After three years in decline, the United States' carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose an estimated 3.4 percent in 2018, according to new research from the Rhodium Group, an independent economic research firm. The U.S. is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases that impact the environment negatively. Transportation remains the nation's number one source of CO2 emissions for the third year in a row.
The largest emissions growth came from residential and commercial buildings and industry. The report estimates emissions from residential and commercial buildings increased by 10 percent in 2018, reaching "their highest level since 2004".
Rising emissions are not just a U.S. problem. Global emissions also reached a record high. In 2018, the increase in the United States went hand-in-hand with rising emissions in other countries, such as China and India, according to the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
What does this all mean for small business owners? By reducing your company’s energy consumption, you can have a positive impact on the environment and you can save money. There are simple things you could do to reduce your utility bill, like turning off lights or heat and air conditioning units that don’t need to be used. When there is extremely hot or cold weather, each degree you change on the thermostat will save or cost you between 4 to 7 percent on your utility bill.
You can take simple steps to lessen your carbon footprint, and, in turn, help the environment in your community.
Tips for lowering your carbon footprint
- Encourage employees to turn off lights when they leave rooms to save energy.
- Promote carpooling, walking, cycling and the use of public transportation to reduce emissions and support a cleaner commute.
- Buy energy-efficient light bulbs, business equipment and vehicles.
- Check with your energy utility to see if they offer a “green” power option, which allows you to purchase your energy from renewable sources, like solar panel farms or wind farms.
- Plant shady landscaping outside of your business to protect it from the winter chill and summer sun.
- Allow employees to have a flexible work schedule and work from home occasionally to reduce overall energy use at your place of business.
Reducing the use of water can have a big environmental impact, and it’s something most small businesses can do easily. To taper your water use, consider installing energy-efficient faucets and toilets in your workplace. If you use water in your manufacturing process, ensure you’re using it responsibly. Also, speak to your staff about ways to reduce their use at work. For example, look for leaks in taps or showers, don’t leave water running for long periods and cut back on watering landscaped areas on your property.
When it comes to evaluating your waste prevention practices, it’s important to take a look at your manufacturing processes, the practices of any vendors you use and the habits of your employees.
The most effective way to reduce your organization’s waste is to generate less in the first place. The added benefit is that it can also help you streamline costs. If you have excess materials or products, consider donating them to a local nonprofit organization. Also, consider going paperless — it will help the environment and increase your efficiency. Other ideas for reducing waste include: printing documents double-sided; avoiding the use of disposable cups, water bottles and cutlery; and communicating waste goals to customers and employees.
No matter the size of your business, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment through eco-friendly business practices. By recycling business materials, you’ll save energy, reduce costs and keep materials out of landfills and incinerators. Simple tasks like recycling print cartridges, installing an office recycling box and buying office supplies made of recycled materials can help protect the environment. Check with your waste removal service for specific programs and options serving small businesses in your community.