Climate change. Irrespective if you believe it's humanity fault or not, helping reduce our impact on the environment can only be positive. We all do our bit at home, however what can we do at work? Here's 26 effective ways to have a positive impact.
Remember that catchcry in the late nineties, how we will all be working in paperless offices? Yep, science fiction, wasn’t it? However we can all work together to make huge environmental impacts, through small changes in how our businesses run, consume and distribute.
I’ve collated 26 very effective methods for small to large businesses to enact, to help improve our impacts on the environment. Nearly all of these we can do straight away – you are no doubt already doing at least some of them.
Let’s go through them in more detail.
No matter how hard we all try, the paper free office really does seem to be unachievable for many. That doesn’t mean you should just downright give up though. Do what you can to reduce your use of paper. Think before printing every document, and look at sharing documents electronically instead of by mail or courier.
The use of laptops and tablets during meetings is on the rise. This saves time too; no more needing to hand write on paper and then transcribe to electronic later. If you absolutely must print something, choose to print on both sides, or reduce the size of your print, to do two print pages per physical page.
Encourage public transport use
One company I know offers their team free Transperth smart riders for work trips, to avoid everyone driving in to the office. This works very well for those who tend to remain in the work place during their day, and can even work when travelling to meetings, if they are easily accessible by train or bus.
It also reduces your requirements to provide any on-site parking for employees, therefore reducing costs.
Recycle that paper
Have an office box for paper that has only been used on one side. The more we collect this, the more we can use this for scrap paper or for note taking within the office. Obviously, if the other side contains commercially sensitive materials, you may want to be aware of where it goes.
Electronic cards not physical
This may seem like a small thing, however if you send out 500 cards, that’s a lot of paper and a lot of postage, which also contributes through fuel and distribution centre costs. Where possible, send an electronic card instead. Done well, they can be fun and just as personal.
You should look at various methods to reduce travel where you can. Ask your customers If they can just deal with you over the phone rather than in meetings. Look at screen sharing software instead of driving to your client. Choose virtual conference, instead of flying and taxis. Send email or files instead of posting or couriers.
Provide filtered water
How many times have you noticed people drinking from those dreaded plastic water bottles in the office? Whilst water is fantastic for your health, those plastic bottles are not. Look at getting a filter tap installed, or one of those desktop water chillers instead.
Downloads not postage
Wherever possible, use your website to share files and resources, rather than post them out. Email all of your invoices, and use clever web design to distribute information and advertise, instead of press advertising or outdoor billboards.
Recycle everything you can
Ask your local council what exactly they provide local businesses to help with their recycling efforts. Not only do many councils provide recycling kerbside bins, but they also have open days to collect electronics, batteries, light globes, etc. The more you can recycle your waste, both paper and the like, the better.
Are you in a high rise that has their lighting on overnight? If so, speak to building management about working out how to reduce this. Make it a negotiation point during your next lease or rent review. If they won’t change, you change by finding another premises that will.
Offer flexible hours
Imagine our freeways and roads, if instead of the usual 8.30 or 9.00am start and 5.00 or 5.30pm finish, businesses encouraged their employees to choose more flexible hours? This is a great time of year to start at 6.30am or 7.00am, so you can leave an hours or two earlier and enjoy that afternoon weather. Not a morning person? That’s fine – come in at 10.00am and leave at 6.00pm.
It’s fascinating to see that productivity increases if anything, and certainly doesn’t decrease. The team may feel happier and more rested as well!
Swap to green power
As far as I am aware, every power company in Australia offers green energy options. For example, WA electricity provider, Synergy, provides over 30,000 local businesses their GreenPower option.
Buy recycled furniture
The furniture in our office is mostly around 7 years old, when we purchased it from a client who was upgrading most of their desks. Not only did this save us a fortune in furniture costs, but it meant that their 15 or so desks, which were still in great condition, didn’t end up in landfill.
You would be amazed how much office furniture gets thrown out or sold for very cheap. Keep an eye on the classifieds and only buy the furniture you absolutely need.
Be sun smart
When it’s the height of summer, and all that glass is letting the sun in, instead of reaching to turn the air conditioning even higher, look at installing blinds or curtains. By blocking a large portion of the sun in summer, you reduce the power you need to use to cool your office.
The reverse is true in the Australian winter. Do what you can, to let the sunlight in during cooler days, to avoid having to heat your workspace.
Reduce that heater or air conditioner
There is a lot of research out there that shows the amazing power and cost savings by just changing the thermostat by 1-2 degrees. Instead of setting the office air conditioning to 21 degrees, try making it 22 or 23; it’s barely noticeable to people, yet the power savings are huge.
Go for the cloud
Rather than host servers and expensive hardware within your office, look at migrating what you can to the cloud. This will no doubt offer cost savings over time, and also reduce your power and cooling footprint significantly.
Use automatic lighting
Where you can, stop leaving lights n all day and swap them to sensor activated. Toilets, storage rooms and lesser trafficked hallways are all great candidates for swapping to sensor lighting.
Electric not petrol
As electric or hybrid vehicles become cheaper, the more attractive they can be for commercial fleets. Not only will it save your business considerable running costs, it is also a very public way to show you care about the environment.
Bring your lunch to work
Another area to look at is food packaging – how much of that do you see floating around the office or in nearby bins?
You should encourage your team to bring their leftovers to work, or make lunch in the office kitchen instead of buying plastic or cardboard covered lunches every day. Imagine how much that packaging adds up, at five lunches a week among say 10 employees?
Buy recycled paper
Where possible, always buy recycled paper. Most printers can provide this for your stationery or promotional materials as well. Don’t limit yourself to just printer paper either; you can buy recycled envelopes, cardboard tubes and the like.
Share lunch ingredients
I mentioned making your lunch before. You may worry about the wastage form half loaves of bread or half salads being thrown out Why not encourage your team to chip in for a grocery run, or at least some people going halves in ingredients such as sauces, condiments, bread and the like?
Email not paper newsletters
We’ve seen organisations save thousands of dollars per quarter, swapping from paper to electronic newsletters. Clients such as schools, who often send weekly or fortnightly, can save truckloads, and get timelier delivery by using email marketing.
No more leaks
Walk around and check for any dripping taps, running cisterns or water leaks. The quicker these are fixed, the better. Encourage your team to report any leaks as soon as they spot them.
If you have an office dishwasher, ensure you only turn it on when it is completely full. Try using the low water setting as well. Same with any laundry equipment or the like.
If you can, why not encourage your team to work from home one day a week each? You’ll find there’s a good chance they will actually be more productive, and the less travel means less fuel and road congestion.
Turn it off
Make sure to always be in the habit of switching off unused computers, printers and appliances at the power point when they are not being used. Many of these can go for days without being used, and their standby power usage adds up over a year.
Reduce water usage
Reducing your water use is one very obvious way to save money and help the environment. If you work in a light industrial setting, have a water specialist come in and review your water usage. They are sure to offer great suggestions in how to reduce your water requirements and therefore ongoing running costs.
It is up to all of us, individuals, governments and organisations large and small, to do what we can to reduce our effects on the environment. Together, if we all do our fair share, we’ll have a fantastic impact on both the local and global environment.