have you printed a whole chain of e-mails, spanning many pages, when you only wanted the first one or two? Think before you print and whatever the document is, consider whether you need a hard copy or can manage without.

If you do have to print e-mails, ensure you only print the pages you need, or paste the relevant sections into a Word document and only print that. Find out if your office has duplex printers, which print double sided. They halve paper use and reduce energy consumption by an estimated 25 per cent.

Your office should also be routinely buying recycled paper or paper made from well-managed forests ­ the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo is the one to look out for (see Also look out for paper that’s not as white as standard paper, as the less bleach used, the better it is for the environment.

5 Recycle in the office

The UK has one of the worst recycling records in Europe, so more businesses recycling would make a dramatic difference. Providing recycling bins for paper is an obvious and essential measure (the average Briton uses more than 200kg of paper each year and yet only around 65 per cent of this is recycled), but businesses can have a much bigger impact.

UK businesses throw away more than 1.5 million computers every year. More than 90 per cent of these are fully functioning and less than 5 per cent are refurbished for reuse. And don’t forget that office essentials such as printer cartridges can also be refilled and reused.

Set up recycling bins for glass, cans, plastic, cardboard, etc, in your office. They’ll soon fill up. HSBC recently removed 6,000 personal desk bins at its global HQ in London, in favour of a full, centralised recycling system. This has significantly increased the building’s recycling rate and has resulted in diverting 1,500 tonnes of waste away from landfill. Any remaining waste that cannot be recycled is converted into fibre fuel, which generates electricity.

6 Think before you travel on business

Is your business trip really necessary? Or is there an equally effective way you can communicate? Lots of business is traditionally done face to face but, in this technological age, need it be? The usual modes of business travel ­ car and plane ­ won’t help you reduce your company’s carbon footprint.

Flying from Glasgow to London, for example, generates six times as much carbon dioxide as going by train. Taking the train also saves you time, as there are no lengthy check-in queues or security checks, and you can work more easily on the train, so travelling time is more productive. And let’s not forget that flying business class is one of the most carbon-intensive ways to travel.

Aim to reduce your CO2 emissions from business travel by managing the absolute need to travel and by providing alternative means of communication, such as video conferencing. If you don’t have video conferencing facilities in your office, suites can be hired for around £150 an hour. It’s the next best thing to face-to-face meetings and the benefits are not just environmental but economic too. For larger corporations, in particular, installing unlimited video-conferencing facilities can result in major savings in annual travel costs, as well as reduced CO2 emissions.

The CO2 emissions produced from travelling to and from work are equally important to address. Organise car-sharing, cycle, walk or use public transport. The savings made can be up to 0.5kg of CO2 for every mile you don’t drive. Employers can help, too, by providing loans for season railcards and gradually reducing spaces for parking.

7 Buy energy-efficient equipment and appliances

Look out for the Energy Saving Recommended logo on products such as insulation, light fittings, glazing and appliances. Products carrying it will save your company up to around 190kg of CO2 emissions and £45 a year. Philips achieved a 25 per cent reduction in energy use between 2001 and 2005 by investing in more energy efficient products, saving more than 150,000 tonnes of CO2.

All electrical kitchen appliances are rated from A-G, with A being the most energy efficient. If you’re buying a kitchen appliance for your workplace, look for a model with a rating that saves as much energy as possible.

A similar system applies to IT and other office equipment. The Energy Star rating denotes the most energy efficient computers, monitors, copiers, printers and fax machines, etc, so make sure any new equipment your company buys carries this logo. If you can’t choose what equipment or appliances are bought for your workplace, speak to someone in your purchasing department who can.

HSBC uses a special procurement tool called EPEAT, which helps to evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. This tool also provides clear and consistent information on the design of products. And it’s an opportunity for manufacturers to secure recognition for their efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their products.

The management and maintenance of your office equipment is equally important. As tedious as it sounds, poorly functioning office equipment will cost you money and increase your carbon footprint. Review maintenance and cleaning schedules to ensure the optimum efficiency of your office equipment is achieved.

8 Buy green electricity

Have you thought about getting your company to switch to green electricity? Most energy suppliers offer competitive tariffs that provide green or renewable energy to help considerably reduce your carbon footprint. Energy generated from the sun, wind, water or biogas produces fewer or no CO2 emissions. By purchasing electricity from these renewable sources, your organisation would be helping to increase the global investment in and supply of renewable energy.

Since October 2004, almost all of BT’s electricity needs have been supplied from wind, solar, wave, hydropower and combined heat and power (CHP) sources*. Since renewable energy is exempt from the UK Government’s Climate Change Levy, these purchases have also been broadly cost neutral to the company.

9 Install micro-renewable technologies

In addition to buying green electricity, another initiative to consider is generating your own energy on-site from renewable sources. Micro-generation equipment, such as solar panels and wind turbines, has become more mainstream and is even available from some DIY stores.

First Direct in Stourton, Leeds, has recently installed 100m2 of roof-mounted solar panels at its offices. These can generate in excess of 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year. The panels make a significant contribution to reducing the energy requirements of the site’s crèche and will reduce the building’s carbon footprint by more than four tonnes.

The cost of solar panels and wind turbines starts at a few thousand pounds, and grants are available from the government. Private businesses, community organisations, schools, the public and not-for-profit sector, and householders can all apply. Log on to to find out more about the scheme.

10 Champion change and increase awareness

We can all play a part in reducing our carbon footprint at work. From buying green electricity to switching your computer off at night, every little helps. Raising awareness through events is a great way of getting others in your organisation to play their part and champion change. Why not take part in World Environment Day, the United Nations Environment Programme’s international environmental awareness-raising day, which is held on 5 June each year?

Encourage your colleagues to pledge their time and resources to benefit the environment. In 2007, HSBC used World Environment Day to promote the importance of tackling climate change and help encourage its employees to reduce their carbon footprint at work.

HSBC also recently announced a five-year, £50m partnership supporting Earthwatch, The Climate Group, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF in many countries around the world. The HSBC Climate Partnership aims to help HSBC employees use their business skills and climate-change knowledge to reduce the impacts of the bank and create a 25,000-strong “green task force” worldwide. This task force will undertake field research and bring back valuable knowledge and experience to their workplaces and communities.

*Source: The Climate Group


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