The New Zealand Government’s focus on the environment and global warming is growing. Small businesses can do their bit to help our environment.

Here are 10 tips to reduce your business’ carbon footprint – it can also save you money.

1. Be a green team – and that includes your customers

Get the people in your business on board the green train to help the environment. Environmental initiatives are excellent ways to motivate and boost staff enthusiasm. For example, get them thinking about sustainability in a team-building exercise, engaging them to suggest ways they can reduce consumption of items such as water, paper, food and drink, laptops, phones and packaging. Makes sure you walk the walk by showing your employees that the business has put into place practices and policies around sustainability. Equally importantly, make your customers aware of your policies to reduce carbon emissions. It not only makes them aware of tactics they can use to reduce emissions as well but is a good way to promote your business as a good public citizen.

2. Audit your energy use

This will not only help you work out ways to reduce the harmful greenhouse gasses your business creates, it will save on energy costs. Get professional help. There a number of companies in New Zealand that will carry out the audit. The initial cost may seem expensive but you’re likely to recoup that expense and additional costs as a result of the audit’s recommendations.

3. Become paperless – or nearly

Despite the so-called “paperless offices”, we continue to print and use considerable amounts of paper. Review what you really need to print out and cut down on use and digitising more activities. Print both sides.

4. Switch off

Use energy efficient lighting. Switch off at the end of the day – it reduces your carbon footprint and saves money. Look to use natural light where practical. Natural light not only saves energy and reduce your footprint, it has been found to improve sleep and avoid health risks associated with unnatural lighting, such as stress.

5. Recycle

Get into the habit of recycling your waste – installing a series of recycle bins for specific waste will ensure the right materials go to the right recycling place. Review your business’ packaging of products. Are items over-packaged - can packaging be reduced?

6. Cut back on travel

Cut your business travel down, especially air travel. Not only will this cut emissions, it can save your business a lot of money. Ironically a side effect of COVID-19 is businesses had to reduce their air travel considerably - and now realise they may be able to sustain this discipline post-epidemic.

“Makes sure you walk the walk by showing your employees that the business has put into place practices and policies around sustainability. ”

7. Use recycled products

Encourage your suppliers to provide you with recycled products. Purchasing recycled paper or refurbished phones and IT equipment is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.

8. Be well insulated

Efficient heating and energy technology in your office will not help reduce your carbon emissions but will also your energy bill.

9. Walk, cycle or get a bus or train

Encourage your staff to walk, cycle or use public transport rather than drive to work. The push for electric cars is growing momentum in New Zealand. Is it time for you to “go electric”? With the pandemic businesses are getting used to staff working from home. It could be the way of the future – and a way to reduce your commuting carbon footprint.

10. Plant a tree

Offset your business’ environmental impact by planting sustainably-managed trees. Check with your local council to see if there are any programs in your area to plant trees.

Also, you can contact the Native Forest Restoration Trust, which is dedicated to protecting and restoring New Zealand’s native forests and wetlands. They have a number of programs you can contribute to, including “dedicating” a tree or grove of trees.

Need some help reducing your footprint?

The Sustainable Business Network, New Zealand’s largest sustainable business organisation, helps businesses understand sustainability, how it relates to them and how to strategically achieve it. 

The Climate Leaders Coalition, launched in 2018 to promote business leadership and collective action on the issue of climate change, has some useful resources and information to help with measuring and reducing emissions.

Remember the 3 Rs

Every year, New Zealanders send around 2.5 million tonnes of waste to landfills. That’s over a tonne of rubbish per household. The majority of this waste is not reprocessed or recycled, and doesn't break down.

We urgently need to reduce the waste going to our landfills, so remember the 3 Rs in your business:

Reduce usage where you can. For example, instead of disposable cups, plates and utensil provide staff with real glass and ceramic alternatives.

Reuse items whenever possible. For example, employees should be encouraged to use both sides of the printer paper. 

Recycle. When reducing or reusing aren’t possible, recycling is the next best thing. Encourage consistent use of recycle bins.

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