Ask Me Anythings
August 6, 2022

Raquel Noboa, Founder of FiftyShadesGreener

Raquel earned an Ecotourism Diploma from the University of Washington, however her approach to green hospitality and sustainability in business is very different to what other green programmes might offer. Her training is based on simple actions that will help reduce the use of energy, water and waste at a business, a festival or a community group.

Raquel believes in small wins and going at your own pace, because 'going green' should not make people jump through hoops. It is about understanding the environmentally sound options that are available and applying them in a way that make sense to each individual business. Start small - win big and THEN look at possible investment projects to become even more sustainable.

Contrary to the perception of many business owners, Raquel firmly believes that becoming a sustainable business will not only reduce the carbon footprint of that company, but it will also reduce their utility bills and improve their bottom line.

Many startups are very committed to sustainability but some have concerns about the costs and resources needed to become more sustainable. How best can they address these concerns?

The surprising thing about sustainability is that it does not have to cost money, yes, you will need to invest some time on developing your environmental skills and action plans, but if done correctly, becoming a sustainable business can save you a lot of money rather than costing you. For me, it all start with becoming resource efficient, only using the resources we need to run the business. 3 simple areas to start with are energy, water and waste, if you reduce them, you will be reducing your business impact on the planet, reduce your carbon emissions and save money off your utility bills. Once some savings have been generated, you can re-invest them on bigger projects that might require capital expenditure.

Are there any resources you would recommend to a startup to start to track or measure their carbon footprint? And then in what ways can a startup use these metrics in their marketing efforts or when applying for grants?

Carbon emissions are calculated in 3 scopes, scope 1 & 2 are direct emissions from the building that the business operates from, scope 3 are indirect emissions from materials or suppliers of the business. I always recommend starting with scope 1 & 2, these are emissions generated by using energy (lighting, equipment, transport), waste and water. All the information we need about those resources is on our utility bills, so the very first step would be to get all your office utility bills together for the past year and spend some time analysing them. How many kWh of electricity did you use each month? How many KG of landfill, food and recycling waste did you generate per month? And how many M3 of water you used per month. Those are your green indicators. There are many carbon calculators online were you can enter this information to measure your emissions, but if anyone wants to do this they can email me on and I will give them a set of excel charts they can use to enter their utilities information and the charts will calculate their emissions automatically.

Then for marketing, once you have calculated your Green KPIs and carbon emissions, create a Green Page on your website and publish your results, outline these is the starting point of your green journey and set goals to reduce your utilities (for example "in the next 6 months we aim to reduce our energy use by 10% by switching to LED lighting and becoming more energy efficient by training our team"). Goals need to be measurable and time bound. Publishing your environmental data will offer credibility to anyone visiting your website, it provides transparency and honesty so regardless how good or bad your numbers are, I would encourage everyone to make them public.

I was wondering what your inspiration was behind setting up FiftyShadesGreener?

Building a culture of sustainability is challenging as not everyone feels the same about climate change. I always recommend that top level management needs to demonstrate they are committed and that sustainability is top of their agenda from the beginning. Many employees will be delighted to work for a company that cares about sustainability and will get involved no questions asked. I would get them to form a Green Team and allow them time to have Green Meetings were they can all come up with initiatives to reduce the business environmental impact. Also to give them ownership of their ideas and allow them time to implement them. For those that are not engaging with the Green Team I would always recommend to listen to them, ask them why they are not interested and  try and understand their why, are they over worked already? this is a really good way to check your employees satisfaction also, do they not believe in climate change? talk to them about the cost savings. Sustainability should be a part of the company from the start, even at the point of recruitment, highlight in your recruitment you have a green programme and sustainability is important to the company, talk to new members during their interviews and induction training, make sure everyone knows from the start that they are going to work for a business that cares about sustainability.

Here are a couple of start ups I follow:

And of course

Is there a way to measure the carbon footprint of a website and improve its score?

So calculating the carbon emissions of a website is complicated as it would involve calculating the emissions of the servers and data centres where it resides, and most of the time that is impossible for business owners. However, there are ways to improve your digital carbon footprint, for example on your website compressing images and files so that they take less space, not having videos on autoplay and choosing a web provider that has a sustainable ethos to reduce their own emissions by using data centres that use green energy.

You can also reduce your digital carbon footprint by not sending those unnecessary emails of "thank you that was great", I know we all want to show appreciation but every email has carbon footprint associated with it.

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