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Apr 22, 2021

12 tips for a more sustainable office

We all know to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but what are some other specific ways to make your office green? In honor of Earth Day, we're offering 12 actionable steps towards office sustainability.
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The data is clear. Being environmentally conscious and proactive is good for business. 88 percent of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical (Forbes). Customers want to choose companies that help them live their values.Additionally, being environmentally conscious is attractive to employees.‍

49 percent of respondents ages 18-25 said they would pick their work and employers based on personal ethics, according to a 2021 Deloitte survey.

The respondents identified climate change as their top concern (Business Insider). Adopting Earth-friendly practices will help your company attract a new generation of talent.

Overall, going green can promote a healthy environment, save costs, boost company reputation, and attract environmentally conscious employees. We all know to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but what are some other specific ways to make your office green?‍In honor of Earth Day, we're offering 12 actionable steps towards office sustainability:

1) Remove individual trash cans

Etsy increased its recycling rates and reduced waste after removing the trash can at every employee's desk (Business Insider). Employees at their Brooklyn headquarters instead had to use communal waste stations (side-by-side bins for landfill, recycling, and compost). Employees were at first annoyed and felt inconvenienced, but now it's a part of the company culture. Employees have spontaneous conversations while sorting waste. CEO Chad Dickerson says "The waste stations are like Etsy's water coolers." Removing individual trash cans caused Etsy's landfill waste to drop 18 percent. Meanwhile, its recycling rate went up 20 percent and its compost rate jumped an impressive 300 percent.

2) Turn off computers each night

Leaving computers on overnight wastes an estimated $2.8 billion in annual energy costs (Scientific American). As many as half of U.S. workers leave their PCs running overnight. Turning computers off when not in use or utilizing sleep mode will help lower your company's electric bill and also lower its carbon footprint. The same recommendation goes for printers and copiers.

3) Install energy-efficient light bulbs

Energy-efficient light bulbs are a necessity for a sustainable office. They help the environment and they also produce a positive return on investment. They often cost more than traditional light bulbs, but will save roughly $45 in energy costs over the course of each bulb's lifetime (Entrepreneur.com).

4) Consider your coffee

Keep in mind what your employees' cups of coffee are costing the planet. Remember to stock the kitchen with responsibly sourced coffee beans and eco-friendly coffee products (Sustainable Business Toolkit). Also, use compostable or reusable k-cups. Avoid traditional k-cups, which are not recyclable and add to landfill waste.

5) Check cleaning products

According to Matthew Mills, COO of Med-X, the cleaning products your office uses might be full of harsh chemicals. You should conduct a thorough inventory of all cleaning and supply closets and double-check the products your cleaning crews use. Exposure to harsh chemicals, including pesticides, can cause cancer, chronic disease, and damage to the ecosystem (Forbes).  If possible, switch your company to all-natural, eco-friendly cleaning products. One great option we found is All-Green Janitorial Products.com.

6) Purchase plants

Consider adding plants around the office and encouraging employees to keep plants on their desks. Plants are nice to look at and also clear the air of carbon dioxide and harmful chemicals. Plants tend to have a positive psychological effect on employees as well, reducing stress and increasing productivity (Indeed).

7) Implement a digital signature policy

With e-signatures available on most word processors and document management systems, there's no reason contracts and documents need to be hand-signed. E-signatures reduce paper and ink usage at the office and generally make everyone's life easier. Additionally, having fewer physical files requires less office storage in the long run (Entrepreneur.com).

8) Start a sustainability team

Get employees active in the plan to make the office greener. According to Kris Osterwood of the Green Building Alliance, a sustainability team can raise company-wide awareness and lead to improved results. Employees engaging one another can be more effective than orders simply coming from the top (TechRepublic). The sustainability team can create a list of priorities, for example improving the recycling program, educating coworkers, purchasing energy-efficient appliances, etc.

9) "Drop and shop" office supplies

Many office supplies can be used over and over again. Think about starting an office supply closet where employees can "drop and shop" previously used office supplies, such as binders, file folders, paper clips, rubber bands, pens, and pencils (American Express). Consider keeping the new office supplies in the supervision of one person, such as an office manager. Employees will be encouraged to be resourceful and reuse supplies when possible. You can use the money saved in conserving office supplies to throw office parties or lunches for everyone.

10) Host environmental workshops

Stephanie Dickson, co-founder of Green Is the New Black, suggests hosting regular talks and workshops about environmentalism. Lunch and Learns are a perfect way for employees to hear more about a specific environmental topic (CNBC). Workshops can educate and motivate your teams, encouraging them to incorporate sustainability into their daily lives.

11) Choose earth-friendly swag

Make sure the items you give out as company swag align with your green values, in addition to boosting your team's spirit. The items should be fair-trade and eco-friendly.We recommend Enviro-Tote Incorporated for customized tote bags. Enviro-Tote is family-owned and manufactures eco-friendly, reusable cotton canvas bags. They fill orders starting at only 50 bags. Knowing where your swag is manufactured and choosing local vendors cuts down on international cargo shipping and emissions. Enviro-Tote products are entirely made in the United States. Their headquarters are just a short trip from our New York office, making them an ideal local partner for us.Other examples of Earth-friendly company swag are reusable water bottles, reusable office pens, and clothing made out of recycled material.

12) Encourage a hybrid workplace

The average American has a work commute of about 25 minutes each way and flies about 17 hours for work a year (TechRepublic). Not only does splitting time between office work and remote work improve employees' productivity and work/life balance, it's also good for the environment. Less commutes per month mean a smaller carbon footprint. Reduce required employee travel whenever possible, for example requiring less days a week in-person.

The hybrid office can also help the environment if less office space is needed. Downgrading to a smaller space will slash energy bills and decrease the office's carbon footprint (WeWork). A reduced office space also means fewer utilities and less maintenance.

Sources:

1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/solitairetownsend/2018/11/21/consumers-want-you-to-help-them-make-a-difference/?sh=fb421169547b

2. https://www.businessinsider.com/5-sustainability-practices-that-will-shape-the-workplace-2022-1

3. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/news-blog/leaving-pcs-on-overnight-wastes-bil-2009-03-30/

4. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/327289

5. https://www.sustainablebusinesstoolkit.com/going-green-tips-for-the-office/

6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ellevate/2021/06/29/go-green-how-to-put-your-business-on-an-eco-friendly-path/?sh=770cd19b6850

7. https://www.all-greenjanitorialproducts.com/default.asp

8. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/going-green-in-workplace

9. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/going-green-10-ways-to-make-your-office-more-eco-friendly-and-efficient/

10. https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/articles/9-things-your-office-forgot-to-recycle-1/

11. https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/articles/30-easy-ways-to-go-green-in-the-office-1/

12. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/25/climate-change-make-your-office-environmentally-friendly-in-10-steps.html

13. https://www.wework.com/ideas/professional-development/creativity-culture/create-environmentally-friendly-office

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This post was written by one of the many writers at Envoy who are passionate about helping educate and inspire workplace leaders. We cover everything from the visitor and employee experience, to space and delivery management, to the workplace tech-stack that keeps it all running.

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