Did you know that 70 percent of landfill waste a business produces can be recycled? Or that a single recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours?
When considering numbers like these, it may seem difficult to begin transforming your workspace into an environmentally friendly haven. However, with a bit of effort and planning, you can find ways to adjust your team’s daily routine and your company policies to make positive change.
This Earth Day, take some time to evaluate your current environmental initiatives and start laying the groundwork for new ones. And if you’re not quite sure where to start, here are some ideas for you!
9 Ways to “Make a Dent” This Earth Day in the Workplace
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “You can’t change the world, but you can make a dent.” But what does that truly mean? The answer is simple: you are choosing to make small changes that will add up in the grand scheme of things.
And although your minor changes may not seem like much in the big scope of things, they are the start of change, and they encourage your staff and business partners to do the same. With this in mind, it’s time to start leading by example and making a dent in your workplace with these nine eco-friendly office initiatives today.
1. Focus on Energy and Electricity Usage
According to DVIRC, commercial buildings represent approximately one fifth of the United State’s energy consumption and use 1.4 billion British thermal units (Btu) a year. With numbers like these, it’s no wonder why many companies have begun to look for ways to save energy throughout the year in their office space.
With lighting, heating, and cooling representing nearly 70 percent of total energy use in a typical office building, these are the ideal places to start when trying to reduce your yearly energy consumption.
For lighting specifically, there are many ways to take a more eco-friendly approach. One way is to encourage your team to open up windows or blinds to let in natural light during the day to cut the cost of having lights on when they are not needed. However, another highly popular method is to switch from the traditional incandescent light bulb to the energy-efficient lighting options currently on the market. By doing this, you can save energy and reduce your overall carbon emissions throughout the year exponentially.
As for heating and cooling, roughly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year from air conditioning units alone. Considered the most harmful element of the average office space, these air conditioning units may provide employees with temperate indoor climates but could also lead to significant environmental damage over time.
A great way to counteract this is to encourage your employees to use solar-powered fans or bring jackets in cooler months, rather than relying on the central heating and cooling system for comfort. Even reducing your yearly AC usage by half could make a significant impact both in your community as well as the earth as a whole.
2. Switch to Environmentally-Friendly Office Suppliers
Perhaps, you are looking for a way to refresh your brand? Encouraging eco-friendly initiatives can be a great part of that process. Review your current office suppliers and find environmentally-friendly ones that provide similar pricing, availability and products.
Be aware, however, that there are countless suppliers and manufacturers that have begun to claim to be eco-friendly when they are in fact not. To tell if a company is really “green,” you will want to look for specific claims they make, check for commitment to causes locally and internationally, ask about it in conversation, and study their packaging. By using these methods to discern the eco-friendly suppliers that are right for you and your business, you are sure to always get the most reliable and green supplies on the market.
3. Reorganize for a Minimalist Workspace
Although it may not seem like a major problem, the clutter in your office actually can affect your focus. With a minimalist workplace, you can stay organized, only use the bare essentials, and promote a certain level of frugality within your team.
For this step, you may want to begin by going through the office and picking out the unnecessary or rarely used items. You can turn this into a full day with the team and deliver these items to a local shelter or thrift store to help out your community and build a stronger team relationship in the process. If there is any unused office furniture, you can also contact a re-seller to come and pick it up for a profit.
Next, go through actual supplies and make cuts accordingly so you can remove any unnecessary parts of your current work routine. For instance, if you have printed off business projects that could easily be digitized for years now, digitize them and remove this harmful step in your workday.
Finally, encourage open space and creativity by losing excess furniture and bulky office equipment. Instead, try to promote laptops in the office rather than desktops, bringing your own coffee instead of relying on a coffee maker, and compact heating or cooling systems rather than AC units or bulky fans and space heaters.
4. Encourage Your Team to Bring Plants to Work
Did you know that NASA uses plants to improve indoor air quality in its space stations? With this said, it’s no wonder why many scientists recommend indoor plants in the office for better air quality and for improvement of the environment over time.
This Earth Day, do the same by encouraging your team to bring in some of the most popular plants for indoor air quality improvement: ferns, succulents, palms, bamboo, ivy, lilies and chrysanthemums. These plants will not only bring more vibrance into your workspace but will also help the air quality and the environment as they grow and flourish. It is also a great way to grow as a team if you give each employee a day to water the plants.
5. Promote Telecommuting Opportunities
According to Small Biz Trends, nearly 25 percent of Americans now work from home and a whopping 89-90 percent of US workers want to work from home at least part time. These numbers continue to rise yearly and are the perfect foundation for a more eco-conscious workforce.
Instead of driving to work every single day, employees could simply log onto their home computers, join the network, and begin working from the comfort of their own homes. Not only would this save an exponential amount of gas yearly but would also reduce carbon emissions, water expenses and electricity usage.
Although this once may have seemed like an impossible feat, new technology such as augmented reality business conference platforms and virtual private networks have ensured that the disconnect between remote and in-house employees is all but gone, and the company data remains secure.
6. Try a Compost Bin Outside the Office
Composting may have once been solely for “tree huggers,” but nowadays, an office can greatly benefit from a compost bin. Composting is not for every office but, if your team promises to throw their biodegradable items in this bin, you could create a composting initiative that is sure to be better for the environment than simply throwing these items in the trash.
The key to instilling these composting methods in your office is learning how to compost at work and teaching your team the importance of composting before starting. In doing this, you can gauge your team’s interest, get them excited for the new method, ensure no outer debris accidentally wind up in your composting bin, and easily create an eco-friendly office initiative.
7. Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
According to SF Gate, “The chemicals in many cleaners are common pollutants that contribute to smog, reduce the quality of drinking water and are toxic to animals.”
Obviously, no business wants to be the cause of smog, water pollution, or the harming of animals. However, if the cleaning products you use are not eco-friendly, you could easily find yourself doing just that.
Fortunately, there are a myriad of eco-friendly commercial cleaning products on the market that are not only cost-effective but also entirely safe for the environment. None of these products contain the chemicals that cause these environmental issues and often are also completely safe if accidentally ingested or if them come into contact with your skin.
8. Encourage Your Team to Bike or Walk to Work
Just as telecommuting reduces the carbon emissions and gas usage of cars, riding a bike or walking to work can help the environment, as well. For companies that simply can’t lose in-house assets to their team at the moment, telecommuting may still not be an option—but this is where biking or walking comes into play.
Although bicycling and walking may not be as convenient for your staff, there are actually multiple ways to encourage biking and walking over driving that are sure to get the attention of your team. For instance, some apps nowadays even pay employees for biking to work by creating competitions between team members, leaderboards, and incentives at certain bike riding levels.
This is a great way to create a bit of friendly competition in the workplace, encourage green initiatives in a positive and exciting manner, and also use incentives to motivate your team along the way. And if for some reason biking or walking to your office location isn’t feasible, you can always incorporate a carpooling initiative instead.
9. Create a Recycling Initiative
Perhaps one of the most obvious concepts on this list, beginning a recycling program is a great way to create an eco-friendly office. Recycling plays a huge role in the fate of our environment and, in many cases, recyclable materials are simply thrown into the trash bins and sent to landfills where they will emit carbon and other greenhouse gases for years to come.
To stop your team from being a part of this ever-growing problem, try creating three different trash cans in the office for different materials: glass, recyclables and actual trash. When the glass or recyclable bags are full, you can encourage your team to deliver these bags to local recycling centers for proper disposal and reuse.
According to Rubicon Global, “90 percent of all solid waste in the United States does not get recycled and the U.S. recycling rate is around 34.5 percent. If we were able to get the rate to 75 percent, the effect would be like removing 50 million passenger cars from U.S. roads.”
With this in mind, use these three bins to promote recycling this Earth Day in the office and know you are helping to raise this recycling percentage one person at a time.
Although the world is exponentially larger than one office building and one office manager, it takes small ideas to create the biggest impacts. This Earth Day, with the help of these eco-friendly office practices and your employees, you can rest assured knowing you and your team are making a difference and helping the environment every step of the way.