How to Make Your New Office Eco-Friendly
In a survey of 2000 UK office workers, a whopping 83% reported that their workplaces were not doing enough to address climate change. In the same survey, 65% said they would like to work for a company with strong environmental policies, while 63% wanted to learn more green skills to become more valuable in their workplace.
Today, every organisation and individual needs to take steps to become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. However, it's clear that many businesses aren't currently doing enough. How can organisations make sustainability a priority?
A great place to start your organisation’s sustainability journey is right here in your office. From renewable energy to green initiatives and emission reduction targets, here are some ways you can make your current space more environmentally friendly. Or, if you're currently in the market for a new office, here are some things to consider when choosing your new workplace.
Dress for the weather
One key way to be more environmentally friendly in the workplace is to reduce your reliance on the heating and AC in the office. In the summer and winter, encourage employees to dress with the temperature in mind so you don’t have to crank up the air conditioning or heating so high to make everyone comfortable. This might require encouraging a more casual workwear policy if your office has a strict dress code, allowing employees to wear light and cool clothes in the summer and bundle up more in cosy outfits in the winter.
However, keep in mind that it might take some experimenting to find a comfortable temperature for everyone in the office. Research has found that women are more likely than men to report feeling uncomfortably cold in the office and that this is impacting their work performance, especially when it's hot outside. With this in mind, reducing your office's reliance on the air conditioning unit might not only have environmental benefits, but potentially improve the performance of your employees, too!
Switch up your lighting
One of the quickest and easiest switches you can make in your workplace is changing the lighting from incandescent bulbs to energy-saving LED lightbulbs. LED lights are significantly more eco-friendly – they produce the same amount of light using a small fraction of the energy and last longer than traditional bulbs.
If you're in the market for a new office, look out for offices that have motion-activated lighting, ensuring that the lights switch off when the office is empty. This will help you save electricity every day without any effort necessary from your employees.
Move to renewable energy
This doesn’t mean that you must start installing solar panels on your office roof, although that’s never a bad idea!
Shop around for a new energy supplier with a green energy plan, allowing you to power your office with renewable energies such as solar and wind energy. If you’re in a shared or rented office space, chat to your provider and other tenants – switching to renewable energy might be on their to-do lists too!
Or, if you're considering moving to a new office, make sure that a renewable energy supply is on your new office checklist. With growing numbers of coworking spaces, managed offices, and serviced offices focusing on environmental sustainability, it's easier than ever to find an eco-conscious workspace.
Re-evaluate your office supplies
What office suppliers do you use, and could you switch to an environmentally friendly alternative? From pens and cleaning supplies to toilet paper and the coffee pods you use in your machine, there are probably many items in your office that could be swapped for an eco-friendly version with less environmental impact.
Write down a list of all the office supplies you use in a day and start thinking about more environmentally beneficial ways to source these items, whether it’s switching to a carbon neutral supplier or choosing one that uses only eco-friendly packaging.
Make sure you’re ditching single-use plastic wherever possible. Buy reusable cutlery instead of single use plastic ones and opt for biodegradable coffee pods instead of plastic ones.
Reducing your office’s paper usage is a good way to boost your environmental credentials. Paper is extremely energy-intensive to produce – it’s the world’s third most energy-intensive manufacturing process. And yet, the average American office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper per year, creating huge amounts of waste in landfill.
While cutting down on paper usage may have been a tricky thing to do in the past, we now have a wealth of digital technology that can support a paperless team.
Not sure how to reduce your paper footprint? Here’s where to start:
- Reduce the number of printers, and keep the paper separately to discourage people from printing unless it’s necessary
- Print only what you really need to (and print double-sided and in a small font if necessary)
- Use online communications tools like Slack instead of printed memos and project management tools like Trello or Asana instead of sheets of paper or sticky notes
- Switch to electronic contracts and invoices to cut down on paperwork
- Consider using an iPad or tablet with a stylus to imitate the feeling of taking notes on paper
If you're moving offices, use this as an opportunity to transition to a paperless workspace. By moving to a new office with no printer, everyone will be forced to find digital alternatives for their paper use.
There are two options for making your team’s commutes more eco-friendly.
Firstly, encourage green commuting. Do your team members often drive to work? Is it possible for them to take public transportation or cycle instead? Encourage them to leave the car at home by providing perks for green commuters such as secure cycle storage, on-site showers and changing rooms so it’s easy to change in and out of cycling gear.
To encourage the use of public transportation such as buses or trains, consider implementing flexible start time policies so that employees don’t have to worry about being late thanks to a late bus or over-crowded train. Prizes and recognition can be given to green-commuting employees to reinforce this sustainable behaviour.
And, if you're considering moving to a different office, keep public transport links in mind when choosing a location. Your employees will be significantly more likely to use planet friendly public transport if you're located near good train, bus, or tram links.
The second option to make commuting more sustainable is to reduce the number of commutes necessary. A hybrid working policy where employees are only expected to work in the office for a few days each week and from home for the remaining days can substantially reduce the environmental impact of commuting.
Make recycling easy in the office
Recycling is important, but many of us are lazy. We’re more likely to recycle properly if it’s made easy for us with clearly labelled bins for different recycled items located around the workplace.
Don’t limit your office’s recycling to glass, cardboard, paper and metals – a food waste bin for composting, and dedicated recycling for electronics and batteries is a good idea too.
Remember to use up what you have before switching to different supplies. ‘Recycle’ is only one part of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ – think about what you can reduce or reuse instead of recycling.
Create a sustainability team
Every office should have a sustainability team, even if it only consists of one or two people. The sustainability group can educate their coworkers, help identify opportunities to be more eco-friendly, and collect feedback on environmental initiatives the office implements.
If you want to become a truly green business, appointing a green team is essential. This means that people will take ownership of environmental policies within the organisation and act as advocates among the other employees.
Start fun workplace challenges
Green challenges are a good way to keep sustainability fun while reminding all employees to make an effort to be greener. For example, one month you might have a recycling goal, or an incentive for employees who bring a reusable water bottle to work, offering small prizes for everyone who succeeds.
Set emission reduction targets
One of the most productive ways that you can make your office more environmentally sustainable is to calculate your current footprint and set emission reduction targets. Creating a target will help organise and give purpose to your efforts as well as proving to your employees and customers that sustainability is a real priority for your organisation.
Offer vegan and vegetarian office snacks
In 2018, a major scientific analysis found that avoiding meat and dairy products was the single largest way that individuals could reduce their impact on the planet. While estimates of how big a difference this could make to carbon emissions vary, it’s clear that reducing our consumption of animal products is important.
In the office, you can incentivise a switch to more plant-based foods by making an effort to provide vegetarian and vegan snacks and drinks such as fruit or almond milk. If you go for team lunches or are catering for events, make sure to pick options with lots of vegetarian and vegan options to encourage the team to go meat-free.
Choose virtual meetings instead of travelling
If there’s one thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that we can work well remotely. In the past, travelling for meetings with clients or overseas teams was the norm, but it’s now clear that a Zoom video call can be just as effective.
With air travel contributing significantly to our carbon emissions, it’s important to reduce this as much as possible. Also, reduce travelling by car as much as possible. Opting to carry out a meeting online instead of in-person saves time, money, and is better for the environment!
Consider your hybrid working policy
If, like many other organisations in the wake of the pandemic, your business is doing a combination of remote and in-office work, there are a few ways you can boost your office’s sustainability.
First, consider having whole-team remote working days. Instead of having a few people in the office each day, it makes sense to ask the whole team to work from home on one or two days a week and in the office for the rest. The benefit of this is that you do not have to light or heat the office for just one or two people every day, allowing you to use less electricity and save on energy bills.
Another option is to reduce your office size. With fewer people working in the office, you may find that your space is bigger than you need and providing the necessary heating and lighting is wasteful. Consider downsizing to a smaller, hybrid-friendly office that can increase your energy efficiency and reduce your overheads.
Move to a new green office
If you're in the market for a new office space, using sustainability as one of your criteria is a great idea. Look out for things like buildings powered by renewable energy, natural lighting in the office, energy-efficient buildings, and facilities like bike racks, showers, and lots of recycling bins. Paying attention to the BREEAM certification of the office building is also beneficial.
Keeping a sustainability checklist in your office search is a great way to find your ideal sustainable workplace. If your business already has a sustainability team, make sure that they are involved in the process to evaluate the sustainability of potential offices.
Sustainability is not only needed to protect our planet and reduce the impacts of climate change; becoming more eco-friendly can also be better for your bottom line. With younger consumers (particularly Gen Z and Millennials) reporting that they prefer to support sustainable brands that share their values and principles, showing that your organisation is committed to becoming a green business makes your organisation more attractive to consumers, and potential team members, too.
It's not enough to boast that your organisation cares about the environment; practising what you preach is essential and ensuring sustainability in your workplace is the first step. The green tips shared in this article will help your organisation set a good example with a more sustainable and environmentally conscious office.
Are you looking to move to a more flexible office to suit your changing needs? Future Squared can help. We match teams with their perfect flexible offices in amazing locations all around the UK, including a variety of office options such as serviced offices, managed offices, virtual offices, and coworking office spaces.