Becoming a more sustainable business begins with assessing the impacts of your business’s current operations and the resources used. Such assessments create a baseline from which you can work to improve on. Below you will find various assessments and tools for measuring waste streams, energy and water usage, and carbon footprints.
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A waste audit identifies waste generated by a business or facility and examines purchasing and materials management practices. By conducting a waste audit, a business can determine how it can best benefit from waste reduction and recycling efforts. By conducting a waste audit and implementing waste reduction and recycling efforts, your business can reduce costs associated with waste collection, removal, and disposal.
Three common approaches to waste assessments include records examination, facility walk-throughs, and waste sorts. The U.S. EPA has developed worksheets and instructions for conducting all three of these approaches: Instructions on Conducting Waste Assessments.
Also, your local waste hauler may have specific resources for conducting a waste audit.
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Wasted energy is wasted money, and every business has some degree of wasted energy. Reducing your business’s energy consumption and improving its energy efficiency saves energy and money, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and conserves water (as water is needed to generate energy). To effectively focus your efforts to save energy, you need to understand how your business uses energy. This can be done by conducting a facility walkthrough and reviewing your energy bills. Energy professionals and/or engineers can be hired to conduct an audit as well.
ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® is a free online tool provided by the U.S. EPA that can be used to benchmark the current energy and water use of your business or property. This tool allows you to track your building’s energy and water usage over time, and you can compare your building to similar buildings nationwide.
For help with the Portfolio Manager®, ENERGY STAR® has developed a playlist of demo videos, how-to guides, and live online training.
The Business Environmental Program (BEP) also provides a comprehensive ENERGY STAR® Action Workbook. This workbook provides instructions and advice for using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, determining your baseline usage, conducting a facility walkthrough, setting energy goals, creating and implementing an energy action plan, and evaluating the plan’s progress.
A Nevada-specific resource is NV Energy’s PowerShift - Business Energy Savings Guide. This guide provides information about energy-saving technologies and can help you identify areas for improvement.
Businesses emit greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane) in a variety of ways, including from powering their buildings, transporting materials and products, and manufacturing products. Businesses also indirectly emit greenhouse gases through waste disposal and employee travel. Measuring direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions will help you calculate your business’s carbon footprint. It is important to note that even though greenhouse gases are tied to energy usage, measuring your carbon footprint is different from conducting an energy audit. A carbon footprint measurement focuses on calculating the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from your business’s building and operations (usually in tons of carbon-equivalent emissions per year), whereas an energy audit looks at how energy is used by your business and identifies opportunities to reduce energy usage and increase savings. These two tools work together. As you implement energy saving practices and programs based on your energy audit, you can re-calculate your carbon footprint on a regular basis.
There are a variety of ways and tools to measure your greenhouse gas emissions. Different methodologies may be based on different assumptions and scopes, which will affect the results of the assessment. Working with a professional service can help you conduct a quality carbon footprint audit and gain accurate information. However, there are free tools available to help you gain a general understanding of your business's greenhouse gas emissions and look for ways to improve. One such tool is the CoolClimate Calculator for businesses developed by University of California, Berkeley.
Like energy, wasted water is wasted money. More importantly, we live in the most arid state in the nation. Water conservation is very important to Nevada’s future - especially for southern Nevada. WaterSense, a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. EPA, provides many useful resources for measuring water usage and conserving water.
WaterSense provides multiple assessment tools for commercial and industrial buildings. Two main assessments include the Simple Water Assessment Checklist and the WaterSense Sample Worksheets for Water Management Planning. The simple checklist can help your business quickly identify and target potential projects and best management practices, whereas the worksheet booklet provides in-depth information and instructions for measuring water usage.
In addition to these assessments, ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® can also be used to track water usage over time.
Auditing your business’s inventory is another way to identify unnecessary spending and waste. Tracking the usage of your inventory will help you identify areas of opportunity to reduce overstock or obsolete inventory that may end up in the trash.
One method of tracking your facility’s inventory and determining what levels of inventory you should have in stock involves using Periodic Automatic Replacement (PAR). A PAR can serve as an assigned number to a product that indicates it is time to reorder when that number is reached. This method will help keep ordering operations clear and consistent while reducing the potential for product to become expired, damaged, or lost.