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What reductions can you make?

You can reduce your carbon emissions in every area of your business. Think of:

  • heating
  • procurement
  • waste
  • staff and customer behaviour

This page explains the key areas of business where you can reduce your carbon emissions. 

1. Energy in buildings

There are many ways to reduce your building's emissions and running costs. Look at your heating, but also energy used by other equipment and lighting. Consider the energy efficiency of your building, including:

How it is heated, powered, and lit? Look at everything from boilers and hot water systems, lighting and appliances.

How do you operate and run your building? Consider how things are controlled so they are not on unnecessarily or set to the wrong temperature. 

How well is the building insulated and keeping in the heat? Consider bigger projects like loft and wall insulation, as well as easy jobs like draught proofing. 

How regularly is high energy using equipment maintained? Big energy users (e.g. boilers, refrigeration systems, air conditioning) can operate at their most efficient when well maintained.

When planning a refurbishment or new build project make sure you choose the most energy efficient options available and consider what materials are being used. It can be more expensive at the start but it can save money in the long run.

Tips to manage your buildings more efficiently:

  • Turn it off

    Turn equipment and lighting off when it is not needed. Ensure that staff are aware, and you have clear guidance of what can be turned off when, e.g. signs, stickers, turn off/on schedule. 

    Check if you can turn off energy guzzlers like vending machines, chillers, electric heaters, when not in use for longer periods. Consider using timers and sensors to make this easier. 

  • Turn it down

    Heating costs rise by about 8% for every 1C of overheating, so make sure to turn down the heating to recommended temperatures (i.e. 19-20C for living areas) and review setting regularly. Find out more about heating and cooling settings.

    To save energy used to heat water, switch to a water efficient shower head or reduce flow rates on hot water taps and showers. Find out more about taps and showers.

    Use the eco setting on appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, only use the dishwasher when full. 

    Reduce energy used by replacing halogen and CFL bulbs with energy efficient LED, use the 1.1. Equipment and Lighting workbook on the Step 1: Indentifying emissions page to do a lighting survey and identify priority areas for replacement. Find out more about low energy lighting.

  • Control it

    Avoid cooling and heating a space at the same time 

    Control space heating with thermostatic controls and where appropriate create separately controlled zones in the building. Find out more about heating and cooling settings.

    Check your boiler controls regularly and ensure they are at the most efficient setting. Find out more about boiler controls.

    Install lighting controls (e.g. motion sensor, day light sensors, timer switches) where appropriate. Find out more about lighting controls.

  • Treat it well

    Ensure you regularly check your boilers, refrigeration, extract ventilation and grease traps. Clean and well-maintained equipment operates efficiently and lasts longer. A simple maintenance schedule will save on energy and costs. Find out more about monitoring and maintenance.

    Ensure refrigeration equipment is well maintained as this can keep energy consumption down, e.g. maintaining door seals, regularly defrosted, coils free from dust. 

  • Keep cosy

    Ensure your building is well insulated and that windows and doors are draught proofed. 

    Ensure hot water tanks and pipes are insulated. For more information see our keeping cosy fact sheet.

  • Staff training

    Get staff on board, make sure they know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it and what impact their actions have. Staff training and participation is key to many energy saving measures being successful.

  • Renewable energy

    When you have taken action to reduce the energy used in your building, you are in a great place to look at renewable energy options for your business. You will then only need to cover a reduced amount of energy by renewable sources, which could save money in the long run. 

    You can install renewable energy systems like solar panels, heat pumps, or biomass boilers. This will help reduce your carbon emissions while heating your building and reduce costs in the long run. Check out the financial support available through Business Energy Scotland.

    You can also consider switching to a renewable energy provider, but it is recommended to ensure that the tariffs align with what you can pay and that you get 100% renewable energy for maximum impact on your carbon footprint.

    For more information visit the Which? website for "Differences between green energy suppliers"'.

Building emissions: Further advice and support

2. Transport

Transport is a major contributor to carbon emissions in Scotland overall and for the tourism sector in particular. You can help reduce emissions by encouraging the use of low carbon transport options, like active travel (walking and cycling) and public transport to staff and customers. If you use a vehicle as part of your business, there are opportunities to save, through reducing how much the vehicle is used, efficient driving techniques, and switching to electric vehicles.

The travel hierarchy of high to low emissions

Tips to reduce your transport emissions:

  • Staff

    Create a company travel policy that enourages staff to reduce travel where possible and proritise public transport and active travel options.

  • Guests

    Provide guests with clear information on your website and on-site on how to get to your business and around in the local area by public transport. Also include ideas and incentives to give the car a day off.

  • Electric vehicle charge points

    Provide charge points to make it easier for customers to make low carbon choices and offer a point of difference for your business. 

    Check out our EV charge point factsheet.

Transport emissions: Further advice and support

3. Food and drink

You can reduce your emissions by looking at the choices you make when buying, preparing, and promoting food and drink. For example:

  • how it's grown and produced
  • where it's coming from
  • how much food waste is produced 
  • how you promote sustainable food and drink to your customers

You can reduce food and drink emissions by:

Food & drink emissions: Further advice and support

4. Waste management

According to Zero Waste Scotland 80% of Scotland’s carbon emissions come from the heat and energy required to grow, make, process, transport, and provide goods and materials. That's why it's important to move to a circular economy where nothing is wasted. 

Find out more about Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme and other new legislation.

Previously, the focus has been on recycling materials, but we need to shift to thinking how we can cause less waste in the first place. Then we can consider how it could be reused, recycled, or re-purposed to be used again.

Ideas on how to reduce your waste:

  • Reducing packaging waste

    Work with your suppliers to remove unnecessary packaging for the goods you buy and cut out single use items in your business:

    • make returnable box arrangements 

    • use refillable containers, for example for toiletries, and where possible make these available to your customers, like reusuable water bottles or coffee cups. 

    • use packaging made from recycled and recyclable materials. 

    Check out our packaging waste factsheet.

  • Reducing food waste

    This will help cut your costs and emissions as it reduces the amount of food you buy and transport, the amount of energy you use to cook and serve, and the amount of waste you create. 

    Ways to avoid food waste can include: 

    • understand where your food waste comes from (prep waste, plate waste or spoilage) and how much you have.
    • menu design 

    • food storage 

    • portion control 

    Check out our food waste factsheet.

Waste management: Further advice and support

5. Identifying your actions

Now that you have a better idea where your emissions come from, started to measure them, and reviewed key areas you can act on to reduce your emissions, you are well on your way to having a climate action plan for your business.

Our 3.0 Climate action plan workbook provides you with the opportunity to record, prioritise, manage, and track progress on the goals and actions you have identified on your net zero journey. The action plan is most useful if it is reviewed on a regular basis and updated as you develop your understanding of your business emissions and the actions you can take.

3.0 Climate action plan workbook

Published March 2023