Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change

Resources to Reduce Your Business Emissions

Simple Actions with Big Results


Understand Your Emissions

Calculate your carbon footprint

Reduce Resource Waste

How can you reduce waste in your operations?

Go Electric

Consider options to transition to clean fuel

Employee Engagement

Involve your employees in your efforts to reduce emissions

Renewable Energy

Can you incorporate renewable energy into your operations?

Talk About Your Efforts

Be a voice for change!

Understand your greenhouse gas emissions

In order to optimize efficiency, businesses must first quantify their emissions and determine their sources. Businesses create greenhouse gas emissions through both consumption and production because they create products and services that generate emissions after the point of sale; emissions fall into the following categories:

  • Scope 1 are emissions generated on site, such as from using natural gas to heat a facility or driving a corporate vehicle;
  • Scope 2 are the indirect emissions associated with purchased electricity, heat or steam; or
  • Scope 3 includes other indirect emissions such as emissions associated with purchased supplies, business travel, employee commuting, and the use of goods sold. For a more complete list and discussion of Scope 3, see here or here.screenshot of carbon calculator

Large businesses typically deploy a team of staff or consultants to calculate and track corporate emissions. Smaller entities can start by using an online calculator to estimate emissions. As illustrated in the image to the right, this calculator estimates Scope 1 and 2 emissions along with specific Scope 3 categories. 

Getting to net zero is a process. As part of this process you will need to examine your supply chain and work with suppliers to reduce the emissions associated with the goods you buy. And you will also want to think about the life cycle of the products you create. Can you, for example, make it easier for consumers to recycle your product?

Eliminating all emissions is rarely possible. Fortunately, companies can further reduce their environmental foot print by purchasing carbon offsets. Learn more about carbon offsets via the 2020 Nelson Institute Earth Day webinar series for businesses


Reduce Resource Waste

Business use resources to create valuable products and services. Businesses thrive when they match the resources used to the products sold. Likewise, business are most profitable when they don't use more energy or water than necessary for operations. Optimizing resource use reduces your operating costs and improves profitability. Below are resources to help business maximize their efficiency and reduce waste:

  • Focus on Energy is the state's energy efficiency and renewable energy program. Their experts can help you identify opportunities to save energy and also connect you to incentives that will reduce the cost of investing in more energy efficient options. To start, take the Small Business Online Assessment; answer a few questions and receive recommendations on how to cut waste in your operations.
  • The Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council (WSBC) has a Green Masters program, which includes a checklist that can help you identify savings opportunities. They are also now offering 21st Century Pathways, a five-day hands-on workshop where you can develop a sustainability plan that estimates returns on investment.
  • Sustain Dane offers an Accelerate Sustainability workshops that can support your efforts to identify and address opportunities.
  • Wisconsin Clean Cities can help you identify ways to make your corporate fleet more efficient. 
  • PACE Wisconsin is a financing program that provides cash-flow positive financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy projects. Learn more about the benefits of PACE via this fact sheet.

For more discussion on strategies to manage resource use, check out the business-specific webinars that were part of this year's Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference. 


Go Electric

Ten years ago almost three-quarters of Wisconsin's electricity came from coal but by 2050 experts predict that our electricity will be 100% renewable. Electricity is an increasingly clean fuel, which means transitioning activities, such as heating buildings, or moving goods, from fossil fuels to electricity can reduce corporate emissions.

Electrify the Corporate Fleet

One way to reduce emissions is to transition your light-duty vehicles from gasoline to hybrid electric or battery-electric options. Wisconsin Clean Cities has resources to help you calculate savings and identify vehicles that will work for you.

All Electric Buildings Are the Path to Net Zero

If you are considering a new facility, explore opportunities to be net zero energy or net zero carbon. An all-electric facility with on-site renewable energy can be net zero energy while a highly efficient facility that utilizes off-site renewable energy or carbon offsets can achieve net zero carbon status. Businesses are already making this transition with geothermal technology - learn more here. We highlight some aspects of both options, along with resources, in this primer. For more details on building a net zero building, check out the City of Eau Claire's Net Zero Design Guide.


Employee Engagement

Your employees are a critical part of your operations; be sure to involve them in your efforts to reduce emissions! 

  • Employees have good ideas and often find opportunities to reduce waste about which management is unaware.
  • They care. Significant percentages of Gen X and Gen Z employees even select an employer based on their environmental efforts.
  • They want to help. More than 8 in 10 employees say that they want to help their employer be more sustainable.
  • Their actions matter. From commuting patterns to the decisions they make every day as part of their work, employee actions affect your ability to reduce emissions.
Initiate a green team

Initiating a green team is a great way to engage employees. Sustain Dane offers a Green Team Roundtable where your team can connect to other Green Teams, to share ideas and build momentum.

For examples of ways other organizations leverage green teams, check out the case studies on the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council website.

Help employees travel less

Employee travel contributes to your emissions, including both employee commuting and travel to attend meetings and other work-related events. Take action to reduce both kinds of emissions:

  • Encourage more virtual connections and less travel, which reduces both your emissions and operating costs. During the pandemic many businesses are discovering that virtual meetings are just as effective as in-person meetings, especailly for sales calls.
  • Help employees move past the single-occupancy vehicle commute. Encourage telecommuting where it is feasible, but also encourage carpools, biking or walking and using transit. These alternatives can reduce employee stress and improve employee performance, all while reducing emissions.

COVID-19 has prompted a lot of individuals and companies to re-think their travel habits. This is a great time to work with your employees to establish a new normal that is healthier, less stressful, and better for the environment.

Facilitate good workplace decisions

Every day your employees make hundreds or even thousands of decisions that affect your business. Will they turn off lights and equipment when not in use? Will they toss the paper in the nearby trash can or find a recycling bin? Will they seek out suppliers that meet your green critieria? 

To facilitate good workplace decisions make it easy for people to make smart choices. A clearly-labeled recycling bin makes separate items that can be recyled easy. Clear messages about equipment usage (e.g., "always turn off your monitor if you'll be away from your desk for five minutes or more") clear up any confusion about what to do. Then, celebrate success; simple acknowledgements can reinforce important habits. Thank a colleague for turning off the lights as you leave the conference room or provide treats for a team that's doing a great job recycling. Your acknowledgement will reinforce good habits and encourage others to adopt those habits as well.

You can also influence what employees do by creating social norms around those practices. To learn more, check out the webinars on the Cool Choices website. 


Renewable Energy

In addition increasing efficiency, you can power your operations with renewable energy. You can achieve this by:

  1. Installing a renewable energy system at your facility, or
  2. Buying renewable energy from your utility

Learn more below to decide which opportunity is best for your business.

Install a renewable energy system at your facility

Although most organizations typically install solar electric (photovoltaic) systems when transitioning to renewable energy, a wind turbine might also be an option if you are in a rural setting within Dane County.

Multiple private solar installers are active in Dane County. See a list of vendors from the Solar Energy Industries Association. The Midwest Renewable Energy Association's annual Energy Fair is a great opportunity to talk to installers and learn about renewable energy technologies. And if your business is in Madison, the MadiSUN program is a great resource. Additionally, Focus on Energy also offers information and some incentives for solar energy projects.

Check out our Clean Energy Map to learn a bit about other organizations in Dane County that have already installed solar energy systems. 

Farmers may be interested in AgriSolar options where solar panels co-exist with farming operations. 

This is a good time to consider renewable energy because of the funding available under the Inflation Reduction Act

Buy green power

An organization can also opt to purchase green power from your utility for a small premium. This option works well for organizations that rent their space or have facilities that are not suitable for solar. Learn more about your utility's green power offerings:

In our Climate Action Plan we set a goal of 1200 MW of solar installed in Dane County by 2030. Whether you install a system on your own house or buy green power from your utility, you are helping us achieve this important goal.



Talking About Your Efforts

Talking about your emissions reduction strategies is critical. When businesses talk about their efforts, customers and employees listen. Almost 7 in 10 people in the US and Canada prefer sustainable brands. More, research shows that consumers follow through on this purchase and are more likely to buy sustainable products. Similarly, your employees care about what you are doing; more than 8 in 10 employees want to work for a company that's environmentally and socially responsible.

Your story can help motivate other businesses to do more. So talk about your efforts! While you're at it, we're happy to talk up your efforts and use you as an example for others, so submit a story to us. After all, that's how we make change happen.