A Guide to a Greener Office

Ahead of the UK’s Energy Saving Week (18-24th January 2021), here’s a list of my pet peeves ways to make your work environment a little greener.

Turn-Offs are the new Turn-On

Do you remember all the adverts to turn off home appliances, instead of leaving them on standby? They used to inundate us, reminding us to switch off our devices and save electricity (and money) – that beady, red light was the stuff of nightmares.

We got into a homely habit of switching everything off at the wall and we should bring this habit to the workplace. For sure we’re all excited to run away at 5 o’clock but we need to be mindful of that little standby light before we head home – especially in the lockdown when a). we might not be in the office for another several days, and b). if we’re at home, this contributes to our own electricity bills – households waste £227M a year from leaving appliances on standby – no wonder yer parents got mad eh!

Speaking of parents… I grew up in the South of Scotland where electricity and women’s rights barely exist. When it got cold we were told to put our jumpers on, so we did, and we were grand! The idea of ‘warm clothes’ seems to be lost these days, but basically if your home or office is a little chilly, you can put these extra layers on instead of turning the radiator up to max and it helps reduce energy – amazing!

  • The monitor uses 33% of a PC’s energy – leaving it on overnight is equal to laser printing 500+ pages.
  • Leaving your photocopier on overnight wastes enough energy to make 30 cups of tea.
  • A small department can save over £1,000 each year by ensuring that lights are not left on overnight.
  • Turning off unneeded lights could remove 171 kg (376 lb) of CO2 emissions per year.
  • It would take a tree more than a year to absorb the CO2 emitted by one fan left on overnight over the summer.
Facts and Figures taken from a University of Cambridge study

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

I think (I hope) we’re all quite good at doing this at home, but somehow in the office it all goes to pot.

My company offered a free lunch once a week and I can’t even fathom the amount of waste: foods, plastics and cardboard all chucked into the same non-biodegradable plastic bin liner… y’know, the food wasn’t even that good. If your company offers a similar programme, try and find a way to encourage separation of rubbish and proper recycling. We stopped the free lunches due to the lockdown but I’m hoping we keep it off the schedule.

I’ll admit, I am terribly lazy at making my own packed lunches, so when I do go to office, I usually end up buying something from the shop, FOR SHAME. I’m working on it though, trying to do the whole ‘make your lunch the night before’ thing, and even if working remotely has been a huge help in reducing my packaging waste, I know I can still do better.

Aside from the lunchtime and schnacktime waste, you can also reduce general office waste: only print documents where necessary; switch to fonts that use less ink; recycle paper; offer reusable coffee mugs; buy recycled stationery… the list is endless!

  • Switching from Arial to Century Gothic or Ryman Eco uses up to 33% less ink.

Build a Green Team

I recently joined an ‘Employee Resource Group’ (ERG) focussed on the environment and sustainability. This is a great way to get things done together and meet new people from all parts of the company. If you’re interested in starting something like this, try speaking with your manager and/or HR team to help get the message out there – you may find there already is one!

As a team you could suss out what energy tariff your company uses and persuade the important folks to switch to a greener alternative. You could also work on improving systems in the workplace, such as proper recycling or finding sustainable suppliers… there’s so much you could do!

If you are proposing changes, make sure you also present the monetary value to minimise resistance. Pulling the money card will probably help sway the important folks’ decision (hopefully in your favour).

Plants

Of course the best way to make your office greener is obviously to introduce luscious, green plants!

Note: If you and your colleagues are working from home, please don’t forget about the plants.

Apparently my good friends at NASA have done a study and found quite a few different plants that are more effective at purifying and detoxing than others.

If you’re interested in more ways to be greener, I can recommend Jen Gale’s ‘The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide‘ which is chock-full of ideas for work, home and all parts of life.

Now, there’s no such thing as a ‘friendly reminder’, despite what your colleagues may say, so please note this passive-aggressive nudge to turn down the radiators, switch off your monitors, unplug your chargers, turn off the lights (including meeting rooms, kitchens and toilets), separate your rubbish, recycle, build a team, switch tariffs and buy a snake plant. I know it seems like a lot of work, and sometimes it really is, so thank you for being considerate and mindful and always striving to do better. Namaste.

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