What are you doing to reduce your firm’s carbon footprint? What the heck does that mean, anyway?   Technically speaking, the carbon footprint is related to the amount of gas emitted into the environment by individuals and businesses. While firms may not be blowing smoke out their roofs like manufacturing companies, they still have an impact on the world. There are all kinds of online calculators—even Excel spreadsheets—to figure out just what that impact is. But there are things that can be done immediately to simply take better care of the environment, many of which are easy to implement and cost nothing and sometimes even save money. Ernst & Young went so far as to create a director of environmental sustainability position last April. The move stemmed from a desire to formalize the grassroots efforts of the firm, a program called EcoCare that consisted of roughly 850 employees volunteering to help make their own offices more environmentally friendly.   The environmental director, Leisha John, explained that going green has appealed to Gen Y staff, many of whom have taken leadership roles in the program. “Anyone can raise their hand in any office to be the green police,” said John, who was decked out in a green sweater and green nail polish when she came to New York City last week. “They’re coming from greener universities and taking that to the office.”   For example, she says they’re happy to take their materials on a memory stick instead of a large binder and they drink from reusable water bottles.   E&Y encourages staff from local offices to carpool to meetings and reduce travel. It holds green happy hours without water bottles, serving organic vegetables, and the firm is careful not to have too much paper around at recruiting events.   But it’s not just the youngest staff members who care. E&Y conducted a multigenerational survey and found 85 percent of its staff said it is “very important” to work for a company that is socially responsible and cares about the environment.   Of course if going green can help save some green, that makes the case for implementing such practices even stronger, especially for smaller firms with less resources.   Ernst & Young started using remanufactured ink toner cartridges four or five years ago and is saving $500,000 annually as a result.   Starting this year, employees grabbing a bite to eat at E&Y’s New York and New Jersey cafeterias no longer receive trays or to-go boxes. Instead, they have reusable bags that even have a spot for soup or soda. Total estimated savings: $45,000.   Other suggestions for reducing your firm’s carbon footprint include: *Printing on both sides of paper
*Using Print Preview to avoid printing multiple times
*Using recycled paper
*Providing clients with tax returns on CD A more long-term goal is helping clients go green, and educating them about the tax incentives that go along with it. “Our client base is probably responsible for approximately 25 percent of the commercial sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our goal is to collaborate better with clients and share our practices so we enhance collective efforts to mitigate climate change,” John said.  “Prospective clients are coming to us and asking what we’re doing to protect the environment, and we do the same with our vendors.”