At K-Mark, our Green Policy means we’re always looking for ways to reduce our ecological “footprint”. These include minimising our use of energy, using materials from environmentally friendly suppliers and recycling packaging materials as far as possible.
Of course, we’re not alone. Companies everywhere are waking up to their environmental responsibilities, taking steps to reduce their impact and encourage an environmentally conscious culture among their staff. Often this has all kinds of positive side effects, from aesthetically pleasing work environments to cost savings and employees who are more motivated to get to work each day.
Here we consider ten ways you can green your office, remembering that even small changes add up over time.
1. Take greening your office literally
Bringing plants into the office doesn’t just make for attractive, calming work environments. The plants filter the air, preventing it from becoming stale and helping remove pollutants like those emitted by computer and printing equipment.
Also, did you know that plants can help cool the air, reducing the need for air conditioning? The cooling occurs as a result of the natural process of transpiration, during which water moves from the plants into the air.
2. Make the concept of a paperless office a reality
Too often these days, people in offices print documents only to find that in practice, they work with the documents only on their computers. Once you get into the habit of not printing documents, you lose your psychological need for the “security blanket” of having a hard copy under your elbow.
3. If you must print, use both sides
There’s no good reason to waste one side of every sheet of paper. Instead cut the environmental effects of your paper use in half simply by printing on both sides. Also consider using software such as Greenprint, which helps eliminate unwanted pages, images and blank spaces from documents before you print them.
Another option is to collect paper that has printing just on one side and donate it to a nearby children’s home or school, for use by budding artists.
4. Recycle, of course
A second-best alternative to not using paper in the first place is to set up a recycling initiative. This doesn’t take a lot of time or funding. All that’s needed are bins or left-over cardboard boxes for staff to put their scrap paper in, an agreement with a local recycling company that’s willing to fetch the paper at regular intervals and one staff member who’s willing to oversee the programme.
It’s also a great idea to use recycled paper, especially for internal note-taking. Manufacturing recycled paper isn’t “clean”, but it uses less than half the water and up to 65% less energy than creating paper from virgin pulp.
If your company ships items, you can shred scrap paper and use it as protective packaging material.
5. Use environmentally friendly lighting
The best lighting is natural lighting. Aside from being free, it leaves staff less weary and with less eye strain at the end of each day. However, if this isn’t a possibility, using energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs can significantly cut your energy use, as well as your electricity bill.
Just like at home, turn off the lights if you’re the last person to leave a meeting room and each time you leave the kitchen or bathroom.
6. Green commuting
The most environmentally friendly option of all, and one that more and more companies are beginning to allow, is working from home. This cuts out all the energy use, carbon emissions and frustration associated with sitting in traffic jams. If you can’t work from home full time, perhaps you can part of the time.
When this isn’t an option, consider public transport or set up a car pool. Two people sharing a vehicle instead of each driving their own cars to work automatically use half the fuel, saving money and resulting in half the usual emissions.
With four people in a car, you could save a whopping 75% of your usual fuel costs!
7. Pack your own lunch
Bringing homemade lunches to work saves the money and weight gain associated with daily trips to a nearby take-away, convenience store or café. It’s also good for the environment because it saves on food packaging.
8. Use videoconferencing
Technologies like videoconferencing and free software like Skype make it unnecessary to chew up fuel travelling to meet business partners or colleagues face to face. Videoconferencing is also much less time-consuming and disruptive than sitting in traffic to get to and from meetings.
9. Use energy-saving computer settings
Simply configuring your computer to use power-saving settings can make a real difference over the course of a year. Also turn your computer off when you leave work, or it will continue drawing some energy even if it’s in standby mode. Similarly, turn off and unplug scanners, printers and other electrical office equipment.
10. Office kitchen and bathroom savings
Remember not to overlook workplace kitchens and bathrooms as areas where more environmentally friendly practices can make a real difference.
For example, buy green cleaning materials, recycled paper towel and biodegradable soaps – preferably in bulk to limit transportation costs; install water-saving taps and toilets and an energy-efficient fridge; and encourage staff who boil the kettle to pour hot water they don’t need into a thermos for later use, in making drinks or washing dishes.