Everyone’s going green. Which is fantastic - the ripple effect and chipping away at social norms that comes from more people forgoing single use plastic, using less water, eating less meat and monitoring their energy use is significant.
Three degrees of influence theory - that we affect the people we come into contact with, an influence which is passed on to the people they’re connected with - means that our decisions do mean something beyond ourselves. But a way to generate a bigger environmental splash? Creating a green workplace.
In 2017, there were 5.7 million businesses in the UK. Over 99% of these are small or medium sized, employing 0-249 people. Within a company up to that size, spreading sustainability hype should be pretty achievable.
Cool news is, edging your business in the direction of a future that’s powered by solar, captures renewable energy and stores it for later isn’t a wild fantasy. It’s here, now. It’s also the sort of progressive behavior that singles your place out as somewhere future-facing and that isn’t driven solely by the bottom line, as well as making you a part of the global effort to secure a safe future for the generations to come. Excited? Here’s how it’s all kicking off.
Green up the office
People may have their recycling, food waste systems and reusable containers all in place at home. But, between the hours of 9am and 6pm, things can take a turn. The issue tends to be that most offices aren’t set up for people to be eco: too few stations to recycle paper, no compost collectors for lunch leftovers, laptops left on all day and a lack of decent coffee meaning everyone comes in clutching a paper-plastic single use cup containing their daily flat white. These things quickly add up.
By clearly signposting the correct places for paper, plastic and glass recycling and implementing a kitchen compost bin system, your workplace can be more waste efficient, while a few cafetieres and bags of coffee can encourage a step away from takeaway caffeine.
Energy-wise, signs to encourage people to turn their computers off - i.e, not on standby - can save power, as can a policy of only using the air conditioning when needed, rather than as default in the warmer months.
Generate more efficient energy
Businesses can go a step further, by generating more efficient energy. One renewable fuel that’s suitable for business is biomass. This is any organic, renewable material that can be used as fuel to generate electricity. According to the Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy, it could meet up to 25% of the UK’s renewable energy needs by 2020.
Blackburn Meadows Biomass Plant in Sheffield saves 200,000 tonnes of local recycled waste wood which would otherwise go to landfills, to power 40,000 Sheffield homes in the areas. (You can find out more about powering your workplace the no-carbon way, here.)
Another positive thing you can do, to dial up your business’s eco creds? Convert to combined heat and power (CHP) for your energy.
According to the Government: ‘Combined heat and power is a highly efficient process that captures and utilises the heat that is a by-product of the electricity generation process.’
Effectively, a generator turns fuel into electricity to power your site. The heat created in this process is captured and used for heating and hot water (so, no traditional boiler) and an absorption chiller can convert the heat into air conditioning.
CHP is typically over 80% efficient (the classic ways of generating and transmitting electricity are usually 35-50%). Extra plus: on-site generation can reduce energy costs by around 10-20%, and excess can potentially be sold back to the grid. The emission savings are real: according to the Government: ‘By generating heat and power simultaneously, CHP can reduce carbon emissions by up to 30% compared to the separate means of conventional generation via a boiler and power station.’
Then there’s solar. We’re already in a place where solar panels (PVs) on your home’s roof are feasible, and solar at a bigger scale for offices and other business buildings is in place, too - with the potential for serious carbon savings. Since 2005, E.ON have worked with the ACC Liverpool group to install, run and maintain 925 solar panels at the Echo arena, BT convention centre, Exhibition Centre Liverpool and Pullman Liverpool, providing around 5-10% of the venue’s electricity. Find out more about powering your business with solar here.
Store green energy
Like we said, the renewable energy battery acceleration is meaning dramatic changes in our ability to store energy for later. Mega battery plants that lock up renewable energy, ready to be released when needed, are testament to that.
This, arguably, is the final piece of the puzzle which can radically alter our relationship to energy - not only how we produce the renewable stuff ourselves, but how we make it viable and reliable at scale.
So, once you’re producing cleaner energy via a solar photovoltaic system, you can get to ensuring you’ve got the supply you need for the leaner months - meaning surplus generated in the daytime to use in the evening. How does it work, practically? A storage system is connected to your existing infrastructure, sitting between your grid connection and your site’s operations. Daylight creates your energy, it’s stored into your battery and released when needed.
As well as making your operations greener, you’re protected from market volatility with a greater degree of self-sufficiency and less dependence on the outside world for keeping everything going.
When it comes to the businesses of tomorrow - naturally greener, daringly innovative and genuinely committed to social good - things are looking exciting.
Discover more about how E.ON could help you live a more energy efficient and sustainable lifestyle, here.