It is hard to go a day without hearing about climate change, but there isn’t much discussion about what small businesses can do about it. You will be surprised how easy it is to go carbon neutral and if enough small businesses do, we can make a difference.
Step One is to determine your studio’s carbon footprint. While this can be a complicated question, for a quick estimate, check out the online carbon footprint calculator at www.coolcalifornia.org. To fine tune this estimate, you can include:
- Studio Energy Use (gather your electric, gas and oil bills for one year)
- Student/employee transportation (survey employees and a sampling of students to determine: (a) how far they travel to get to studio; and (b) how they travel (walk, bike, public transportation, car pool or car).
- Miscellaneous impacts. (travel to conferences, your website, waste disposal, printing, direct mail etc.)
- Products sold in studio. If you purchase products from a carbon neutral suppliers, this is easy, but if not, it is nearly impossible. However, online calculators provide reasonable estimates so don’t let “the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”
Step Two is to act to reduce the impacts listed above. First, change your electric to renewable sources – solar, wind, hydro, bio mass, or geothermal. For most organizations, this is the largest source of carbon emissions and also the easiest to eliminate. Renewables may be slightly more expensive, but not as much as you would think. These renewable sources are available in many places now so start with your electric company or go to www.green-e.org to find a green energy supplier in your area; if you cannot find a supplier, you can purchase Renewable Energy Certificates from an organization such as www.terrapass.com). You can also move your thermostats up or down a few degrees (some hot studios simply open their windows on hot days rather than heat their studios), put up a ride board to encourages students to car pool to class (and build community), set up bike racks outside your studio to encourage students and employees to bike to work and of course buy carbon neutral and local or US made products when possible. You can also ask your electric company to perform an energy audit. Once you take the above steps to reduce your studios carbon footprint, reevaluate your impact. With the simple conversion to renewable energy you may find that you have cut your impact in half – or more.
Step Three is to purchase carbon offsets to offset the balance of your impact. Carbon offsets are payments for projects that eliminate greenhouse gases and produce renewable energy. Offsets are not as expensive as you may think and can be found at www.green-e.org.
The most important thing is to get started.