As we all strive to make more sustainable choices in our lives, one area that is often overlooked is our office (or classroom!).
In this post, I’m going to discuss some simple choices for more sustainability in your office. These are all relatively easy changes to make and some will even save your company money (that will make your boss happy!).
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How do I make my workplace greener?
You don’t have to take extreme measures to go green around the office. Even something as simple as changing the way we use the washroom and utilizing lighting at the workplace could significantly impact the environment.
To create a more sustainable office, you need to treat it like a project and break it down into steps. But they are three easy steps!
- Come up with some eco-friendly office ideas
- Talk to your boss and colleagues about them
- Implement the ideas!
Green Office Ideas
To get started you’ll want to pick a few changes you can make in your office to be more sustainable. I’ve outlined 15 ideas below, but each workplace is different, so you might be able to think of some different ways.
You want to start small, or else your team might feel overwhelmed and push back against the changes (or your boss might say no completely to the idea!).
So I would suggest just picking 2 or 3 green ideas… you can always add more later.
Getting Your colleagues involved
Before you can make any changes to your workplace you’ll need to get your colleagues or boss onboard with the idea.
If you are an employee, then you will probably need to run your ideas by your boss first. Depending on your boss, this might be easy… or it might be very very hard!
You know what will motivate them the most, but when you go to speak to them about your ideas, put a positive spin on it. Here are some ideas:
- “Adjusting the office tempature or switching off computers overnight will save us $xxxx a year in utilities”
- “We can use the changes as positive PR with our customers”
- “Going paperless will make our team more efficient as they won’t have the scan and reprint documents”
- “Being a progressive company will give a big moral boost to our staff”
- “We will be doing our part to save the planet!”
Talking to your colleagues about your eco-friendly office plans should be a little easier. However, if you work for a larger company or some people are resistant to change, then you might want to try setting up a green team.
With the support and ideas of your green team, it will be much easier to encourage your colleagues to participate in implementing your sustainability plan for your office.
Those who agree to participate may have to undergo training or at least meet to discuss ideas and implementing the changes. Having the right amount of resources should help your cause as well.
Another way of planting the seed to go green in the office is by making it part of the job description and company policies. If your company’s culture to is be more environmentally aware, then it will be much easier to get everyone onboard.
Simple Sustainability Ideas For Your Office
Below you’ll find my favorite ways to take any workplace from a sustainability wasteland to a lean green machine!
1. Go Paperless
It may sound somewhat unrealistic, but it is doable. Even if it is impossible to go completely paperless, the idea is implementable by using electronic means to communicate and represent information. Instead of sending printed letters, send emails, and short text messages. Look into digital signing software, like DocuSign instead of printing and mailing contracts to customers.
If you can’t go completely paperless, then think of ways to print less and use electronic online communication and data presentation method more. Apart from minimizing the amount of printing taking place, you can use recycled paper whenever you have to print, print on both sides of the document, and use the printers’ eco-mode.
All these changes can be gradual. However, even though it may take some time to notice the changes, all the things that you do will translate to something great in the end.
2. Ditch Single-Use Items
Convenience is often the name of the game in any workplace kitchen. Disposal forks, paper plates, plastic water cups. But when you multiply all those single-use items across an entire office every day… it adds up to a lot.
Encourage employees to bring their own reusable silverware and plates, or convince your company to supply them.
If you just can’t get away from single-use items, look at getting them from renewable or recycled sources. Like paper plates made from recycled paper.
3. Add a Water Filter or Cooler
Add a water filter to the kitchen sink for employees to refill their bottles or add a water cooler (but don’t supply disposable cups!).
Plastic disposal water bottles are a massive problem and often they end up in landfills and are not recycled. Fitting the kitchen with a water filter so that people can refill their own bottles can reduce the amount of plastic bottle dumping.
Bonus tip: Provide each employee with their own company-branded water bottle!
4. Reuse & Recycle
This is a simple idea, and really the basis for any sustainable office environment, but it’s so often overlooked.
Here are some ideas for how to recycle and reuse in your office:
- Make sure that everyone has access to a recycling bin, as well as a trash can.
- Reusing shipping boxes and packaging when you are sending things out to your customers.
- Make sure employees know what is and isn’t recyclable. (Not all plastics can be recycled)
- If you are using printers, get the toner cartiridges refilled, instead of buying new ones.
5. Use Recycled Paper
While we’re talking about recycling, why not start using more recycled paper products in your office?
It’s much more affordable now to buy things like printer paper, paper towels and even toilet paper all made from recycled paper.
6. Limit Heating and Cooling
This might be a tricky one depending on your colleagues. We’ve all worked with that colleague that is always too hot and turning the AC down.
Of course, you want everyone to be comfortable, but by limiting the use of heating or AC you can save a lot of energy and also save money too! It’s just a balancing act to find that ‘sweet spot’!
Adjusting heating and cooling isn’t the only option. Take a look at where people are sitting. Is the person that’s always hot right next to the south-facing window? Maybe they could move their desk to a cooler spot in the office. Also, look at the location of air vents and make sure they are being used efficiently.
7. Unplug or Shut Down
Unplug or shut down all idle electronics in the office overnight or at weekends to reduce power usage. You’d be amazed how much energy this can save. And it can also lengthen the life of things like monitors and batteries.
If that’s not doable, there is always the option of marking the settings to energy-saving modes. You can also set the electronics to shut down when not in use for, say, ten minutes. While you’re at it, don’t forget to switch off the lights at night and on weekends too!
8. Decrease Monitor Brightness
When you reduce a computer monitor’s brightness you conserve more energy than you would think. a lot of modern monitors have an eco-mode, so take advantage of that!
If it’s a laptop, you will spend less time charging it and conserve even more energy. It might seem like a small change but imagine the impact it would have if 200 people did it!
9. Switch to LED lights
Switching the light bulbs in your office to LED bulbs is a great way to save energy.
LED lights are examples of technological advances that exist to reduce the consumption of energy. These lights use over 75% less energy than regular incandescent lights.
You don’t need to go crazy and replace every bulb in your office at once. Just wait until a bulb dies, and then replace it with a more energy-efficient one.
10. Remove Individual Trash Cans
This is a weird green office tip, but actually has massive benefits!
A few years ago Etsy removed all the individual trash cans from people’s desks. Yeah… the employees weren’t happy at first! They switched to having communal trash areas that also had composting bins and recycling. The amount of trash they produced went down by 18%! Pretty awesome!
There is the added benefit that it encourages your colleagues to get up from their desks (sitting is the new smoking!) and have more spontaneous interactions with each other. Win-win!
11. Add Plants to the Office
Adding a houseplant to your office is a great way to have a more eco-friendly environment at work. Not only will the plant improve the look of the office, but it will also enhance the atmosphere around the office.
Plants are the breathing organs of this planet. Having a plant around the office cleans the air in there, leaving the environment fresh. NASA’s research confirmed that having a plant in your space reduces air pollutants by 87% in 24 hours.
And they look pretty too!
12. Use Dry Erase Boards
Using dry erase boards instead of paper flip charts reduces the amount of paper used at the workplace. It’s all about thinking about having more reusable items in your office and less disposable ones.
13. Clean Up Your Mailing Lists
Sorting out mail listings to eliminate those customers that are not active or those without subscriptions can save a lot of printing materials. Excess mail always ends up in the trash and dumped somewhere. Those extra mails end up trashing the environment and may sometimes take time to decompose when it is processed paper.
Another alternative is to switch to digital promotions instead of mailing out marketing material.
It will save your company money too!
14. Use Green Cleaning Products
There are so many green cleaning brands nowadays that recognize the need to reduce pollution. Brands that manufacture cleaning products have mostly been at the forefront by making eco-friendly offices. You can decide to boycott companies that produce harmful cleaning chemicals and go for the eco-friendly ones that perform just as well.
If you use a cleaning service at your workplace, talk to them about using green cleaning products. Or look for a company that specializes in using eco-friendly products.
15. Encourage Green Commuting
This part involves getting people to travel by means that reduce carbon emissions. Riding bikes to work, carpooling, or using public transportation instead of private means of transport are some ways to go about it.
Riding bicycles to work also offers people a chance to exercise. It’s also convenient because I can move through the traffic jam to get to work on time.
Some other ways to encourage green commuting are:
- A safe and secure place to park bicycles
- Paying for public transport for all employees
- Help connect people to set-up car pooling groups
- Allowing people to work at home instead of going to the office daily
Your Green Office
So there you have it! Fifteen simple ways you can have a more sustainable and eco-friendly office!
It can be hard to initiate change, especially in larger or more traditional companies. But we all need to start doing our part or we’ll be facing a very bleak future!
To put it simply, a sustainable office is a workplace that is aware of its environmental impact and actively finds ways to lower its carbon footprint.
There are many ways to make your workplace more environmentally friendly. The tips above are a good place to start, but every workplace and industry is different. So think outside the box and find ways to help the planet and save money too!
Going green at work can start with something as simple as turning off your computer at the end of the day. If you can’t get your company as a whole to adopt more sustainable practices, then talk to your colleagues about small things you can to do make a difference, like ditching single-use products or carpooling.
It’s key to make eco-conscious practices be a part of your company culture. Some people are resistant to change, so it’s important to show them how any changes are going to be of benefit to them and the team.