Paper & Printing
Reducing Use of Paper
Paper is a prolific material in business, and paper wastage is commonplace – from printing emails to single-sided copiers, the dream of the paperless office is far from a reality. Although it’s important to buy greener paper (see Buying Greener Paper), reducing paper consumption prevents the outright purchase of paper, with the associated environmental effects of reduced tree harvesting, reduced water and energy consumption required to process paper, and reductions in water and air pollution associated with its production and transport. Not to mention a significant reduction in costs to purchase the paper. Reducing paper consumption is one key opportunity for businesses who want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. See more in the Leadership section (Climate Leadership).
Office printers use ink and energy and have a negative impact on indoor air quality. Reducing printing saves paper, ink, and energy and prevents air pollution. When you are in the market to upgrade your printer, first consider the opportunity of purchasing a multi-function device that incorporates your printer, scanner, copier and fax. Ensure the equipment is Energy Star compliant, allows for double-sided printing and print reduction (two-to-a-page) capacity, has a tray for reused paper and the warranty allows for paper with high recycled content. When you purchase printing services, ensure that you discuss the type of paper or cardstock with potential printers. It’s important to specify high recycled content and certified paper as outlined in Buying Greener Paper. Ask your printer about other environmental aspects of the printer’s operation, like ink toxicity, the use of solvents, and whether or not fountain solution is recycled.
Double-sided printing is the simplest measure for reducing your paper use. If your printers have the capacity to double-side, implement a policy to default printers to the double sided option. If printers don’t have the capacity, ensure that you select printers with this option during your next upgrade.
Reuse One-Sided Paper
Collect paper that’s only been used on one side and reuse it when you can, or have it bound to create scratch pads.
Switch to Electronic Communications
Electronic communications can dramatically reduce paper use. From employee payroll and news to marketing and customer statements and invoicing, there are many options to move from paper to electronic. Increasingly your customers will expect this option to be available to them. Businesses that don’t switch to on-line customer relationships will lose market share to those offering electronic services. Business Benefits The benefits of reduced paper use and green printing are found in cost savings related to paper use and ink. These and other benefits of environmental initiatives are outlined in the Business Case.
Water is a vital natural resource and important input for businesses. As the effects of climate change are felt around the globe, with the growing population pressures in urban areas, and as the scarcity of water becomes clear, regulators will place more focus on protecting water sources from pollution and on reducing worldwide consumption of fresh water. Although water use has historically been under-priced, the effects of climate change are likely to force prices up sharply in the near future.
Gather Water Bills
Monitoring water bills is an important first step to managing water use. A review of water bills allows you to identify leaks, see daily and weekly cycles in water use, and to identify areas of opportunity for water conservation.
Assess Biggest Contributors
Use water bills to assess your business’ opportunities for reducing water use by matching billed usage with process water use, and other uses like taps, toilets and kitchens. Assess seasonal and other factors that affect usage, and make an action plan for how to make reductions. There may be ways to reduce process use, to change cleaning procedures, to install flow restrictors in washrooms, or to educate employees about conservation. If you want to be more rigorous, you may want to complete a water audit. See the Resources below and Measurement, Tracking & Reporting for more information on conducting audits.
Investigate Incentives and Rebates If process or other changes can significantly reduce water use, your business may be able to offset the cost with incentives and rebates. Some applicable rebates may be related to energy savings, since reductions in hot water use in kitchens and bathrooms save energy required to heat the water. Incentives for business can be found at Grants and Incentives. Municipalities across Canada offer rebates for water savings. Check your City’s website for information.
Prepare a Business Case for Water Saving Devices and Process Changes
Use a lifecycle analysis (see Business Planning & Finance) to produce a business case of water saving opportunities. This business case will include all the tangible financial details – costs, savings and payback, but should also address intangible benefits like improved brand. Creating a business case will allow your business to compare and choose between other environmental opportunities.
The benefits of water savings are found in reduced water and sewer bills, and an associated drop in energy bills for hot water. These and other benefits of environmental initiatives are outlined in the Business Case.
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development Water footprint calculator:
- Metro Vancouver Water Audit Process (PDF - 523.79 KB - 39 pages)
Your energy use refers to your electricity and natural gas use, as well as any fuel you use for generators. SMEs have a big role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use, and reducing the effects of climate change. Because of the large numbers and smaller relative impacts of SMEs, each and every business must play a part in reducing energy use. For more on greenhouse gas reductions see “Climate Change Leadership” in the Leadership section.
Gather Energy Bills
Monitoring energy bills is an important first step to managing and reducing your energy use. A review of energy bills allows you to identify peak daily energy use, and identify areas of opportunity for conserving energy. If you lease your premises, engage in a conversation with the property owner about energy savings, and how you can work together to meet your energy reduction goals.
Assess Biggest Contributors
To address energy use, put a team together to create a process map identifying energy inputs at various stages. Be sure to get as much staff input from the shop floor as possible. If you want a more rigorous approach, you may want to complete an energy audit. Many provincial energy suppliers will conduct energy audits or assist you in sourcing a reliable consultant. Building energy use can be assessed by considering major energy contributors such as lighting, heating and cooling. Lighting upgrades have the potential to reduce 40% of energy use. Minimizing heat loss and gain has the potential to reduce energy use more than 5%, often for very little cost. Proper maintenance of existing equipment can cut energy use considerably. Simple steps such as identifying duct leaks, checking airflow and refrigerant charge, cleaning coils and changing HVAC filters can dramatically reduce energy use. Finally, use employee engagement to reduce “phantom” power draws by encouraging staff to turn off office equipment, lights and computers when not in use.
Investigate Incentives and Rebates
If there are opportunities to reduce energy use, your business may be able to offset the cost with incentives and rebates. Many provincial energy suppliers provide incentives and rebates for small business energy audits and retrofits like lighting and appliances. Check your province’s energy supplier website for information or see Natural Resources Canada for a list of incentives and rebates.
Prepare a Business Case for Energy Saving Devices and Equipment
Use a lifecycle analysis (see Business Planning & Budgeting) to produce a business case of energy saving opportunities. This business case will include all the tangible financial details – costs, savings and payback, but should also address intangible benefits like improved employee productivity related to better lighting, and improved brand from your greenhouse gas reductions. Creating a business case will allow your business to evaluate various green purchasing options to improve the energy efficiency of equipment, and to compare and choose between other environmental opportunities.
In 2009 Sunrise Soya Foods, a soy food processing company in Vancouver, BC, installed a boiler economizer to reduce energy and greenhouse gases associated with heating their tofu manufacturing plant in Vancouver. After assessing the business case, it spent $20,000 to install the economizer, which pre-heats water before it enters the boiler. The investment is expected to pay for itself in under a year, saving the company $22,400 in reduced energy costs annually.
The benefits of energy savings are found in reduced energy bills and associated greenhouse gas reductions. These and other benefits of environmental initiatives are outlined in the Business Case.
- Tools For Energy Use Industry Canada
- BC Hydro Power Smart for Business - provides easy-to-use online guides for commercial energy reduction opportunities such as lighting, HVAC, refrigeration:
- Energy Star equipment life cycle savings calculator for purchases: Natural Resources Canada
- Energy Star for Small Business (Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products. The website provides tips for reducing your energy use.)
Using materials efficiently means creating more products with fewer materials, producing fewer defects, and producing less byproduct. Reducing material use creates cost savings and prevents the need for further resource extraction. Preventing material use reduces harvesting, mining and other significant environmental effects of resource extraction. Using fewer materials also creates less waste from the process, providing further saving in avoided waste disposal and recycling fees.
Create a Material/Product Ratio
A material/product ratio allows you to understand your material use in relation to production, set efficiency goals and assess your performance. This ratio represents the “material efficiency” of your production. For example, a cheese maker might assess that for every 1litre of milk, she makes 200 grams of product. Some of the milk makes product and some creates waste, and the amount that creates product creates the material/product ratio of 1L : 200 g. She can set a goal to create more cheese with the milk, looking for opportunities and ideas from her staff to get the ratio closer to 1L : 250g.
Assess Your Waste Stream
Look for material efficiencies in byproduct and product defects. Using a mass balance approach (see text box), you will see that materials either produce products or byproducts – waste, in the form of air, liquid or solid wastes. Assessing your waste stream will help you identify ways in which materials are being used inefficiently to produce your product. The goal is to use more of the materials you buy to create products, and less to produce byproduct. Another area of wasted material use to address is product defects. Creating a defect rate and setting goals to reduce the number of product defects will allow you to use materials and all other resources more efficiently.
Redesign Your Product or Process
Using this information on material efficiency and waste, redesign your process or your product to improve material efficiency and reduce waste. See Product Development for more information.
The benefits of reduced material inputs are found in reduced material bills. These and other benefits of environmental initiatives are outlined in the Business Case.
- How to Reduce Material Waste - an article that puts material waste into context and provides resources and links to waste reduction measures:
What’s an Audit?
An environmental audit is an assessment of the uses of a resource by various processes or the sources and types of waste created in a business. For example:
- An energy audit provides a breakdown of a business’ energy consumption by use – for example by lighting, heating/air conditioning, refrigeration, dishwashing, etc.;
- A water audit provides a breakdown of a business’ water consumption by use – for example by cooling, production, dishwashing, laundry, and domestic (taps and toilets) uses.
- A waste audit provides a breakdown of a business’ wastes in various categories that are recyclable and not recyclable – for example by paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, hazardous waste, e-waste, etc.;
- A material audit (or mass balance, based on a physical law that whatever material enters a system leaves or accumulate in the system) provides a breakdown of a business’ uses of materials, accounting for the inputs that enter and either create products or leave as emissions, waste or recycling.
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