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How to Reduce the Footprint of Your Contracting Business


As the messaging from campaigners gets more urgent and the science gets more alarming, more and more of us are looking for ways to make a difference to environmental issues. You might think that contracting leaves you unable to do very much, since you’re a one-person business with a relatively modest sphere of influence, but there are things you can do to reduce your personal impact. And with an estimated 1.77 million contractors working full time in the UK, together their impact could be enormous. So, what can you do?

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Understand the issues

Before you can take any action, you need to know what’s happening. We can’t possibly cover even the main issues in any detail here, and if you can stand the doom and gloom for long enough it’s advisable to do your own research, but here’s a brief look at the headlines.

Climate change

What you’ll have heard of as “climate change” or “global warming” is a long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system. This is caused by a build up of so called “greenhouse” gases in the atmosphere, the main culprit being Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The effects of climate change are already being felt, and campaigners now hope to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 °C.  

As climate change is driven by CO2 emissions, campaigners talk about reducing your “carbon footprint” which involves changing your lifestyle in a way that reduces those emissions.

Waste management

This has been an issue for many years, but it really hit the headlines when the BBC’s Planet Earth II highlighted the effect of plastic waste on wildlife in the world’s oceans. The issue is very simple; the sheer volume of waste, particularly plastic waste, is overwhelming the environment. Between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year and it doesn’t degrade so it’s all still out there. Huge volumes of plastic have entered marine food chains and are impacting wildlife, as well as potentially threatening human health.

As you might expect, solutions revolve around reducing waste output in general, and plastic waste in particular. The main focus is on reducing demand for single-use plastics, like disposable cups, cutlery and bottles of water, as well as the plastic packaging found on many products.

Actions contractors can take to reduce climate change

Work from home

Cutting out unnecessary journeys is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Many contractors have the option to work from home at least some of the time. Communication and collaboration software like Skype and Microsoft Teams can be used to co-ordinate projects and conduct meetings from your home office, without the need for you to commute every day. This has the added bonus that you spend less time sitting in traffic, leaving you more time for fee-paying work.

Cycle to work

If you live close enough to your workplace, cycling to work is the most environmentally friendly way to travel. For an average cyclist, travelling on a bike produces just 21g of CO2 per kilometre, including the energy required to make the bike, and the food required to fuel the journey. This is compared to 584g/KM for the average car. And of course, cycling regularly has enormous health benefits too.

Shorten your working week

If you have to drive to work, fewer journeys is obviously better. As a contractor you might have the option to work longer hours each day, meaning you complete your working week over fewer days and don’t travel to work as often.

Take the stairs

As well as being good for you, taking the stairs rather than using a lift saves energy too. On average, climbing the stairs uses around 7% of the energy it takes to use a lift. The actual carbon footprint of the lift depends on how the electricity was generated, but with around 40% of UK power still being generated by burning fossil fuels, it’s definitely worth doing.

Use efficient lighting

Making the most of natural light and using efficient LED or CFL light bulbs will again save you money and cut your energy use. You can take this a step further by using natural light whenever possible, and decorating your home office in light colours to make the most of it. Sunlight is free and clean, after all.

Actions contractors can take to reduce waste

Support recycling

Recycling helps reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill or ends up in the sea. You can contribute to the recycling effort by recycling everything you can yourself, and by buying products made from recycled materials. In your home office the main ones will probably be printer cartridges and paper, but there is a surprising variety of recycled products on the market.

Choose reusable items

Using reusable items instead of disposable ones is often cost effective as well as reducing waste. Buy a refillable pen rather than a box of biros, or use a white board instead of post it notes. Whenever you find yourself throwing something away, look for a reusable alternative.

Go paperless

Use email rather than post wherever possible, and share documents using cloud services rather than printing them. These options are often more secure and cost effective as well.

Go green for lunch

The standard supermarket lunch deal comes wrapped in plastic, from the disposable sandwich packet to the bottled drink, and millions of them are thrown away every day. Bringing lunch from home, using reusable items, or eating something with no throw-away packaging will make a real difference.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please call our expert team on 01296 468 483 or email info@orangegenie.com.


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