Make Your Office More Eco-Friendly
Encourage a smaller carbon footprint
- Companies can encourage employees to lower commuting emissions by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit to the office
- It will not only encourage your employees to be more active but also get folks to reconsider the environmental impact of driving into work each morning.
- During the summer months, try hosting a weeklong bike/walk challenge in which the team with the most people who bike or walk into the office gets a special catered lunch. You’ll be amazed at how well a little bit of friendly competition gets people motivated to make a change!
- Offering work-from-home policies can also reduce your company’s carbon footprint, Digneo said. The average American has a work commute of about 25 minutes each way, and flies about 17 hours per year, he added. “Reduce employee travel whenever possible,” Digneo said. “There are a number of great web/video conferencing tools out there. It saves the company budget, but it also reduces Scope 3 emissions.”
Opt for better office products
- There may not be room in your budget to buy exclusively sustainable products, but you can focus on certain areas that have a huge overall impact, such as more efficient electronics, said Kathy Gerwig, vice president of employee safety, health and wellness, and environmental stewardship officer at Kaiser Permanente. In 2016, Kaiser Permanente purchased greener electronics that will avoid the disposal of 124 metric tons of hazardous waste.
- Power Down. Would you believe that the majority of office power is consumed by machines that are off, but still plugged into a live outlet? Standby power (or phantom power) is a huge — and hugely unnecessary — environmental culprit and expense. You can improve this process and automate it with programs like Surveyor which automatically powers down company computers at night
- Consider Solar Power. Yes, solar energy systems can be expensive and aren’t always practical depending on your office location and setup. But you can reap some long-term savings from your initial investment, and many states now offer incentives (like rebates and the ability to sell excess energy to the power company) for solar energy users.
- If your business is located in a deregulated electricity state, one easy way to make your office greener is to shop for your electricity supplier and choose a green energy plan, said Kelly Bedrich, co-founder of com. Almost every electricity supplier offers green energy plans that are generated by renewable energy sources, primarily wind and solar, Bedrich said. These green electricity plans are priced very competitively compared to traditional electricity plans powered by coal or natural gas, she added.
- Watch the Temperature in Summer. Most offices could stand to raise the temperature a few degrees. In fact, look at how many people in the office (usually women) keep sweaters and extra clothing at their desks at the height of summer because the office is so much colder than the outside temperature. Instead of setting the thermostat so only those in full suits are comfortable, find a happy medium. (This is another great reason to set a business casual office policy).
- Use Natural Light
Artificial lighting represents 40 percent of electricity consumption in a typical office building and a quarter of all electricity in the States. And so often this is unnecessary. Open the blinds and let daylight in wherever possible. And of course, don’t leave the lights on at night when everybody is gone.
- Install Motion Sensors
Take a walk around your office and notice how many offices and conference rooms have lights on despite nobody using the space. Instead of leaving it to employees to turn off lights as they leave rooms, install motion-activated light switches. They’ll turn the lights on for a designated period of time (eg: 15 minutes) whenever somebody passes in front of the switch or moves about the room.
- Use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they last about 10 times longer. You’ll save on energy costs, replacement bulb costs, and reduce waste by using them. They come in all sizes and wattages and offer soft sheens that aren’t as garishly fluorescent as their previous counterparts.
- Go Green — Literally
Make your office green with plants! They absorb airborne pollutants (which are rampant with off-gassing office furniture) and emit healthy negative ions and oxygen into the air. Having some green plants in the office also reduces that “sterile” look, making it more comfortable for everybody.
- Use Green Cleaning Products
Environmentally friendly cleaning products protect the health of not only your cleaning staff but also your employees, by eliminating harmful substances and odors from the office.
- Go Paperless
This tip almost seems trivial given the digital age we now live in. From cloud storage services to digital pay stubs, the need for paper and printers in the workplace has rapidly decreased in past two decades.
- Diminish the temptation to print by reducing the number of printers in your office and donating them to a local school or non-profit organization in need.
- Recycle down to snack wrappers.
Instead of sending your snack and candy wrappers to the landfill, get a TerraCycle box and go zero-waste. Although these boxes are on the pricier side, they’re an extremely worthwhile investment for offices that produce an unmanageable amount of plastic waste in the form of pens, plastic gloves, plastic K-cups, or snack wrappers.
When it comes to going green, changing human behavior is the biggest obstacle. You can add compost bins and micro-fiber cloths to your office, but these changes are only successful when employees buy into the idea and follow the new, eco-friendly systems correctly.
If you’re serious about going green in the office, be sure to include employee incentive and appreciation programs in your sustainability roadmap.