Since most of us spend the lion’s share of our day at work, it’s no surprise that we would like our workplaces to be environmentally friendly. The good news is, they can be, and more easily than you might think. From the moment you arrive until it’s time to leave, you’ll find numerous opportunities to ‘go green’ and make a difference. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Consider changing your commute
How do you get to work? If you drive, could you cycle or walk instead? Lots of workplaces even provide shower facilities for employees who opt to work up a sweat rather than sit in traffic. Think of the fitness benefits! Walking or cycling might let you skip the gym at the other end, and binge on Netflix instead.
If it’s too far to walk or cycle, why not take a look at public transport? As well as being more environmentally friendly than driving, you may be eligible for a Taxsaver Commuter Ticket, saving yourself money and the often endless search for parking.
If driving is the only practicable option, maybe someone in your workplace is willing to car-share. Car-sharing is a handy way to save fuel, and can be a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues.
2. Bring the outdoors inside
Go green, literally, by introducing plants to your workplace.
Plants help clean the air by removing impurities, and they go a long way to brightening up a drab environment. Looking after them needn’t be hard work either, since many indoor plants only need to be watered once a week. As an added bonus, studies have shown that indoor plants significantly reduce workplace stress and improve productivity.
Plants like light, but if your office is on the dark side, don’t worry. Some varieties can get by regardless. The peace lily, for example, looks beautiful, cleans the air, and doesn’t need a lot of light to thrive.
Bonus Green Tip: Make the most of your coffee-loving colleagues’ caffeine habit by feeding your indoor plants with used coffee grounds.
3. Press pause on printing
Thanks to the wonders of file-sharing services, it’s easier than ever to collaborate online and cut down on paper. When you absolutely have to print a document, make sure your printer is set to ‘print both sides’. There’s no excuse for handing out printed PowerPoint slides to attendees at a presentation. Attach them in email afterwards if anyone wants them.
4. Go au natural
Are you relying on artificial lights when you needn’t? Save on electricity costs and help the environment by making the most of the natural light in your office. This might be as easy as moving your desk closer to the window. Or speaking up when asked for your views on the office redesign. Glass panels allow natural light to travel further through the office building, so make a case for replacing interior walls with glass.
What if you work at night, or your workplace has a shortage of windows? LEDs that mimic natural light are the next-best thing, and they use far less energy than other artificial lighting options.
5. Switch to recycled paper
Next time you’re ordering stationary, make sure the label says recycled paper instead of recyclable paper. Double-check the green credentials of the products you use most at work and don’t be swayed by buzzwords such as eco-friendly. Do your research. Order from local producers, where possible, to reduce your carbon footprint.
6. Collect compost
Volunteer to set up a small compost bin in the kitchen and encourage your workmates to use it for their food waste. One of your green-fingered friends is sure to appreciate the contribution to their vegetable plot. And of course, your work compost bin could always mark the start of a work veggie garden.
7. Go online instead of on the road
While travelling for work might sound enticing, the reality can be more mundane. Sometimes you have to be there in person, but most of the time, you don’t. Luckily there’s an eco-friendly solution at your fingertips. Go green by embracing video and web conferencing when you can, to cut down on travel miles and expense. Apps such as Skype and Google Hangouts are used by companies around the world to conduct meetings and interviews. Easy-to-use and often free, they can make a big dent in your company’s carbon footprint.
8. Say no thanks to single-use plastics
If you have lunch at work every day, invest in a set of cutlery, a coffee cup, a plate and a bowl. Bring your own cup when you stop off at a café to get your takeaway coffee. Many coffee shops now offer a discount if you produce a reusable cup.
Do one thing, see a result, and that will lead to something else. Take a leaf from Mary Robinson's book: the former Irish president is a great believer in the power of the individual to bring about climate change.
9. Shut down at the end of the day
When it’s time to go home, remember to turn off your computer. Leaving computers on overnight, even in sleep mode, can drain electricity and battery power. Plug out the printer when you’re not using it; the same goes for the scanner. Using a single power strip for all your appliances makes it easier to switch everything off simultaneously.
Modify the settings on your devices to allow them to go to sleep when inactive after a certain period of time (but don’t forget to turn them off at the end of the day).
All the steps outlined here are small, but you’ll be surprised at the difference they make, and how your behaviour can influence others. If your colleagues are intrigued by your eco-friendly ways, talk to them about setting up a Green Action Group in the workplace to have a say in housekeeping decisions, such as supplier choice and building design. Small steps can make a big difference where your company’s carbon footprint is concerned. Good luck going green!