As concerns about the state of the environment rise, across society we're looking at all the different ways we can reduce our carbon emissions. Individuals are making changes to their own lifestyles to shrink their personal carbon footprint, such as recycling and reducing single-use plastics, as well as better insulating our homes and using and generating renewable energy, but it’s also critical that governments and businesses play their part.

Many companies are also looking at ways they can help reverse the tide of climate change, by making changes to their operations and business practices. While in recent years the range of incentives offered by the UK government have been somewhat reduced, many remain such as the Energy Efficiency Financing Scheme, Plug-in Car and Van grants, and a range of tax relief measures to encourage greener infrastructure.

Changes to company’s operations can make a real difference. Reducing carbon emissions through more efficient buildings and machinery, switching to electric vehicles, and reducing the amount of waste produced – not only in production processes but also in back-office functions, enhances goodwill towards an organisation from both customers and staff.

 

Organisations of all sizes can get involved, and one such business in Wiltshire is the Purton Farm Shop, providing organic produce using ‘green manures’ rather than artificial fertilizers for growing crops, which actually take nitrogen out of the atmosphere. Using crop rotation and often weeding by hand, their impact on the soil is minimal and definitely sustainable, a good example for other small producers.

 

Case study: Aerian
A different organisation minimising their resource use and emissions is Aerian, a digital agency based in Box between Chippenham and Bath. Aerian’s founder and CEO Paul Goodenough has over the past few years introduced a range of new initiatives to their office, which houses 30 staff. The first of these was a generous company scheme designed to help staff switch to electric vehicles in 2015 by giving them free charging for their vehicles and other perks.

Furthermore, Paul has banned rubbish bins from the office, and blended a number of recycling systems together, meaning Aerian is as near zero waste as possible. For non-recyclables, staff stuff their waste into ‘ecobricks’, which are essentially plastic bottles rammed tightly with non-biodegradable waste. These ecobricks are then used for building projects like playgrounds, buildings and even furniture. Aerian has set itself up as part of the ecobricking community, helping businesses and individuals with mentoring, advice, tools and collections of ecobricks to greatly reduce the plastic that gets discarded and threatens wildlife.  

A strong advocate of a waste free lifestyle, Paul has enlisted over 60 families throughout Wiltshire already (with more nationally and internationally) and transformed all his businesses to zero waste as well as his football team and regularly attends various local litter-picks. Asked whether he has met any resistance, Paul laughs and says that the staff team have been more than happy to embrace this forward-thinking approach, and that many give their time and effort to help make Wiltshire, and the wider world, a better place.

Paul’s advice for other small to medium-sized enterprises who may be thinking about how they can alter their environmental impact, is just to get started right away. There are many changes that can be made easily, such as introducing 'Terracycling' for snack wrappers and other workplace waste, and of course ecobricking, right up to switching fleet vehicles to electric and installing wildlife-friendly features in buildings, such as bat and swift boxes, green roofs and walls, and wildlife-permeable boundaries.

 Start Now: 

  • Provide easy access re-cycling options
  • Ban the bins! 
  • Ban single-use plastic cups/cutlery
  • Provide re-fill tap water stations around the office
  • Provide incentives for recycling/reusing/electric car options
  • Opt for paper-less office
  • Opt for non-toxic cleaning products

There is still a long way to go, but exciting examples of good urban design and sustainable workplace practice are springing up all over the UK. For more information and advice, as well as useful tools such as carbon calculators and checklists, the internet has an abundance of useful content. An overview is available from the Carbon Trust and the TUC which also has a range of good resources to help your workplace get on the road to sustainability.