It’s all very well us banging on about the need for big industry to cut its energy use. What about the 98% of businesses in Scotland who have fewer than 49 employees? What about the millions of home based businesses?
What about them indeed.
We have several smaller business members within the Low Carbon Alliance who we value just as much as our bigger business members. So this blog post is intended to redress the balance and offer some hints and tips for home based business owners who want to lower their bills and their carbon footprint.
Fortunately the amount of advice on offer for such businesses is extensive, as it builds on advice already out there for homes in general, most of which is aimed at people who don’t work in their homes but which also applies to those who do. As you might expect much of the advice is the same and follows the common sense approach of cutting out lighting and heating wherever possible, without compromising safety or comfort.
As it happens, home businesses will see even greater cost and carbon savings from such measures because they are likely to use more energy at home in the first place. So, for example, the benefits from the simple tip of only boiling the amount of water you need (or choosing a cold drink instead) is amplified when the person boiling the water does so many times a day, rather than just in the morning and evening.
This “benefit boost” also applies to renewable energy, which we recommend whenever you have done all you can to reduce your energy. Let’s look at solar PV panels, which currently benefit from a generous government feed-in-tariff. A home business owner is likely to be in during the day, which is when the sun is out. So they benefit more from the energy they create and save more by reducing the power consumption from the grid. Compare this to the poor commuter who comes home in the dark to find their solar panels have stopped generating energy.
We also recommend checking your carbon footprint online at the tried and tested WWF’s carbon footprint calculator. The GCNS team have all used this to check our own footprints and it is the best one we know about.
Other tips for home-based businesses:
- Use an all in one copier/scanner/printer rather than separate items of equipment.
- Shut the doors between all rooms to maximise the efficiency of your heating.
- Use a laptop rather than a desktop computer (uses a third of the energy)
- Fit 270mm of insulation. This is almost 30cm (about the size of a ruler), which is more than most people have.
- Turn the heat off in any rooms you’re not using.
- Insulate any suitable wall cavities.
- Once you have reduced your energy consumption, consider fitting solar PV panels to generate electricity.
- Draw all your curtains at nightfall.
- Have 2 meat & dairy free days per week. This makes a big difference to your carbon footprint.
- Replace incandescent lightbulbs with energy efficient bulbs.
Obviously not every tip will work for every business as it depends on a range of variables but the key principles remain the same: reduce heat, reduce consumption and reduce lighting. Consider renewable technology if you can afford it and have exhausted all other options.
Also, please don’t forget to look at how your business could offer a community, social or environmental benefit. I saw an interesting example of this in Positive News about a company called Toms shoes where the company gives away one pair of shoes (to children who have no shoes) for every pair of shoes purchased. This “one for one” model could work equally well to reduce the environmental impact of a business. We just need to get a bit more inventive with our business plans.