Collectively there’s a rising consciousness about the environment and climate change. Changes to how we consume and manage waste often takes place at home, but what about in the office? Can we apply the 5 R’s of being environmentally friendly – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, Rethink – to work?
The workplace offers many opportunities where we can be kinder to the earth. This list offers ten ideas to help you be more ‘green’ at work. Many are simple to implement, and may save you money at the same time!
An alarming amount of waste that could be recycled or composted goes to landfill every year. By introducing a recycling system at prominent places around the office (i.e. in the kitchen, next to the printers) will allow staff to separate trash, paper and other recyclables correctly. Countries can differ around what types of waste they accept for recycling, and not all plastics can be recycled, so training for staff will help here.
Food waste is an easily avoidable item sent to landfill and makes nourishing food for gardens and veggie plots. See if there’s a compost collection service in your city or, if staff have the resources, set up a roster for people to take turns bringing the compost home at the end of each week.
It’s easy to reduce unnecessary waste in the office, like nice-to-have but unessential stationary or that coffee pod machine in the kitchen. Ditch the single use plastics, like plastic plates, cups, and cutlery for staff parties, and replace with reusable or plant-based, biodegradable options.
Replacing your products or items with more eco-friendly alternatives is a simple way to make your office more ‘green.’ Buy less harmful cleaning products or items made from post or pre-consumer waste, like recycled toilet paper and paper towels (SmartAss or Greencane are good options). Send a lot of mail? Try using compostable or biodegradable options like this. Buying in bulk or from local suppliers is another way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Leave the car at home and take public transport, carpool with other staff, or dust off the bike in the shed. These are all greener options that will be better for the environment, better for your health, and maybe even better for your wallet.
How about not commuting at all? Telecommuting or giving staff the flexibility to work from home a couple of days a week can benefit your team and the environment.
Bring nature indoors
Literally go green – with indoor plants! Plants recycle air by absorbing pollutants. They’re also great for improving the look and feel of your office space, they act as a mood booster, and they promote a healthy environment.
Get rid of paper and other types of waste altogether by adopting cloud apps and moving more of your business online. SuiteFiles can help you get rid of your paper filing system, while still making it easy to scan physical files when they come in. OneNote and Evernote can be used to replace your paper notebook, or use apps like Receipt Bank to manage invoices and receipts digitally.
Machines continue to take up unnecessary energy when on standby. Make it a habit to unplug or turn off appliances that aren’t immediately in use, like kettles, microwaves, and printers. You’ll also save energy by ditching the screensaver and setting your computer to power down by default.
Motion sensors to trigger lights is another way to save energy around the office.
Zero waste office
Zero waste is a growing movement, particularly in the home, where people try to limit or completely eliminate what they send to landfill (insert inspirational trash jar photo). But it’s a movement that we can bring into the office space too. Encourage staff to bring zero waste wrapped lunches or a container for takeaways (like this steel tiffin, but old Tupperware or recycled takeaway containers will do). For the all-important morning coffee, invest in a resuable coffee cup, like a Keep Cup or Frank Green cup. These steps reduce the amount of single use plastic that ends up back in the environment, which often make their way into our oceans and waterways.
For more zero waste tips in the office, check out this post.
Decluttering is considered an eco-friendly measure because when you clear out your space, you’re less likely to fill it again with more junk. Movements like Minimalism and the KonMari method discourages hoarding and helps you to be more mindful of what you buy and/or keep. Having a clear space improves productivity, so clear out or recycle those old, broken Christmas decorations and the electronic waste you’ve been hoarding. Consider purchasing multi-purpose machines that combine functions like printing, scanning, and photocopying in order to reduce clutter in the office.
What are you currently doing in your workplace to be more eco-friendly? We'd love to hear your ideas and tips!