There is no better time than now to introduce an eco-friendly workplace. Innovative efforts to implement and encourage eco-friendly policies could increase performance and results, protect the planet, and reduce operating expenses over time. Plus, in a world striving for sustainability, going green means staying competitive. When it comes to the environment – small changes can have a big impact. We should endeavor to adapt our everyday lives, not just as individuals but as businesses too.
There is a great quote from Lawrence Anthony, a South African conservationist. He was asked about global warming and the climate crisis and the debate that was raging on at the time. His response was simple, "I have yet to hear a convincing argument to NOT take care of the environment."
An eco-friendly, sustainable workplace reflects an organization that is actively trying to reduce its environmental impact – where employees understand their social responsibility.
An eco-friendly workplace can help to:
Below are 11 actionable tips to help make your workplace eco-friendly and sustainable:
1. Educate employees on environmental issues
It is important to inform your employees about the environmental issues that exist worldwide and why they should care about their impact. Various types of training can be implemented in the office and external speakers can be beneficial as sometimes people need to recognize expertise to believe and take action. You might have employees who are passionate about sustainability, use this enthusiasm to help you ascertain where changes can be made and how to reduce waste if everybody works together.
2. Eco-friendly team building activities
Team building events can improve work relationships, strengthen bonds, and with a bit of imagination, benefit the local community. Eco-friendly activities can include tree planting, planting rooftop gardens, zero-waste potlucks, and clean-ups of local areas such as parks, beaches, or riversides. These types of events create conversation, whether it’s why planting trees benefit the environment or how much single-use plastic is littering the local waterways. This hopefully leads to well-informed, conscientious employees.
3. Zero-waste coffee and tea
The consumption of coffee and tea in offices across the globe is great for employee well-being but it also accumulates a huge amount of plastic waste. To minimize this you can provide eco-friendly tea bags and coffee brands. Encourage employees to purchase, or gift them, a reusable coffee mug. Remove coffee machines that use disposable pods that cannot be recycled and replace them with reusable ones.
4. Use suppliers that deliver with eco-friendly packaging
Assess your current suppliers and how their packaging is affecting the plastic footprint of your business. Contact them to discuss alternative packaging that could work for all parties. If necessary, research different suppliers that offer sustainable packaging.
5. Provide reusable cutlery and kitchenware
Disposable cutlery, plates, and cups make up a large percentage of plastic waste in offices. As long as you have a suitable place for cleaning them, invest in reusable, washable kitchen items. Not only do they help the environment, but they will save you money in the long term. You can also encourage employees to bring in their own utensils from home. If you provide appliances for storing and heating food, employees can also bring their own meals in reusable containers and reduce the use of disposable takeaway cartons.
While it is unlikely that your organization will be able to achieve zero-waste you can increase the number of materials that you recycle. Reducing the amount of general waste you produce will help the environment and save you money. Encourage employees to recycle by ensuring recycling points are accessible throughout your workplace. Label these with notices reminding people of the correct practices.
7. Gift your employees with a set of reusable items
If your budget allows, surprise your employees with a gift set of reusable items. Employee appreciation is important for morale and eco-friendly gifts show that you care about your team and the environment.
A reusable gift set could include branded products such as:
8. Use green office supplies
Upgrade to eco-friendly alternatives of traditional office staples. Opt for recycled paper products such as sticky notes, printer paper, paper towels, and tissues. You can also buy 100 percent recyclable binders. Refillable pens can be used instead of one-time-use alternatives as well as paper tape instead of Sellotape. Aim to source items that can be composted, reused, or recycled.
9. Introduce a printer policy
The excessive use of paper is still a problem for many businesses. Audit your printing needs and assess where you can minimize output. Encourage your employees to avoid printing unnecessary documents by implementing a printer policy that outlines which types of documents need to be printed and which can be skipped. Cut down on printouts by transitioning your employees to digital document management systems and cloud storage. Also, review obsolete company documentation and reuse the paper for writing notes.
10. Brainstorm eco-friendly workplace ideas with your team
Involve your team in the process of transitioning to an eco-friendly workplace by holding a brainstorming session where everyone can bring up sustainable ideas. This not only shows that you value their input and are committed to change, but it might highlight issues you had overlooked previously. Your team knows your offices best and they have knowledge that could educate you and your colleagues.
11. Maintain office furniture
Office furniture is subject to a lot of wear and tear. Consider how you can prolong the lifespan of your office furniture with regular maintenance and repair work. If you do need to replace items of furniture, think about greener alternatives such as buying second-hand or from eco-friendly suppliers. You can also resell or donate to charity any furniture you no longer need.
As you can see, there are numerous ways you can make your workplace more eco-friendly and sustainable. One of the biggest challenges can be changing the mindsets of individuals, but with training and regular conversations, you can help increase awareness of social responsibility. At the end of the day, going green benefits us as people and as a whole, and no matter how small, any actions you take to make your workplace more energy-efficient and less wasteful are steps in the right direction.