4 ways to make an office more sustainable

Sustainability is a key watchword for modern business.

However, a study from Ipsos MORI recently revealed that even small and medium-sized enterprises “account for around half (50%) of UK business-driven emissions, and almost a third (30%) of all current UK greenhouse gas emissions”. In short, companies have their work cut out for them in helping make the planet cleaner, greener, and fit for the future. A great starting point is looking at changes that can be made to the place where business members spend most of their time: the office.

Thankfully, there are some straightforward solutions that any firm can use to reduce their workplace’s impact on the environment and reach sustainability targets. Read on for our top tips for making the office more eco-friendly.

1.   Hire a Green Guru

Off the top of your head, you can probably name at least a handful of office supplies that, if handled carelessly, can have a negative impact on the environment and squander valuable energy. Examples include plastic cups, paper waste, unused technology and inefficient machines. Many companies will similarly be aware of these less than eco-friendly aspects, but find themselves at a loss for time or strategies to deal with them.

That’s where the Green Gurus come in. These are sustainability consultants who can identify which of these areas of your workplace need improvement, how to achieve this, and which changes to prioritise.

What’s more, Green Gurus also coordinate informative and pro-active events, including waste awareness-themed work days, onsite management services, and targeted training sessions for employers and employees alike. As waste management experts Bywaters claim: “whether you’re a boutique café owner or a Fortune 500 powerhouse, your Green Guru will help you minimise your company’s environmental impact and keep costs down”.

2.   Go vegan

What if there was a way to boost productivity and satisfaction at work, all while doing your bit for the planet? That’s where a vegan office-diet comes in — even if just trialled for a month. It’s been estimated that cutting out meat, fish and dairy products is the best way to reduce our collective carbon footprint — given that meat farming (especially beef) alone is responsible for the majority of deforestation. While this might draw a few groans from certain carnivores, they can’t be too stubborn for long. After all, if management organises communal vegan lunches, hungry staff would be foolish to pass that up.

The benefits of vegan eating habits aren’t limited to being ethical and eco-friendly either — there are several positive health impacts of going plant-based. A scheme that encourages eating more legumes, nuts and seeds can deliver employees some special nutrients, which may help them to lose weight and even lower their risk of heart disease.

3.   Embrace hybrid working

Research shows that allowing staff to work from home, at least a portion of the time, could potentially reduce nitrogen emissions — the main pollutant from car exhaust — by up to 10%, as a result of cutting out commutes for employees throughout the week. What’s more, according to the International Workplace Group: “most studies show that home or local working results in a net reduction [of emissions], with one suggesting it can be as much as 77%”.

However, the right balance should be found between working remotely and in the office, as a rise in home-working amounts to an increase in domestic energy usage. Reducing the company’s dependence on office electrical use from lights, computers and printers is also bound to fail if the office is half-empty, as similar amounts of energy are still used. To get around this, have set days where employees use the office.

4.   Go paperless

For time immemorial, workplaces especially have been reliant on paper — which happens to grow on trees, and we need as many of those as we can get! Yet it’s not all a matter of reducing the need for deforestation. As the years have gone by, it’s been found that having a physical paper trail is actually much less efficient than relying on digital access to documents. There has also been an industry-wide move to ensure security and information storage purely through relying on computer files.

E-signatures are also growing increasingly common (the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of digital signature market is anticipated at 29% for the next decade). Internal and external collaborations taking place through online platforms is largely the norm today, and banks have encouraged the switch to e-documents over paper statements.

If you haven’t done so already, not only does this save a great deal of paper and envelope usage, it cuts out time and effort too. For situations where paper is being used, closely monitoring the supply will ensure that it is being utilised efficiently, and that employees are encouraged to limit the total paper waste that ensues from workplace activity.