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Top 10 tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint

02 October 2007
Top 10 tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint

Here, with real-life examples, are some of the best ways to start saving money and reducing your carbon footprint

Once you start out on the sustainable path there's seemingly no end to the number of areas you can look at to help reduce your carbon footprint while also making improvements and savings. Below is a list of 10 key areas worth thinking about first.

Lighting/electricity

Low-cost or free options to reduce energy consumption include switching to low-energy lightbulbs or LED lighting turning off lights and equipment when not in use and installing motion sensors or timer switches. More expensive options include investing in a combined heat and power (CHP) system so you can generate some of your own electricity on site (see Heating/air conditioning).

Also look at switching to providers like Ecotricity, which generate power from sustainable sources such as wind power. Or generate your own power from alternative energy sources by investing in products like solar panels and wind turbines. As always, seek advice on costs, suitability and financial assistance, including grants, before proceeding. (See www.hospitableclimates.co.uk, www.nef.org.uk/greenenergy and www.cse.org.uk/renewables.)

• Area general manager Rob Bracken saved his firm Moto Hospitality nearly £20,000 in one year by introducing energy-efficiency measures at the Toddington Services Area site. The company calculated that just by turning on its broilers one hour later across its 48 sites it would save a staggering £140,000 a year.

Transportation

Newer is generally greener when it comes to vehicles, as older models are less efficient. But even older vehicles can be improved by fitting continuous regenerating traps (CRTs) and wind deflector kits. Maintaining the correct tyre pressure will also reduce fuel consumption. And consider using alternatives to fossil fuels like biodiesel, LPG and electricity. And work with suppliers to improve efficiency and cut CO2 emissions by reducing the frequency of deliveries.

• Last month fast-food chain McDonald's committed to running its 155-strong UK delivery fleet on biodiesel, produced from a mix of in-store cooking oil and rapeseed, by the end of the year. The company claims it will save about 1,675 tonnes of carbon a year once completed. Meanwhile, 3663 says it has saved 603,000kg of CO2 emissions a year by fitting CRTs to just over a quarter of its fleet of HGVs.

Water

Deal promptly with dripping taps and costly leaks and limit the amount of water used to flush toilets by switching to dual-flush models, or make older models more efficient by fitting water-displacement devices such as Hippos, which are cheap or free and easy to fit. Push taps or taps with sensors also save water, as does fitting flow regulators. Hotels can introduce towel reuse schemes for guests, and restaurants could use filtered tap water rather than bottled water, as does London's Acorn House. Also consider reusing "grey" waste water to water plants or to flush toilets rather than disposing of it installing systems to "harvest" rain water for outside use or to flush toilets or even switching to waterless urinals.

• The Zetter hotel in London serves its restaurant guests water from its own borehole. This water is also used to regulate the temperature of the hotel, which is efficiently managed by a building management system, with waste water reused to flush the toilets

Heating/air conditioning.

This is an area where big energy savings and efficiencies can be made, but it often gets overlooked because of the cost involved. However, grants may be available from organisations like the Carbon Trust, which also provides energy-efficiency loans.

Consider using alterative energy sources like solar power to heat water or invest in a CHP system (see www.chpa.co.uk). Another way to reduce heating costs is to install a ground-source heat pump. At the very least you should have your boilers serviced annually to improve efficiency.

• The Grasmere House hotel in Salisbury used an interest-free loan from the Carbon Trust to replace its old boilers with more energy-efficient models, which are 65% more energy-efficient and save the hotel more than £3,300 a year.

Packaging

Swap single-use items like plastic cups for reusable options, and guest shampoo bottles and soap bars for refillable dispensers. Buy in bulk to save money and reduce landfill.

Liaise with your suppliers to reduce packaging and seek out products with more environmentally friendly packaging. Bottled water Belu, for example, uses biodegradable bottles suitable for composting. Also look at buying products made with recycled materials. The websites of WRAP and Recycle Now contain lists of such products.

Waste

Recycling produces less landfill and lowers the cost of waste disposal, as can balers and compactors. Recycling products like aluminium can raise money for charities, and recycling food waste by composting creates a useful product.

• The Four Pillars hotel in Witney, Oxfordshire, saved enough to pay for its new cardboard baler within nine months as it cut down on waste collections. It can sell the compacted cardboard to a recycling firm for £10 a tonne. And Strattons hotel in Norfolk recycles or reuses nearly all its waste. It now sends only 2% of its waste to landfill, saving about £8,000 a year on waste disposal.

Source local and seasonal produce

Sourcing locally cuts down on food miles, reduces your carbon footprint and supports local artisans and growers. Consider joining with other local businesses to provide a bigger presence for suppliers, and supplementing your supply chain with a kitchen garden.

• In January, hotel group Malmaison launched a "home-grown and local" menu across its estate, using food sourced from within a 30-mile radius of each property. Contract caterer Aramark has created a "local hub" network nationally to increase trade with small local suppliers by providing them with easier access to market.

Building design

Retrofitting buildings can be expensive and troublesome, so when possible include greener building processes at the design stage and factor in to refurbs and renovations. The Carbon Trust offers free site surveys, and research and consultancy body BRE Group offers advice on making buildings sustainable and efficient (www.bre.co.uk). There are also many low-cost ways to improve a building's efficiency, like improving insulation and fitting draught-excluders on windows.

• Apex Hotels has a dedicated architect in charge of sustainable hotel design to ensure that its hotels are energy-efficient and have as low carbon emissions as possible.

Refrigeration

This is a major source of inefficiency and waste for many hospitality firms. Hospitable Climates claims introducing a better system of refrigeration can cut costs by up to half. In kitchens, switch to hydrocarbon refrigeration if possible. For refrigerated trucks, look at using greener, more efficient ways of cooling produce, like using electricity rather than energy created by the running engine. Fridges that use hydrocarbons are more energy-efficient than regular ones, while heat recovery units enable businesses to reuse the heat created as a by-product of larger refrigeration plants.

Training

As previously mentioned, setting up green programmes without including your staff is a sure-fire way to minimise their effectiveness. Cement your sustainability processes by including them in your induction programmes for new staff, and provide ongoing training. And consider having "green champions" among staff to oversee progress and help spread the word. Also encourage feedback and staff input and reward staff who do well.

Include details on posters on notice boards, near recycling bins and in places like staff bathrooms and put stickers in strategic places like next to light switches and taps to act as timely reminders.

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