Understand your business emissions
1) What causes emissions
Direct carbon emissions produced by farming include:
- chemical fertilisers – used on crops
- methane – released by livestock manure
- land use change – clearing natural habitats such as woodland
- soil-based emissions – caused by regular tilling and soil compaction
- energy use – for lighting and heating in farm buildings
- transport – using vehicles and tractors which run on petrol or diesel
- general waste – resulting from farming processes and product packaging
2) Calculate your emissions
There are a number of farm-specific tools to help measure emissions. These include:
- Cool Farm Alliance greenhouse gas calculator (free)
- Farm Carbon Calculator toolkit (free)
- agrecalc (free trial available to farmers)
3) Estimate the cost of your emissions
Once you have your carbon footprint, you can calculate how much your emissions are costing you. This will give you an idea of potential savings you can make by taking action.
4) Sign up to the SME climate commitment
Make a climate declaration to show customers you are committed to reducing emissions.
1) Support in your sector
You can get guidance from the following organisations:
- National Farmers’ Union (NFU) – provides net zero advice and networking opportunities. You have to pay annual membership
- Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) – offers guidance on sustainable farming, as well as courses and events. Membership is free.
- Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) – promotes sustainable food and farming
- The Soil Association – membership charity for sustainable food, farming and land use
- UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – provides funding for developing innovative products, processes or services in the food industry.
- Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is a membership organisation for owners of land, property and businesses in rural England and Wales.
- Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) delivers projects that increase productivity and boost farming and supply chain businesses.
You can also learn how to run your business in a more environmentally friendly way by hiring a sustainability consultant
2) Support in your region
Invest Northern Ireland offers advice on how to operate more efficiently. Support includes:
- consultancy for energy and waste management strategies and recommendations
- resource matching service to manage waste and reduce costs
- investment funding for energy saving equipment
Actions you can take right now
1) Save energy in your buildings
Quick, low-cost measures include:
- lighting – use LED bulbs for greater efficiency
- heating – put your thermostat on a timer and seal your windows for extra insulation
- office equipment – try to turn off and unplug devices when they’re not being used
2) Do an energy walk-round
Walk around your farm to see if energy is being used efficiently.
Prepare a checklist. Look out for wasteful energy use and maintenance issues in the following areas:
- lighting, heating and refrigeration systems
- water heating
- milk cooling
- water pumps
Routine maintenance checks and cleaning will improve the efficiency of your ventilation system.
3) Change your energy tariff
Switch to a green energy tariff with your energy supplier. This will reduce your reliance on energy produced by fossil fuels.
4) Switch to a smart meter
This will allow you to see and control how much energy you use. Find out more
5) Manage your waste
Recycle waste to prevent it being taken to landfill sites where it takes longer to break down and causes more emissions.
Longer term actions
1) Reducing livestock emissions
If you have livestock on your farm, you can cut methane emissions by :
- feeding cattle based on their nutrient needs
- focusing on herd health and breeding practices to improve production efficiency
- using manure storage covers, sealed tanks and additives to break down manure
On a dairy farm, a Plate Heat Exchanger can reduce energy costs for cooling milk by up to 50%. Using water to pre-cool milk can reduce cooling costs by 30%.
In a milking parlour, installing a variable speed drive on a vacuum pump can reduce pump running costs by 60%.
2) Reducing soil emissions
To reduce soil-based emissions and improve soil quality, use cover crops. Avoid:
- regular tilling
- grazing and travelling on wet soil
- compacting the soil with heavy machinery
3) Installing renewables
If you are the legal owner of your property, you might consider installing renewable sources of energy.
By doing so, you can make significant long-term savings on energy bills.
Check planning permission guidelines before you go ahead with any structural changes to the property.
4) Reducing transport emissions
Over 25% of the UK’s carbon emissions are caused by transport. You can take measures to reduce the impact.
If you have employees you could introduce a cycle-to-work initiative or encourage them to take public transport.
If you use a work vehicle, you can reduce emissions by switching over to an electric vehicle (EV). You would be exempt from road tax, congestion charges and parking fees in certain areas.
For easy overnight charging you could install EV chargers at your home or workplace. A government grant scheme covers up to £350 per charging point.
Transporting refrigerated goods
5) Sustainable product packaging
Replace plastic with recycled or compostable substitutes.
Types of sustainable packing include:
- plant-based packaging
- edible packaging – made from seaweed extract
- compostable and biodegradable plastic alternatives
- plantable packaging – which is made from seeds and can be buried in soil
6) Selling carbon credits
You can capture carbon emissions from the air by planting woodland on your property.
You can then sell each tonne of captured carbon as carbon credits to:
- large companies looking to offset their carbon footprint
- the government (England only)
To reduce indirect or ‘supply chain’ emissions you need to consider what happens before and after your business provides a service or makes a product.
1) Choose greener ‘upstream’ suppliers and products
- use suppliers that measure and reduce carbon
- help your suppliers with carbon reduction projects
- buy products that take less energy to make, transport and operate
2) Reduce emissions ‘downstream’ of your business
- make products that take less energy to make, transport and operate
- reduce water consumption and waste disposal needs
- make investments in lower carbon financial products
- give incentives for lower emission activities in leased assets or franchises
3) Certify your supply chain action
The Carbon Trust offers the following verification schemes:
Share your progress
Sharing your progress will help employees and customers feel confident that you’re reducing carbon and moving towards net zero.
You should share your progress once you’ve done both of the following:
- worked out a benchmark of emissions
- started to take action