Everything we do impacts the environment. From driving to work, to how and what you recycle, being a ‘Green’ business, and ensuring you have an eco-friendly office has become more important than ever.
However, an eco-friendly office doesn’t just give you the peace of mind that you’re making a conscious effort to lower your environmental impact; it can also make your employees happy. In fact, 72% of UK workers say that having an eco-friendly office is important to them. Within this article, we look at things you can do to improve your office and be more eco-friendly.
As Steve Pritchard, Founder of Cuuver.com, explains:
“There is now more interest than ever on how we impact on the environment, especially for staff working in offices that use electricity all day long. As a result, employers now need to be more mindful when choosing an office space.
“The more sustainable the workplace, the more productive the employee is, as it proves the employer has considered the impact it has both on the environment and their staff’s beliefs or outlooks regarding this subject.
“For instance, if an office does not provide a recycling scheme, this can frustrate staff who do choose to recycle, as they will have to go out of their way to ensure rubbish is recycled by either hassling those in charge to implement a scheme or take it home to do it themselves. So, the more open an employer is to a sustainable office, the better; it shows staff they are interested in benefiting the environment, as well as their company’s needs.”
Aodhan, of waste management company Waster says:
“An environmentally friendly office is a great way of showing your staff and customers that you are a responsible business and practice what you preach. Recycling, minimising wastage and caring for the environment is part of a productive work environment.
People make the right choices regarding recycling when there are clear poster guidelines and bins within easy reach. The best approach is to make doing the right thing – the easy thing!”
Therese Ravell, Direct of Impact HR (An innovative HR consultancy based in Sydney which helps small and medium-sized businesses with their people and business needs) says:
“Considering we spend about a fifth of our lifetime at work, it’s worthwhile thinking about how we can make our workplace better both for ourselves and the environment.
“Sustainability in the workplace is much more than using energy-saving bulbs and recycling — it’s a holistic approach to creating general wellbeing in a workplace that cares for both people and the environment.
“Big changes start with small steps. Motivate your team to change their everyday habits in favour of eco-friendly choices. Replace disposable coffee cups with reusable mugs, add recycling bins to the office, prompt them to print less. They will feel motivated to do something useful for themselves and the planet.”
Michael Birt from Sustainability Victoria Australia says there are many countless benefits of ensuring your office is eco-friendly. He explains:
“We retrofitted 20 buildings (mainly in Melbourne, but several in regional areas), to upgrade lighting, and pumps and motors for heating and air con. We also installed solar in some cases, and made other changes!
“As a result of the program, energy bills were cut by 29% on average for businesses, and the payback period was just three years. Significantly, staff reported greater comfort levels and fewer hot and cold spots in office areas. There were also fewer complaints, which is great news for company, tenant and building managers.
Other benefits were that annual operating costs were down, and less maintenance was required.”
Flora & Fauna, an online retailer of vegan and eco-friendly products, is another businesses that focuses on having a minimal impact on the environment. Founder and CEO, Julie Mathers, says:
“We have bamboo pens, we reuse packaging, we have a recycling scheme, and we only use recycled paper and boxes. Plus, we’ve just installed solar panels, so our business is run off the power of the sun and we feed back into the grid. We’ve just become certified by BCorp!”
Odette Barry is the founder of Odette and Co, a PR and marketing agency based in the Northern River. NSW is passionate about sustaining an eco-friendly office space, and with not a printer in sight, loads of greenery, and a team of experts that all work from home to reduce pollution, this is one company making positive changes.
Odette believes that adding some organic character to your space doesn’t just create a beautiful focal point; it can improve air quality, remove impurities, and create a more relaxed energy. For those of us that don’t know where to begin, Odette recommends introducing some succulents as they don’t require much water and grow quickly.
Sophie Kemp, PR & Marketing Assistant at Kester Black, a sustainable cosmetics and skincare brand in Australia, adds:
“In our office, we use 100% renewable and certified carbon neutral energy. Our energy supplier, Power Shop, has also been certified carbon neutral against the requirements of the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) by the Australian Government and is the first power company to be accredited in Australia.”
“We also only use earth friendly cleaning products, and we’re working towards becoming a paperless office. Additionally, we have a recycling system in place at our office, and we have special bins for staff to bring in old electrical goods so we can dispose of them properly. Paper, cardboard, and plastics are all separated and recycled.”
At Rombourne, we think it’s vital that serviced offices are as eco-friendly as possible. Below, we share our quick and easy tips on how to ensure you have an eco-friendly office…
1. Switch off the lights
According to Energy Trust, turning off unneeded lights could remove 171kg of CO2 emissions from the air each year. So, it goes without saying; switch off the lights when a room in your building isn’t in use, or go one step further by installing lighting systems that automatically turn on and off as needed.
Richard, the founder of DIY Works states that “Your office should switch to LED bulbs as these use 90% less energy than traditional halogen ones. They can be purchased far cheaper than they once were a few years back.”.
Another advantage of LED bulbs is that they’ve been shown to last approximately 20 times longer than traditional light bulbs. This means that not only will you reduce your office’s carbon emissions (which raises the temperature of our planet and affects sea creatures by making our oceans more acidic), but your business can save money by replacing your bulbs less often.
Guardian Window Film is a UK window film installer and supplier. They other the following advice:
“At the end of every day, make sure to go around and switch everything in the office off. If there are days when no one is in the office, then have a ‘switch-off checklist’.
“Standby power (or ‘Phantom’ power) is a massively unnecessary waste of energy. You’ll probably find after a few days of powering down, that the electricity bill is a little cheaper. If you don’t have time to switch everything off, then automated programs and timers will also shut electronics down for you.”
Sticking with the supernatural theme, “Grace Conyers from Insanitek Research and Development notes a simple way they reduce electricity used by “vampires” is by putting them all on a power strip that is turned off when the lights go out. Simple, easy, and not something you need to retrain your brain to remember.”
Anca Novacovici, the Founder and President of boutique environmental sustainability consulting company, Eco-Coach, adds:
“If a task light that hasn’t been turned off, you can encourage the person who left it on to switch it off in future by leaving a balloon or sticker on their seat. You could also print a copy of the monthly electric bill and stick it in the elevator (for example) with a ‘please turn off the lights when you leave the room’ reminder. This ensures that everyone sees it when they enter the building in the morning, when they leave at night, and in-between these times.”
2. Bring plants into the office
Plants are a great addition to any office because they reduce CO2 and carbon monoxide levels, as well as remove bacteria, mould, and everyday toxins from computer equipment from the air. High levels of these aren’t just bad for the environment; they can also make your workforce feel unwell by causing a range of unpleasant symptoms. These can include headaches, dizziness, coughing, dry eyes, a runny nose, and a sore throat.
Rocky Pisanelli, the Founder of Concord Vertical Gardens, says:
“Office workers should take note of NASA’s research into why plants are vital for offices, and in fact every indoor environment. Back in 1989, the Space Agency discovered that toxins in the air (in their sealed space stations) could be ‘cleaned’ by having plants inside; one plant to every 110 sq feet. Although it might not be obvious, even the cleanest work environments have polluted air from toxins and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), including traffic dust, and the chemicals in household cleaning products and domestic and commercial furnishings.
“There’s no limit to where plants can reduce the insidious indoor pollutants and create so many therapeutic benefits. The aesthetic green appearance of the plants also has a beautiful calming influence.”
Another advantage of office plants is that they boost productivity by making you happy. According to a study, bringing plants into the workplace can reduce feelings of tension and anxiety by around 37%, anger and hostility by 44%, and fatigue by 38%. All of these feelings can have a negative effect on your staff’s morale and productivity levels.
Bridget Puszka is a Principal Architect at BP Architects. In her article, ‘How to Make Your Home Office Your Own Personal Wellness Haven’, she writes about the benefits of indoor plants, and says:
“Studies on indoor air quality, from Harvard and Syracuse Universities, found that along with good ventilation and low levels of carbon dioxide, workers performed 61% better on cognitive tasks. When you doubled the ventilation in a green condition environment, they found that cognitive performance increased by 100%.”
Jacqui King from Kokedama by Jac, adds: “Don’t underestimate the power of green. Adding greenery to an office area has health benefits, removes toxins from the air, adds colour and provides an overall happy, calming feeling to workers and clients, assisting work productivity and welcoming clients into the space.
“To achieve this, [op plants into ceramic pots or baskets. No spare floor space or desk space? No problem. Kokedama (Japanese for ‘mossball’) is the solution. Display this on vertical stands, or alternatively, it can be suspended. Kokedama are the perfect plant decor for any office; it’s unique and interesting with a point of difference to an office space.
3. Print less documents
Every time you print a document, the need for paper increases, and more and more trees are cut down as result. This leads to deforestation, which is very bad news for the environment as we need trees to absorb CO2 and provide habitats for wildlife.
Not only that, but frequently using the printer contributes to your business using more energy (which increases your carbon footprint), and also costs your business as ink and paper will need to be replaced more frequently. Therefore, you should be encouraging your staff to print less, and one effective way to do this is by using an ID based print management system, which ensures documents are only printed when you’re at a printer. Alternatively, Follow Me Printing uses your location to find the most suitable printer, which reduces uncollected printed waste.
When it comes to the energy used by your office equipment, Bridget Puszka also advises in her article, ‘Practical Tips to Jazz Up Your Office Whilst Saving the Environment’:
“Office equipment has become more energy efficient since 2001, but energy costs have increased. Turning off your office equipment when not in use will save you money, as well as reduce your ecological footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.
“For example, screensavers on your computer consume energy you don’t use. Turn them off, and start any energy efficient mode on your computer (such as ENERGY STAR).”
Lauren Ryder, Managing Director of Leading Change Management, adds:
“I run my company completely paperless. Everyone who joins gets a notebook, but we don’t print any documents or have paper lying around the office. All contracts are signed online and emailed back, and we use whiteboards for notes and track our work online. Our head office is also within a new shared workspace (UOS Wynyard) which is eco-friendly. Therefore, we feel we’re doing our part to minimise our footprint.
“I’ve even taken the paperless practice home- I sign online all my kids’ permission forms for school and then email them back to the school!”
4. Recycle, recycle, recycle
Recycling waste (such as food, plastic, and paper) instead of throwing it in the bin doesn’t just reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gases being produced as an effect of degradation. In fact, it’s also been proven that producing recycled products uses less energy than those that have been constructed from new materials.
As an employer, you should encourage your workers to recycle more by providing the correct facilities for them to do so. This means ensuring that your eco-friendly office has recycling bins in your kitchen or breakout area, and that these are clearly labelled with the materials that need to be placed in each bin. It’s simple, really; by making the task of recycling easier, more of your staff will do it!
Paul Solicari , Owner of Sweepsmart says:
“Whenever I work on commercial properties, I also see opportunities for employers and employees to recycle more. Sometimes they are so used to the normal – throw all things in the same bin routine, that recycling slips their mind. With a little encouragement from management, it can make a big difference.”
Nathan Schokker, Owner of That Guy says:
“Even something as minor as a waste challenge can quickly turn an office into a more sustainable workplace. As an example, staff that were challenged to reduce office waste which in a matter of 3 weeks saw waste fall by 80% through the easy elimination of unnecessary packaging, and the support of a team pushing and challenging each other.
“Management had the hardest time adapting, though they eventually took the attitude of saying ‘yes’ to every proposal to test them out.”
Jane Wilson of Fantastic Cleaners states
“If most companies didn’t have some maintenance and recycling rules, these places would probably turn into jungles of plastic bottles and wraps. Thank God office managers understand the fact that more eco-friendly policies will bring the company more benefits, because if they had to rely on employees to understand that, the whole planet would be in even more danger. If it takes a team of 2 cleaners more than 4 hours to clean your 300 sqm office, then there is definitely something wrong – either you are just too messy, or you need to find some more efficient cleaners.”
Edda Hamar, Founder and CEO of Lána, says:
“At Lána we have three bins; waste, recycling, and a food compost bin. We educate all new employees on what goes into each bin, and our bins are also different sizes.
“The bigger bins are for recycling and food compost, while our smallest bin is waste. We hope that by using a smaller waste bin our employees will think before they throw things away.”
Mick Owar who runs CoLAB Space, has gone one step further with his office recycling by using upcycled materials to furnish his co-working space in Cheltenham. He says:
“I felt it was important to use upcycled wood to create the overall natural alternative vibe to a standard boring office environment. The space has since become a great success because of it!”
5. Walk or cycle to work
27% of 2015 greenhouse gas emissions were from burning fossil fuels, such as those used for cars and trains. To get your workforce walking, running, or cycling to work instead, ensure your building has an on-site shower for them to freshen up before they sit down at their desks, and that there’s somewhere onsite for them to securely store their bikes.
If it’s not feasible for every one of your employees to walk, run or cycle to work, another option is for them to reduce the amount of car journeys being made to the office each day by using public transport or sharing lifts with other employees who live in the same area (a.k.a. carpooling). This not only helps the environment, but it can also help your workers to bond and form better relationships.