By Sherry M. Adler, freelance writer

Inefficient processes are at the root of your carbon footprint. Use process improvement tools – such as Lean Six Sigma or Kaizen — to trim the level of energy, water and other resources you use.

Think of each item on this list as a process that may benefit from improvement. These concepts come from Catherine Reeves, a manager of Environmental, Health, Safety & Sustainability at Xerox. She refers to them as “sustainability opportunities,” which can reduce your waste and emissions and cut your costs too.

“Reducing your carbon footprint is never-ending,” notes Catherine. “New processes arise. Changes occur. What’s more, one innovation and idea often fosters another.”

ENERGY: How can you reduce your energy use and the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that create your “carbon footprint?” Think about lighting, equipment and space as a start.

12 Sure-Fire Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

1.    Light right. Turn off or adjust display lighting in vending machines. Don’t forget about energy-efficient light bulbs and white paint (or other reflective colors) on you walls. Is your furniture blocking any sources of light?

2.    Sunny side up. Glaze your windows and skylights to maximize natural sunlight. Consider solar panels on your southern exposures.

3.    Standardize shifts. Does the cleaning team really have to come in at night?

WASTE: What can you do to prevent generating waste in the first place? Reuse or recycle the byproducts of office and manufacturing operations. Engage suppliers and customers in these efforts too.

4.    Got waste? Don’t landfill. Find a supplier that turns your waste into energy.

5.    Reply.Help customers return spent supplies via postage-paid stickers, shipping cartons.Work with local organizations for customers to drop off recyclables to lower fuel usage and GHG emissions associated with shipping.

6.    Repurpose.Design your products for re-manufacture and retrofit whenever possible. Understand why you generate waste from processes and design it “out.”

MATERIALS: The watchword is “less.”

7.    Think upstream.Help your suppliers achieve environmentally responsible operations, products, and services. Factor shipping locations  and shipping mode when you choose suppliers.

8.    Size up the situation downward. Consolidate operations and eliminate storage space.Reduce materials and packaging in your products; avoid single-serve sizes.

AIR EMISSIONS: Which business processes can you optimize? Take vehicles into account too.

9.    Beat the clock. Trim cycle time in manufacturing operations to lower energy and GHGs.

10.  Breathe easy. Combat indoor air pollution with “air filtering plants.”

GENERAL: Go social, look upward and onward.

11.  Partner for good.Adapt your work processes to cloud computing. Gain collective experience from organizations, e.g., Business for Social Responsibility, U.S. Climate Action Network, Business Roundtable Climate RESOLVE. Seek third-party assessments to keep you on top of your sustainability game, e.g., ISO 14001, ISO 5001.

12.  Pledge allegiance.Set targets and milestones; then meet or beat them.

No such list can be comprehensive; you have surely found more opportunities, and you will find more. Share your best ideas in the comments section below.