Green Office Sustainability is a new concept to most of us, but if we think it through we will see it is not really such a new concept – more of a common sense approach that can reduce our bills while also reducing our impact on the environment. Sounds good? It does to us too.
The concept is actually quite simple. It is a way to promote improvements in our office spaces, which will then reduce the environmental impact of our work. Our carbon footprint comes down, our sustainability goes up, and everyone benefits.
What is The Green Office?
Any office – any business – can be green. It involves efficient use of energy, water and other resources; an emphasis on re-use and recycling, to reduce waste; good indoor air quality; use of materials that are non-toxic, safe, and sustainable; consideration of the environment in the design and construction of our buildings; and consideration of the quality of life of those who end up in the buildings.
Some measures are complex and need to be planned from the start. Having an office with a top energy rating doesn’t happen by accident. But other measures can be applied immediately in any space, even an old and draughty office. Going paperless is an obvious example.
What are the characteristics of a green office?
That’s like asking how long is a piece of string, because it will vary from office to office. But the attitude of care will remain the same.
In a modern office, designed specifically to be green, there might be large windows to allow natural light to predominate. There will be an efficient air circulation system, so that fresh air is constantly coming into the building, but the building is not losing heat.
But if your office is in an old building, perhaps built over a century ago, with high ceilings and draughty windows, there are still things you can do. You can replace the windows with modern double glazed versions, to preserve heat in the building. You can put natural plants in the office to help scrub the air.
In all green offices, you will find recycling is encouraged. There will be recycling bins, and staff will be incentivised to use them. There will be efficient electronic communications, so that there isn’t an endless amount of duplicated paper documents produced. Those documents that have to be printed will be shared, rather than every worker printing their own. Waste will be cut down, food in the canteen will be ethically produced, and management will encourage workers to commute to work by public transport, or by sharing vehicles. Company cars may be electric.
Top 10 Green Office Practices
People wonder what are the green office practices they can introduce into their workplace. We have compiled a list of fifteen simple and practical (we hope) measures that you can use to make your office green and sustainable. Some may seem trivial, but every journey begins with small steps.
- Consider reusable pens. Remember the old cartridge and fountain pens of our school days – turns out they help the environment. US citizens throw out over four million disposable pens daily – that’s right, daily! An incredible waste.
- Watch the printing bill. Don’t print blank pages, or irrelevant cover pages. Only print as many copies of a document as you strictly need. And print on both sides of the page, halving your paper use.
- Go paperless – why not eliminate printed documents altogether by switching to digital documents? Instead of sending a paper agenda to everyone attending a meeting, email them a PDF. You save time and money.
- Encourage remote working. The pandemic made working from home commonplace. But consider the environmental impact – no commute to work, no pollution, no road wear, reduced energy and heating costs at your office. A win win.
- Watch your power use. Instead of having screensavers come on when a monitor is on standby, have the monitor power off. Switch off lights when you leave an office, and plug out machines that are not in use.
- Use natural light as much as possible. Install large windows and skylights. Did you know that artificial light represents 40% of the electricity bill of a typical office? That’s a big saving.
- Buy remanufactured ink and toner cartridges. Not only are they substantially cheaper than new brand-name cartridges, they save over a kilo of metal and plastic, and two litres of oil, in the manufacturing process.
- Buy second hand. Reuse when it comes to office furniture, machines that are still working perfectly, etc. The savings (to your bottom line, and the environment) are obvious.
- Eliminate paper towels in the canteen and toilets. There is a bit more work in cloth towels, but the savings are big.
- Buy in bulk. This doesn’t just apply to the obvious – boxes of printer paper, etc. It applies to everything. Don’t send out for a biro when you lose one. Have a supply on hand, purchased once rather than several times. Bulk buy supplies for the canteen, and save money. More importantly you save on the environmental impact of repeated deliveries.
You might not be able to apply every one of our top tips, or you might be able to go far further. But everyone can take steps to bring us closer to green sustainable offices. Our experts at CEC would be happy to guide you in this exciting journey.