How to Calculate Your Office Building's Carbon Emissions

Reader Contribution by Staff

By now, lots of us have gone to the Web to calculate our carbon footprint. Here are just a few of the organizations with a tool that can help you determine your personal contributions to global warming: An Inconvenient Truth, Safe Climate, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

But did you know that you can also figure out the carbon emissions of your work place? According to Time magazine, heating, cooling and powering office buildings is responsible for nearly three-quarters of the electricity used in the United States! Personal carbon footprint calculators won’t help you determine the emissions of an office building, because different factors need to be taken into consideration. Examples include the number of people and computers in a building, the days and hours when it’s open, and the kinds of goods that may be bought and sold by your company.

The Green Office has a pretty great tool to help you figure it all out. It asks for all sorts of information, including how people commute to work, what the building is constructed from, and how much electricity, natural gas and water it uses. But the handiest feature of this tool is the ability to plug in averages in case you don’t have all that information at your fingertips. The Green Office sells carbon offset credits, so at the end it will display options for purchasing renewable energy or other offset projects. But you don’t have to buy anything to find out how many tons of CO2 your office produces each year. And if you do choose to purchase carbon offset credits, you have plenty of options. Native Energy and TerraPass are two well-known carbon offset vendors. Or check out this list of carbon offsets and how much they cost.

Once you’ve determined the emissions of your work place, compare that number to the national averages. The government’s Energy Star site maintains a list of average carbon dioxide emissions of American office buildings, per square foot and sorted by region. Energy Star can also help you set goals for reducing energy use with their Target Finder.

Additional Resources 

Consider purchasing office supplies and electronic equipment through Earth Moment. This shopping portal — co-owned by the publisher of Mother Earth News and Mother Earth Living — will help you compare prices at different online retailers, such as HP and Tech Depot. For every purchase your company makes, Earth Moment will make a donation to Carbon Fund, a leading carbon offset vendor. Best of all, this great service will cost your company absolutely zip! The only requirement is that whoever makes purchases for your office sign up with a login and password before buying anything.

Co-op America, a nonprofit whose mission is to ‘harness economic power to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society,’ has published a couple of helpful checklists of ways to lighten the environmental load of your office:  Green Your Office in 10 Easy Steps and Greening Your Office.

Here’s another checklist for greening the office: How to Green Your Work. This article from Treehugger includes resources for finding eco-friendly office furniture and supplies.

And check out another post from this blog: Reduce Computer Energy Use.