The data’s been crunched, and we’re nearly done summarizing our 2016 net-zero project. We reported previously that our office saves 1.41 metric tonnes (mT) of CO2e annually by going mostly paperless in our daily operations: sending and receiving electronic invoicing and correspondence, limiting paper subscriptions, eliminating paper consumables in the kitchen, etc.
Another significant energy cut has been realized in the area of business travel. Some years ago, John stopped flying for work purposes (an average of two flights a year), preferring to localize his client base on Vancouver Island. We can’t overemphasize this point: in terms of carbon cost, flying is the single most expensive (read: destructive) thing that we do. Any business that seeks to improve its footprint needs to take a hard look at this line item. John also started walking to and from work each day after moving to a cohousing community and renting office space nearby. These two measures add up to another 1.42 mT of CO2e saved annually.
According to one of the online carbon calculators that we consulted (https://co2.myclimate.org), 1.9 mT is the annual garbage output estimated for a company of our size. By going nearly paperless, and by undertaking our own composting and recycling (in the absence of curbside services), we’ve consistently produced less than 1 pound of trash per week for the past year, for all four of us combined. At a maximum carbon cost of 0.012 mT, that’s 0.63% of what we’d expect to throw out, or a healthy savings of 1.89 mT per year. We’re pretty happy about our composting decision, which diverts a lot of food waste into healthy, soil-enriching material. But there’s room for improvement on the recycling front, as we’re still blue-binning more food containers and other packaging than we’d like. Waste reduction at source remains the most powerful strategy and one that we’ll need to employ more consistently.
A few other items have contributed to our reduced footprint. We’ve switched to LED lights and keep them turned off (except for two emergency lights) when not in use. We minimize cell phone use and stick to more energy-efficient land lines (cell phones use about 3 times more energy, according to author Mike Berners-Lee). By going largely paperless, we’ve reduced our printer ink consumption by about 80% — and it goes without saying that the spent cartridges get recycled. We’ve also eliminated the need to send drawings to clients by long-distance courier – we get the printing done in the client’s home community, and the recipient picks them up there. For short local deliveries, we call a company that employs bike couriers. Together, these measures add up to another 0.9 tonnes of carbon saved annually.
In total, we’re saving about 5.62 tonnes of CO2e per year by being more mindful about our energy consumption in the areas we’ve discussed here and in our previous post. And really, it hasn’t been onerous to take these initiatives. But with that said, we acknowledge that we’re still a long way off from being a carbon-neutral office, making it necessary to look for more offsets. We’ll discuss that in our next and final post about our net-zero year.