Going the extra mile for our planet.
I'm delighted to announce that Earthian Zero Waste Shop is officially carbon neutral! I've been working with a company called Beyond Procurement, who have audited our business and provided us with our carbon footprint calculation.
Here I have shared a snapshot of what we have done so far, and what we hope to do more of in the future to keep our carbon footprint low as we grow.
Carbon Neutral and Net Zero:
Firstly, lets clarify what the difference is between carbon neutral and net zero.
When auditing carbon emissions the output is split down into three categories known as scopes. We have been audited under Scope 1 and Scope 2 of the carbon emissions index, which means we are looking at the carbon output of activities that the business directly owns or has control over, such as energy and travel. Scope 3 looks at carbon that is a consequence of the business, but not directly controlled by it, such as the output of third party suppliers or manufacturers that the business may use.
The terminology around carbon emissions can be confusing. To be carbon neutral means that we have reduced our impact as much as possible and the remaining emissions have been offset to neutralize our business activities. It is usual for carbon neutral audits to only look at Scopes 1 and 2, although we did receive some advice on tackling Scope 3 in our final report.
Net zero is similar in principle but the auditing process involves a deeper and more wide-reaching look at business activities, and must includes all of Scopes 1, 2 and 3 as standard. To achieve net zero, a business needs to have completely balanced the books between carbon emitted by business activities and carbon prevented or removed from the atmosphere. (1)
What is our carbon footprint?
Our official report from Beyond Procurement shows that our carbon footprint under Scopes 1 and 2 is 0.1 tonnes. This figure is based off of data from last year (2022) and covers energy, travel, waste and water. To put this figure into context, the average carbon footprint in the UK is between 10 and 13 tonnes per person, per year (2).
Research from the British Chambers of Commerce suggests that only 11% of small businesses measure their carbon footprint, and for micro businesses like ours who have less than 10 employees, this figure falls to just 5%. (3) I'm proud to be part of that 5% who are working as hard on protecting the environment as they are on growing their business, but also for how small our current footprint is.
How have we reduced our carbon footprint?
Our journey to carbon neutrality started when the business was still in the planning stages and is underpinned by behavioural and structural processes. As a team, we are committed to keeping our impact low and we are constantly thinking of better and more sustainable ways of doing things.
There is a worry that businesses with enough capital can simply offset their emmissions with investments, rather than making the necessary changes to systems and attitudes. This blog is here for transparency, but it is also part of documenting our journey. I'm hoping that as the business grows we can get to the stage of being audited across Scope 3 and reach net zero.
Using a green energy tariff so that 100% of our electricity is sourced from renewables such as wind, solar and tidal.
Conservation policies, such as switching all equipment off at the plug at night, closing our shop door during the winter months and turning down the thermostat on radiators.
Last year we switched the very old fluorescent strip light in the stock room to LED, which is around 80% more efficient.
Our water heater also broke down, which was a good opportunity for us to switch over to a more appropriate and energy efficient one.
Computer equipment, including the till/scales, will go into sleep mode when not in use.
We don't have any business travel here and our team all commutes by walking or taking the bus, so there wasn't any data for carbon heavy travel like flights, trains or cars.
Our deliveries are taken care of by Zedify, who are a zero emissions courier using cargo bikes and electric vans.
The vast majority of any waste the business produces is recycled. We have commercial collections for our carboard and paper, but we also use a company called Refactory for any plastics from deliveries and packaging.
We have minimized other materials as much as we can through buying bulk and using eco-friendly suppliers, so that our waste bin is only collected once a month. When it is collected it is taken for energy recovery (combustion), not landfill.
We also save materials for reuse and upcycling within the business or for the community, such as paper, bags and boxes. The energy saving from reusing instead of recycling is important to factor into how you manage waste streams.
Through Beyond Procurement we have offset the remaining 0.1 tonnes by investing in solar and wind technology and research.
We have also been planting trees every month for the last 1.5 years. You can see our "company forest" here. This was not actually included in the carbon footprint as it is something we do for our staff team to offset their personal carbon footprint. However, through this we have helped plant over 400 trees and prevent around 30 tonnes of emissions by investing in sustainable projects across the world, such as renewable energy development.
We are still a relatively young business and a very small staff team, but the health and longevity of the planet is our top priority. Our efforts to reduce our impact don't end here and will continue this year and beyond. What we have coming up includes trying to reduce our water consumption and getting a full audit on our waste so we can achieve zero waste to landfill status.
These activities sometimes go uncelebrated as they are happening behind the scenes, and each step sometimes feels too small to shout about on it's own. However, moments like this are a good point to stop and recognize the efforts of the team and to say a big thank you to everyone who supports our shop, allowing us to continue doing our best for the planet.