How to calculate your carbon footprint in a shared office space

By Vanessa Rauland and Leona Mrackova

So you want to know your carbon footprint, but you share an office? Read on to hear some tips about how to go about it.

You’ve read (or at least heard about!) the latest IPCC report and the dire and iminent consequences of climate inaction and you’re ready to step up and do your bit. Awesome! Your first step is to calculate your company’s operational carbon footprint to set a baseline.  It’s here that you hit your first stumbling block - you share an office with other companies and organisations... 

How on earth do you measure that?

We often get asked this by businesses who join our ClimateClever Business Platform. The great news is, you are sharing resources and commodities, which is already a good step forward.

But how do you measure shared resources if you rent a space? Below are a few options to get you started on your carbon reduction journey:

1. Ask for a clear breakdown of your lease agreement 

To measure your carbon footprint, you need access to utility bill information and other data. This can be tricky when you share an office, as tenants often only see their office rent in their invoice or it provides a single line for utility costs, without any more information. It is not always clear what utility bills are included (i.e. water, electricity, waste), how much has been assigned to your company and how it’s been worked out. 

If you are unclear about which utilities are included, email your landlord/office manager and ask. You have a right to know how they are allocating your proportion of utility costs to you. Ideally, your office should be sub-metered. Ask if you can have a copy of the bill, as you need to know the actual consumption (i.e. amount of kWh of electricity, KL of water, tonnes of waste etc). You can always work out your proportion later. 

If they say they can’t provide it, ask them why and how they aportion your usage. They need to provide evidence of how they are estimating your usage. Tenancy agreements generally require that landlords include a calculation in the lease about how the costs will be worked out. So ask! It’s especially unfair, if you go ahead and upgrade appliances, do retrofits and make behaviour changes to increase your efficiency, with the expectation that this will lower your costs but don’t see any reduction or reward!

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2. Working out your share of the bills

If your Landlord provides you with the overall utility bill for the building or floor, you then need to determine what your contribution is to it. This can be worked out based on either a per staff calculation or on a floor space calculation. For the staff based calculation, you’ll need to understand how many FTE staff are in the building/floor that is captured in the bill, and how many of them are your staff. For example, there may be multiple tenants, with multiple staff. All together, you might have 15 of 150 FTE staff. Therefore, the equation is:

Utility bill / number of total staff in the building (or floor) X your number of staff = your contribution

In NABERs, they look at desk spaces, which provides a similar outcome.

If you know how much space you rent (i.e. the ‘net lettable area’), you can also look into dividing the bill based on the floor space you occupy. Make sure you know what area the bill is covering (i.e. a whole building, several floors, one floor or even a section of a floor).Therefore, if you know the total floor area (square meters) and the m2 you occupy, the equation is similar to above:

Utility bill / total floor area X your floor area = your contribution

Remember, if you discover your landlord has simply divided a bill by the number of tenants/area but you’re reducing the building's overall consumption - try and speak with your landlord/office manager to see how you can measure that. You’ll need this breakdown to demonstrate your carbon reduction AND you should also get to share in savings!

3. Measuring waste - now there’s a challenge!

Splitting up an electricity bill is one thing...trying to figure out your waste contribution is a whole other challenge. Waste going to landfill contributes to methane emissions, one of the most greenhouse gas intensive sources, so tackling this is important! 

If you share an office, you will probably discover that there are a bunch of skip bins in the basement/parking lot, which is where all the tenant's waste ends up. As you can imagine, trying to figure out how much of the waste in the skip bins comes from your office is going to be tricky. However, not insurmountable! If you are planning to implement waste actions in your office, surely you want to know how successful they are?! In order to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions from waste, you need to know the stream type (i.e. general waste versus recycling etc.) and the weight of the waste. 

However, finding out the weight data - even for businesses who have a straight forward skip bin pick up - is sometimes hard as not every waste provider provides weight data. At the very least, you need to know the bin volume, which can be converted to weight. 

The good news is - even in a shared office, you’ll probably have your own bins. One (more rigorous) option is to measure the weight of the bins before they get emptied. If this happens every night by cleaners, it’s possibly a tough ask. It requires purchasing a scale or weighing machine AND asking the cleaners or a very dedicated staff member.

Another, less accurate - but more achievable option, is to just use the volume of the bins being emptied from your part of the office (you might need to take a portion of a kitchen if that is shared).

Fortunately, our ClimateClever App has both data entry options. It also allows you to select how full your bins are, which is important for weight conversion. Our ClimateClever App converts the volume to weight for you. If you can get someone to glance their eyes over the bins each night before they go home for a week or two, you can use that as an average. Of course, as you start to implement your waste reduction strategies, you want to keep an eye on it. Hopefully you start to see those bins becoming less full, which you can then change in the app to reflect the decreasing waste heading to landfill.

If you don’t have recycling in the office, this may be one of the first actions you try to implement. However, in a shared office, you may want to see if a few other tenants want to join in to make it financially viable. If you get interest from your tenant buddies, you can also approach your landlord and ask them if they would organise it for the whole building!

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4. No bills?

What if you cannot get access to any bills at all? Or maybe just your water usage or electricity? What now?

We need to be putting pressure on landlords and building managers to be more transparent AND to help to upgrade buildings. If they aren’t willing to do that, maybe they don’t deserve your business! Maybe start to consider whether you can move to a more sustainable building…

Alternatively, feel free to reach out to our friendly team to discuss your unique situation. 

5. Become a leader! Get your fellow tenants on board too

This is where you can really make a difference! Why not use this whole exercise as a way to become a sustainability champion not only in your company but for your entire building! If you’ve had to approach your landlord re: bills, they are already aware that you are trying to calculate your carbon footprint. Start a campaign to get other companies in your building to join in too. This can be a great networking opportunity within your office and you can even start communal actions, such as recycling, turning off lights, upgrading appliances together, co-purchasing e-bikes etc. It's a great way to get to know your neighbours too! Whole-building initiatives can be far easier (and more effective!) than going it alone. 

So don’t be daunted about the process. No matter where you work, or what your office situation is, there are actions you can take.  To find out how you can begin your carbon neutral journey, book a demo of our  Business App and see how easy it is to get started. 


References:

CitySwitch

Environmental Research Communications

IPCC

NABERS

WSP

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