Reducing Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions is one of the most impactful ways for companies to increase their sustainability efforts, achieve net zero, and combat climate change. Emissions can be divided into three different categories – scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 emissions result from the direct activities of your company, e.g., fuel used by facilities and vehicles that your company owns or operates. Scope 2 emissions result from the generation of procured electricity your company consumes, e.g., electricity and steam. Scope 3 emissions come from indirect sources in your company’s supply chain, e.g., purchased raw goods, distribution and transportation, employee commuting, use of sold products, and end of life treatment. So, how can you reduce your Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions? In this article, we’ll explore 12 ways.
How to Reduce Scope 1 Emissions
Since your Scope 1 emissions result from the direct actions of your organization, reducing them requires transforming how you operate. To cut your Scope 1 emissions, consider these four options:
1. Reduce your energy consumption
There are many small actions you can take to reduce the energy consumption of your facilities and buildings. For example:
- Unplug appliances whenever possible at the end of the day to reduce plug load (which can make up approximately 30 percent of electricity use in office settings!)
- Power down computers and other electronic equipment at night
- Run fans to keep air flowing throughout the space – this helps the HVAC system run more efficiently
2. Increase your energy efficiency
Energy efficiency and emissions reduction go hand in hand. For example, The Home Depot reduced carbon emissions by more than 127,000 metric tons in 2020 by installing LED lighting, using building-automation systems, energy-efficient heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems. Here’s four ways to increase your organization’s energy efficiency:
- Add new (or more) insulation – Many buildings lose a great deal of energy via air leaks and heat transfer. Adding or replacing insulation can help prevent energy loss and significantly reduce your emissions.
- Install ENERGY STAR certified appliances – ENERGY STAR gives its certification to appliances and products that meet its rigorous energy efficiency standards. Click here to see a full list of ENERGY STAR products for businesses.
- Get an audit on your building(s) – To get a thorough understanding of your building’s energy usage, you may want to get a professional energy audit from a certified professional who will provide you the with guidance you need to make changes. Make sure to get professionally certified inspectors with an ASHRAE or CEM certification. Such inspectors can use thermal imaging tools to identify areas of your facility that are losing energy through heat, which can help identify air leaks and inefficient manufacturing equipment. They can also inspect your insulation, HVAC system, and lighting systems.
- Upgrade your HVAC system – the HVAC, or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, uses much of the energy in your building – The U.S. Small Business Administration notes that HVAC equipment accounts for 40 percent of energy usage in commercial buildings. Thus, it is essential that your HVAC is up to date and running efficiently.
3. Switch from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives
Replacing coal boilers with natural gas and switching any company vehicles to electric are just a few of the ways that you can reduce or eliminate your use of fossil fuels in operations. For example, Frito-Lay North America uses more than 150 fully-electric vehicles (EVs), the largest commercial fleet of EV trucks in the US. Since the EV program began in 2010, they have eliminated the need for approximately 1.2 million gallons of diesel fuel, equivalent to keeping more than 2,100 passenger cars off the road for a year.
4. Purchase carbon offsets
Take this option with a grain of salt: Carbon offsets have come under fire (most recently by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver) for being an easy out for companies looking to claim they are sustainable while taking little tangible action. Heavy use of carbon offsets could get your organization accused of greenwashing.
However, for companies whose operations don’t allow them to eliminate all Scope 1 emissions – even with equipment upgrades – carbon offsets are still an option. In essence, a carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made to compensate for emissions made by your company. Every ton of emissions reduced results in the creation of one carbon offset. When corporations purchase carbon offsets, the money is used to finance projects that otherwise wouldn’t have been built without that investment. Carbon offset projects include forest preservation, energy efficiency projects and landfill methane capture.
How to Reduce Scope 2 Emissions
To recap, Scope 2 emissions are caused by purchasing energy that is generated by “brown power,” or power generated by burning fossil fuels. There are four main ways to reduce Scope 2 emissions:
1. Purchase renewable energy credits (RECs)
Renewable energy credits are tradable, non-tangible commodities that represent proof that 1 MWh of electricity was generated from a renewable energy resource and was then fed into the shared system of power lines that transport energy. Renewable energy credits are produced when a renewable energy source (wind, solar, hydroelectric, etc.) generates one MWh of electricity and sends it to the grid. For example, if an onshore solar power facility produces 5 MWh of electricity, they have 5 renewable energy credits that they can either sell or keep.
Companies may purchase renewable energy credits along with their electricity, and the RECs certify that a certain amount of the electricity was from a renewable source. Renewable energy credits may be a good fit for your company if you are facing difficulties with implementing efficiency projects or don’t have the capital to install an on-site renewable source, like solar panels.
2. Enter into off-site power purchase agreements (PPAs)
Offsite power purchase agreements are renewable energy contracts between a project developer and a company, where the renewable energy installation is not sited at the location of the company’s electricity usage. PPAs can deliver the energy physically to a company through the grid or can be financially settled transactions (i.e., virtual PPA or vPPA). Off-site PPAs are valuable for large companies where on-site renewable installations alone cannot provide enough energy. Click here for a deeper dive into off-site PPAs.
3. Generate renewable energy on-site with distributed energy resources (DERs)
In contrast to off-site power purchase agreements, there is on-site renewable energy generation, which often takes the form of DERs. Rooftop solar panels are the most common and fastest-growing type of DER, but other types also exist, like electric vehicles (EVs), small-scale hydroelectric dams and natural gas generators, biodigesters, and battery storage. Currently, DERs make up a small percentage of energy generation, but are becoming more common. Several factors are driving this growth, e.g., lower technology costs and government policies requiring companies to reduce emissions. Besides reducing emissions, the benefits of distributed energy resources include lower-cost energy and improved energy resilience.
4. Utilize green tariffs
Green tariffs are programs in regulated electricity markets offered by utilities that allow large commercial and industrial customers to buy bundled renewable electricity from a specific project through a special utility tariff rate. With green tariffs, utilities supply your company with up to 100 percent renewable power from either projects that they own or independent power producers in the region. Green tariff programs tend to vary in the way the utility procures green power for your company. Green tariffs increase companies’ ability to access green power. In addition, they provide price predictability and potential cost savings on electricity and the ability to point to a specific, often local, renewable energy project as the source of your electricity.
How to Reduce Scope 3 Emissions
Scope 3 emissions are the emissions that your company is responsible for outside of its own operations – e.g., the goods you purchase from suppliers and the disposal of the products you sell. According to the GHG Protocol, most corporate emissions come from Scope 3 sources. Here’s four ways to curb your Scope 3 emissions:
1. Collect data on your Scope 3 emissions
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Having accurate, quality data on your Scope 3 emissions allows you to set and achieve your emission reduction goals. To help corporations measure Scope 3 emissions, the GHG Protocol has developed the Scope 3 Standard, which enables companies to account for emissions from 15 categories of Scope 3 activities, both up and downstream of their operations. The Scope 3 framework also supports strategies to partner with suppliers and customers to address climate impacts throughout the value chain.
2. Provide aid to suppliers in their sustainability journey
Since the emissions of your company’s suppliers help make up your Scope 3 emissions, it is important that you work with your suppliers to help them adapt more sustainable production practices. For example, Apple announced in 2019 that it has expanded outreach and education for its suppliers on procuring renewables and uses a “Clean Energy Portal” designed to help them find solar and wind resources. In addition, retail giant Walmart launched an initiative called Project Gigaton in 2017. The initiative challenged its suppliers to cut more than 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of their operations by 2030. In April 2019, Walmart announced that participating suppliers had conserved a whopping 93 million metric tons of emissions through a combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable packaging projects since the initiative’s launch.
3. Encourage employees to utilize sustainable transportation options
Now that the COVID-19 situation has improved, many employees are back to working in-person, which means more cars on the roads. Since employee commuting contributes to your company’s Scope 3 emissions, you should work to reduce the number of employees driving individual cars to work each day. Consider starting a carpool program, giving your employees stipends for public transportation, or offering a hybrid work schedule so employees do not have to commute each day.
4. Whenever possible, make your products and packaging recyclable
Fact: Solid waste contributes directly to greenhouse gas emissions through the generation of methane from the anaerobic decay of waste in landfills, and the emission of nitrous oxide from solid waste combustion facilities. Both greenhouse gases have high global warming potential: Methane has 21 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide has 310 times the warming potential.
Your company can help reduce the waste that ends up in landfills by making its packaging and products recyclable or reusable. Recycling helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption and the amount of waste decaying in landfills. In addition, using recycled materials to make new products reduces the need for virgin materials. This avoids greenhouse gas emissions that would result from extracting or mining virgin materials.
How WatchWire Can Help Your Company Reduce Its Emissions
When it comes to reducing your Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, an energy and sustainability management platform can be invaluable, giving you actionable insights and data to help you see where and how your emissions are produced and how you can reduce them. WatchWire is a cloud-based, integrated energy and sustainability management platform that can:
- Calculate and track your facility’s energy use and Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 3 emissions calculation and tracking is coming soon!).
- Assist you with green energy procurement, including PPAs, renewable energy credits, and green tariffs.
- Measure and verify your energy efficiency initiatives to ensure they are performing as expected.
To discover more about WatchWire and its capabilities, you can visit our website, blog, or resource library, request a demo, or follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter to keep up-to-date on the latest energy and sustainability insights, news, and resources.
Climate Change and Waste – CT.gov
Climate Change, Recycling and Waste Prevention – KingCounty.gov