Reducing Your Carbon Footprint At Work

At Work

For many companies, reducing greenhouse gas emissions benefits the bottom line because efficient practices reduce operating costs and help increase employee productivity.  In fact, a majority of U.S. workers would be more satisfied in a job where they can make a social or environmental impact on the world. A recent study shows millennials especially see businesses as potential partners in helping them make the world a better place.

Plenty of opportunities to save energy and enhance your workplace experience exist. No matter your title or role, you can help make your workplace a little greener and reduce emissions that are contributing to climate change.


Managing office equipment

According to the EPA, over 1.5 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions would be saved if every office product purchased in the U.S. was ENERGY STAR certified. That’s comparable to taking 158,000 cars off the road and worth more than $117 million in yearly energy costs! If you’re interested in promoting efficiency in your office, check out ENERGY STAR’s 6 ways to reduce IT energy costs, which offers ideas for easy changes and bigger, more organization-wide suggestions.

Purchasing office equipment

If you are responsible for buying supplies and equipment for your office, you can get the features and performance you want and still help reduce greenhouse gases and air pollutants. Look for ENERGY STAR computers, copiers, printers, lighting, heating and cooling equipment, appliances and more. The savings can be dramatic; an ENERGY STAR computer uses 30-65 percent less electricity than other computers. In fact, if all computers sold in the U.S. were certified, the efficiency would save $1 billion in annual energy costs and have emissions benefits equal to taking 1.4 million vehicles off the road.

To learn more about purchasing options, check out the New American Dream’s Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN), which offers helpful guidance on buying paper, office electronics, vehicles, and many other products.


Waste reduction makes good business sense because it can save your organization money through reduced purchasing and waste disposal costs.

A great place to start is the office kitchen, which is often a major source of waste. Easy ways to cut waste include:

  • Using reusable coffee mugs, glasses, plates, and silverware.
  • Purchasing compostable or high post-consumer waste content paper napkin and towel products.
  • Replacing bottled water with a tap filter, such as Pur or Brita.
  • Providing organic, Fair Trade coffee, tea, and cocoa. The Fair Trade organization prioritizes proper stewardship of natural resources and waste management practices for their farmers.
  • Replacing appliances with new ENERGY STAR appliances.

Looking to accomplish even more? The Environmental Protection Agency offers resources to help companies and employees manage their solid wastes. Potential waste reduction activities include changing purchasing practices, reusing, recycling, composting and more.

Americans made an estimated 459 million one-person trips for business in 2015.

Travel and Meetings

Twenty-seven percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation sources, including emissions generated by employees traveling for office-related business and commuting to and from their jobs.

Americans made an estimated 457 million one-person trips for business in 2016. Thirty-seven percent of these trips were to meetings and events. The environmental cost of the travel and meetings adds up. Fortunately, green travel options exist, such as opting for a hybrid rental car, purchasing carbon offsets to minimize business travel footprints, or staying in a green hotel. Green hotels cut solid waste and conserve water and energy through energy-efficient HVAC systems, energy-saving light bulbs, and green cleaning and laundry practices.

Companies of all sizes are increasingly turning to virtual meetings to find savings in time, cost, and increase productivity. You may not be able to forgo every business trip, but you can take a chunk out of your carbon footprint by opting to “meet” from the comfort of your office chair. Check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Conference Initiative to find tips on how to organize environmentally responsible meetings and events.


For most of us, our greatest work-related environmental impact takes place during the commute. The average person drives over 2,000 miles to and from work according to the 2009 National Household Travel Survey. Driving has a big impact on the climate; every gallon of fuel burned creates about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, so reducing the miles your vehicle travels can lead to significant emissions reductions. This can be done by taking public transit, biking to work, or working from home. These options can also reduce the stress of commuting and save you money.

Another way to lower our commuting impact is by carpooling. If each driver added one more person to their car the U.S. could save 33 million gallons of gas a day. Daily carpooling also reduces congestion, which makes every other vehicle on the road more efficient, and reduces the need for more lanes. The practice will also reduce vehicle wear and tear, and as an added benefit, using carpool lanes can drastically cut down on commute time.

Many companies have commuting programs to connect employees with each other, and some even reward carpooling and public transit use by offering employee incentives. Most metropolitan regions have a system for connecting carpoolers. Start at a free national service connecting commuters and travelers, ZimRide for companies, or visit The Rideshare Company.

The federal government has several employer-focused programs to reduce the environmental impacts of employee commutes. Commuter Choice is a partnership between the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designed to help employers create customized solutions to their employees’ commuting challenges. The program works with communities to engage their residents, schools to engage their students, and even developers to engage their future tenants, all to provide commuting choices for everyone.

Another initiative is the Workplace Charging Challenge, a program run by the Department of Energy to promote clean commuting. The challenge is open to U.S. employers with the aim of having them provide charging for a portion of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) driving employees. As of January 2016, already 250 employers have joined in as Challenge partners, representing 600 workplaces and 5,500 charging stations for nearly 1 million people. The Challenge seeks to hit 500 employers by 2018.

Getting Involved

Getting involved in sustainable activities at work can be a fun and easy way to improve your own skills and expertise, and can even help improve your co-worker relationships by working together on a cause bigger than the bottom line.

Consider joining or starting a company Green Team to reduce environmental impacts, improve sustainability, communicate best practices, and coordinate company education or volunteer programs. You could even challenge your green team members to pledge to take simple steps that could save each of you $400 a year and prevent the release of more than 4,800 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

C2ES provides research and solutions for business and policy leaders and tips, tools and resources so individuals can be more sustainable at work, at home and in the community.

Check out our resources to help you engage your community:

C2ES thanks the Alcoa Foundation for its support, which allowed us to develop our Reduce Your Carbon Footprint content. This important work is helping people take action to tackle the climate challenge. As a fully independent organization, C2ES is solely responsible for its positions, programs, and publications.