As business owners we all want to reduce emissions, promote sustainability, and protect the environment. Much can be done through minimising energy consumption, reducing waste, and making sensible travel choices. We are all familiar with the reduce-reuse-recycle pattern and committing to making ethical and sustainable choices in our businesses and also supply chain. Here I share my take on the future, my Climate Commitment, and links to useful resources.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE COLLECTIVELY
With global warming and the effects taking hold on our world, the environment has never been more important. COP26 was held in Glasgow, not too far away from Heather Mac VA, where the demands for climate action were loud and clear. The United Nations tell us the Earth is now around 1.1°C warmer than it was in the 1800s; and we are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement target to keep global temperature from exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 1.5°C is considered the upper limit to avoid the worst fallout from climate change.
Collectively, I believe individuals and small businesses can make a difference. The younger generations in our society are the future and are central to pushing forward with making change happen. As an individual, as a family, and a business owner, I want to make sensible and attainable changes now. We all work hard and like our little luxuries in life, however almost everyone can make changes which will environmental improvements, often saving money at the same time.
THE FUTURE IS CIRCULAR
What exactly does that mean? What is a linear economy? What is a circular economy?
A linear economy traditionally follows the “take-make-dispose” principle. Raw materials are collected, transformed into products that are used until they are finally discarded as waste. Value is created in this economic system by producing and selling as many products as possible.
A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. A model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. Ellen McArthur Foundation’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The aim is to tackle global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.
WORKING WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT (va) – A GREEN CHOICE
Virtual Assistants have a naturally low carbon footprint. Businesses employing the skills of a VA are onto a winner by making a great green choice. With no central office, many VA’s work from a home office, with no commuting. Minimal requirement for business travel of course means emissions are almost removed. Working and collaborating mainly in the cloud, VA’s where possible run a paperless office.
Looking around my office, alongside my furniture, the main elements I have are lighting, laptop, monitor, printer, mobile phone, and a heater. I must consider each of these to ensure I’m being environmentally responsible in my use and choices. As part of my commitment to the climate I am checking the sustainability credentials of software companies used to carry out work. Use of low energy options is made where possible, as well as turning off equipment when not in use.
Heather Mac VA has a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Policy. As a forward-thinking business with strong ethics, being socially accountable is important.
sme cLIMATE COMMITMENT
To follow a 1.5°C consistent pathway, the world needs to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6 per cent per year between 2020 and 2030. Emissions must drop 7.6% per year from 2020 to 2030 to keep temperatures from exceeding 1.5°C and 2.7% per year to stay below 2°C.
Heather Mac VA is proud to be recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, being one of the first Virtual Assistant businesses in the UK to have done so. Businesses who make their Climate Commitment through the SME Climate Hub recognise that climate change poses a threat to the world economy, nature and society-at-large, and pledge to taking action immediately in order to:
- Halve our greenhouse gas emissions before 2030
- Achieve net zero emissions before 2050
- Disclose our progress on a yearly basis
One of the biggest steps businesses can take is to review energy providers and their policies on sustainability.
World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) has a produced an excellent guide full of hints and tips: WWF – UK’s Sustainable Office Guide. Well worth a download and read. The guide covers Energy; Waste; Water; Travel; Procurement; Plastic; Paper and Printing; Meeting and Events; Biodiversity; and Giving Back.
Do we really need to travel? The transport sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Where possible, business travel should optimise journeys, by fitting several meetings or errands into one, and making use of public transport – let the train take the strain.
Check the sustainable credentials of suppliers before make equipment purchases. Where possible, make use of digital tools and software, reducing the need for print, such as digital signature software and producing digital reports. Check default settings on printers – black and white print, double-sided, and use of recycled paper.
The way we heat and cool office buildings, and the devices and appliances we plug in all contribute to our energy footprint. Consider the best option for type of energy used, and suppliers. If working from home, close doors to the area you are working to contain heat; to cool down where possible open windows to maximise air flow.
Energy-efficient lighting helps lower electricity bills and carbon dioxide emissions, all without reducing the quality of light in our homes. The Energy Saving Trust advises if you replace all the bulbs in your home with LED lights, you could reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by up to 40kg a year. This is equivalent to the carbon dioxide emitted by driving your car around 140 miles. Lighting makes up 15% of the average UK household electricity consumption, so making the switch could help you save money too.
The supply chain we select has an environmental impact. Consider the true cost of goods and services purchased by taking into account the social and environmental factors. Consider developing a Sustainable Procurement/Supply Chain Policy, and review alignment of your top suppliers with your policy.
We all have a home life! Many sustainable improvements can be introduced here too. Lead by example and share tips with family and friends.
According to Ariel, my preferred brand of washing powder, washing laundry at temperatures as low as (or lower than) 30 degrees saves both energy and money. Helping the environment in the long run, washing at the lower temperature uses up to 57% less electricity per cycle, (based on a 60-minute cycle at 30°C compared with a 60 min cycle at 40°C). The next step from a 30°C is a cold water wash – suitable for some, but not all fabrics, still worth considering.
Where possible, shop locally and ethically. Reduce the number of single use plastics, and find out where your nearest eco refill shop is. Recycling of soft plastics is now also widely available. Remembering to have re-usable carrier bags is now becoming second nature, carrying reusable water bottles and hot drinks containers isn’t far behind. I know I kick myself if I forget.
Waste reduction at home offers a huge number of options. Reducing use of packaging, careful use of textiles, smart storage of perishables is a great starting point. Making use of seasonal produce and supporting the hospitality sector which are promoting seasonal menus is a smart choice.
Love Food Hate Waste – Scotland and Zero Waste Scotland both provide helpful ideas and resources. Check out their website or follow them on social media. Plan ahead and you’ll only buy what you’ll use/eat. Menu planning is highly recommended!
Giving back though volunteering is an easy way to support charities, as well as feeling connected to the local community. I’m able to offer a small amount of my time and admin/virtual PA skills to charity. Getting involved in goodwill gestures has a positive effect on health and wellbeing, a win win situation. Heather Mac VA looks forward to supporting a local charity in 2022.
Make time to get out in the fresh air. It not only keeps blood circulating, but while out there join a group litter-pick, or go solo and do your own.
Eat healthy and nutritious meals, and where possible support local traders too. Local butchers, fishmongers, etc will be delighted to serve you.
Champion initiatives and encourage others to do the same. There are many organised initiatives throughout the year. Whether that’s using your voice on social media to highlight upcoming events or leading by example within you family or circle of friends. Do your bit today to protect the future.
Just cut the cr@p – stop using and buying so much unnecessary stuff! Ask yourself, ‘do I really need this?’ I’m hoping improving my environmental credentials won’t be too difficult, I like to think I’m open minded and ready to embrace sensible options.
MY TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED
- Drink tap water – avoid single use plastic bottles. Carry your own re-usable water bottle and refill on the go.
- Coffee cups – the same as water bottles, carry your own re-usable coffee cup.
- Hang your washing outside whenever you can, avoid switching on machines unnecessarily.
- Travelling a mile? Walk, or consider a bicycle.
- Leave only footprints – take home everything you brought. Go even further by picking up at least one piece of litter every day.
- Take shorter showers and reuse your towels – avoid throwing in the wash basket after one use. Have different coloured towels per family member, use to dry your clean body several times before washing – you won’t smell!
- Always carry fabric shopping bags – refuse to use plastic bags.
- Go paperless – any bills that drop through your letterbox, give them your email address, and save on unnecessary paper.
- Buy loose fruit and veg, ditch the fancy packaging. Even better, why not try growing your own fruit and veg, and while you’re at it collect rainwater to water your plants.
- Have a weekly menu plan and keep it seasonal. Know how to store the perishables – which fruit and veg last longer in the fridge and which do not.
- Keep your car serviced. This helps to keep emissions low and your car running efficiently.
- Wear a jumper! This will allow you turn the thermostat down a notch or two.
- Stop the draughts, by reducing heat loss in your home.
- Donate to charities and make a point of regularly visiting second-hand shops – we are likely to see a surge in recycled clothing and textiles.
- Take part in organised initiatives available which encourage improving longer term habits.
Let me know if you enjoyed this blog, anything that resonated with you and any tips you have to share.