Call it “going green”, “tree-hugging”, or “environmentally friendly”. No matter what you call it, becoming eco-friendly is high on most people’s priority lists in 2021 as the world sees the need for healthier lifestyles and sustainable living. Running an eco-friendly office can significantly boost your brand image, but it’s also good for the environment, and can be good for your bottom line. Although some businesses go all out with new buildings and overhauls of offices to create new eco-offices, there are simple things that you can do to create an eco-friendly workplace. Even the smallest change can make a difference, so take a look at our eco-friendly office tips.
What is an Eco-Friendly Office
An eco-friendly office is a workspace that aims to reduce its impact on the environment. This can be done in many different ways, but most of it comes down to reducing your carbon footprint, reducing waste, and making sustainable choices.
With commercial buildings responsible for around 35% of global energy use, and almost 40% of annual energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, companies are seeing the need to become environmentally aware. By going green in your office you are able to have a positive impact on the planet, your staff, and your brand.
Recent studies have even shown an increase in productivity in offices that are more environmentally friendly. Eco-friendly offices result in a 26% increase in cognitive function and a 15% increase in productivity. Employees working for green companies also reported feeling healthier, more energetic, and more fulfilled in their work.
The main reason given for not going green is the expected expense but becoming eco-friendly doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it often saves companies money in the long term. We’ve picked out our top 10 ways for businesses to become eco-friendly. Read on to dispel any myths about why going green isn’t for you.
Top 10 Ways for Businesses to Become Eco-Friendly
Switch to Sustainable Energy
Depending on the location of your business, you might be able to benefit from solar, wind, or biofuel options as an alternative to energy produced by burning fossil fuels. Solar power used to be expensive, but the price has dropped significantly in the last five years and using solar energy often works out much cheaper over a longer period of time.
Another advantage of using sustainable energy is that there are often new grants available to businesses who can contribute clean energy back to the grid. Contact your local council for details of what is available in your area. You could even find yourself making money from your energy production.
If you are in rented offices or shared space, speak to other tenants and see if you can collectively make a change.
Recycle Wherever Possible
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is an old saying, but it holds especially true now. Use recycling in your offices to immediately offset some unnecessary landfill waste. In addition to normal recycling of paper, cardboard, glass, and metals, introduce recycling for some of the less common items like:
- Ink and Toner Cartridges
- Food scraps (for composting)
It’s easy to recycle if there are recycling bins or containers in easily accessible places. Make recycling easy and it will become like second nature to you and your employees or colleagues.
Recycle E-waste Properly
Even people who are usually great at recycling often overlook e-waste. Electronic devices are not only bad for the environment because of the plastics and other hard materials. Electronics often contain dangerous chemicals like mercury and lead that leak into the earth when they reach landfill.
A quick online search will be able to show you your nearest electronics recycling plant. Old computers, printers, phones, and other electronics can be disposed of safely. You could even offer the facility to employees for them to bring in e-waste to be recycled with office equipment.
Use Eco-Friendly Office Supplies
Pens, cleaning products, paper, lightbulbs, coffee – you name it and there is probably an eco-friendly version of it. Switch to bamboo pens and 100% recycled paper and change your cleaning products from harsh chemicals to sustainable and natural cleaners. Some options here might be pricier, but there is a lot you can do that won’t cost much or anything at all to change so be creative in looking for which products can be swapped out. Most eco-friendly products are also longer lasting, so remember to bear that in mind when deciding if you should make the switch.
Utilise Natural Light
One of the easiest ways to reduce energy consumption is to use natural lighting instead of artificial lighting. Even in darker offices this can be achieved with a bit of creativity.
- Have an open floorplan that allows light to travel
- If you need walls, use energy efficient glass walls instead of drywall
- Move large furniture or equipment away from windows to allow more light in
- Use lighter colours in your décor that allows light to bounce off it
- Use mirrors in your décor to bounce the light through the room
Not only will you be helping to reduce your carbon footprint, you will also be increasing employee satisfaction and productivity. A recent study discovered that natural light and an outdoor view ranked as the number one desire for office environments.
Bring Nature Indoors
Reduce the need for air-conditioning and purification by introducing plants to your office. Plants naturally improve air quality by filtering the air, absorbing things like Benzene, Formaldehyde, Carbon Monoxide, and Trichloroethylene, and producing fresh, clean oxygen.
NASA completed a study that shows 87% of air pollutants in an office can be removed by plants over a 24 hour stretch.
An added benefit of having plants in the office is that stress and sickness decrease in offices where there are plants. Your bottom line will benefit from increased productivity, and there will be less need to worry about sick pay and leave if your employees work in a healthy office.
Use Energy-Efficient Appliances
Many computers have energy efficient screens now, most appliances come with an energy rating, and lights can be set up to be motion activated. A lot of electronic equipment also has a “sleep-mode” option that uses less energy. Be sure to check the options on your equipment and appliances to save as much energy as you can. Making a switch to energy efficient appliances will save you money as you won’t be using electricity when you don’t need to. Switching to energy efficient appliances will also improve your green rating and decrease your carbon footprint.
If you’re not ready to make a switch to new appliances yet, you can still reduce energy use by simply switching off and unplugging appliances and equipment at the end of the day.
Create a Workplace Sustainability Team
It is highly unlikely that you will be the only one in your office who wants to become more eco-friendly. By creating a team responsible for workplace sustainability, you pass on the enthusiasm, incentive, and ownership of the task. Your employees will also likely have more ideas on how to create an eco-friendly office from different perspectives. Being part of a team like this will also give employees some variety in their daily jobs which has been proven to improve job satisfaction.
If no one is excited to step up, that might be a good indicator that now is the time to do some eco-friendly training or education.
Have Regular “Green” Challenges and Incentives
The cycle to work scheme is a great example of an incentivised program for eco-friendly work. Have monthly recycling goals or energy consumption challenges to keep things interesting and educate your staff on environmentally friendly practices. Offer incentives for bringing in mugs and bottles instead of using single use items, or for anyone who washes their dishes at break instead of using the dishwasher.
Small prizes like coffee gift vouchers or a day off in the month won’t put undue pressure on your bottom line, but they will improve your office morale and environmental impact.
In a digital age, paperless makes sense. Cloud storage is abundantly available and cheap and you can use it to store any form of data. Use it in conjunction with cloud storage and CRM software and it can also take a lot of the work out of handling and destroying data in line with GDPR and data protection rules.
Your clients will also appreciate being able to submit forms or get information that is digital rather than needing to worry about post.
Tips for Going Paperless in your Office
- Only have one printer and don’t keep paper loaded – if printing is harder work, people are less likely to do it.
- Encourage the use of devices, including mobile phones, for accessing minutes or documents during meetings
- Request that other companies, including banks and lenders, send e-statements and invoices rather than paper copies
- Ensure all computers have the right software for doing markups and reviews on digital copies of documents
- Maintain a straightforward and easy to navigate digital filing system. The easier documents are to find, the less people will be inclined to print them
- Ensure scanning is easy. If you want to go paperless, some documents will need to be scanned into the digital database. If scanning is complicated or difficult then employees will be less likely to want to adhere to the paperless system.