In the fight against climate change, the industrial sector is often viewed as part of the problem – and not without reason. The start of the industrial revolution about 250 years ago coincided with a massive increase in the emission of greenhouse gases.
As a result of burning fossil fuels and deforestation, the atmospheric CO2 concentration, which is a key long-term contributor to climate change, has increased by one-third since then.
In recent years however, many companies have decided to become part of the solution. They have realized that a carbon footprint reduction is not just the right thing to do but it’s also good for business
Not only can energy-efficient equipment lower operating costs, but consumers and employees expect companies to step up, and increasingly stringent government mandates make going green a logical choice. In fact, companies refusing to take this step will probably end up paying a steep price later.
But how can businesses become more environment-friendly and achieve a carbon footprint reduction?
Fortunately, there are lots of different ways. Some are easy, others more challenging. Some are inexpensive, others require an upfront investment that will later be recovered.
One thing every company can do is to eliminate waste. That includes small things like not turning up the heat as much in the winter or making sure that all lights are switched off when they are not needed. It also means limiting the number of printouts or replacing disposable cups with reusable ones. Start to separate waste and recycle it as much as possible.
Communication is key in this area. Company executives can make all the decisions they want in a boardroom, but it won’t matter unless employees implement them. The most meaningful changes can only be achieved if everybody works together. Writing up a company’s environmental and energy policies and goals is very helpful in this regard.
In terms of equipment, energy recovery solutions offer smart ways to re-use waste heat. For example, as much as 90% of the electrical energy used by a compressed air system is converted into heat. Using energy recovery systems, you can recover much (up to 94%) of that power input as hot air or hot water.
When it comes to achieving a carbon footprint reduction, a useful first step is to measure a company’s total greenhouse gas emissions and determine where they come from. An independent, certified auditor can carry out an energy audit that will help businesses find out how they use energy, where they are wasting it, and where improvements will have the greatest effect.
For example, many companies do not have strategies in place that maximize their energy usage when their production fluctuates, i.e. they waste too much energy when they are not running at full capacity.
Transportation is a major contributor to emissions, so an effective way of achieving a carbon footprint reduction is to encourage employees to use public transportation or to carpool. This can be done by subsidizing their transit passes or providing other incentives.
Companies should also aim to reduce air travel as much as possible. For shorter distances, employees should consider using trains, and, whenever possible, meetings should be held online.
The use of alternative energies, either by producing electricity with photovoltaic systems or by purchasing it from providers who use renewable energy sources, is another effective way of achieving a carbon footprint reduction.
Companies cannot just make a difference by lowering consumption but also by sponsoring green initiatives like planting trees. That not only results in a carbon footprint reduction but also supports local communities. In addition, consider holding events or have your experts visit schools to talk about the importance of fighting climate change. Many of these actions do not just reduce a company’s carbon footprint, they also lower its energy bill and can be used as marketing tools.
Businesses should take pride in doing their part to fight climate change. In many sectors, the most important thing a company can do is use energy-efficient appliances and machinery – simply because this equipment is responsible for the bulk of energy consumption and emissions. From an LED lightbulb to a variable speed drive air compressor that can reduce the use of electricity by 50%, green equipment can lead to a major carbon footprint reduction while also significantly lowering production costs.
But this goes beyond economics because we are all in this together. For more than two centuries, the industrial sector played an important role in climate change. Now, businesses have a responsibility, the means, and the ingenuity to help reverse it.