12 Tips To Make Your Workplace More Eco-Friendly

Recycling Paper

If you’re like most UK residents you probably recycle your household waste but what happens when you get to the office? Do your green credentials stretch to the workplace? If you’d like to work in a greener environment there are some simple and effective changes you could implement to make your place of work, work for the environment.

Approx 70% of all office waste is recyclable but typically only 7.5% of that potential recycling reaches a recycling plant. In the UK we produce roughly 200 million metric tonnes of waste a year, 24% of that being office waste, it’s a staggering statistic, but we can all play our part to reduce these numbers.

Here are 15 tips to make your office more eco-friendly and improve your green credentials at the same time.

1. Reduce Printing Waste

The typical office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper every year. 68% of that paper is considered waste. To bring these printing figures down adjusting your printer’s setting is a quick and easy way to almost halve printing costs. Move the default setting to print double-sided and in black and white unless otherwise specified. This will cut paper usage in half and reduce ink consumption by not printing in colour. Consider also adding an anti-print signature to your email; just a few lines of text in the signature can make people stop and think twice before printing.

2. Environmentally Friendly Products

Using recycled and reusable products whenever possible is an easy way to bring environmentally conscious acts into daily office life. Buying recycled notepads and printing paper is a great first step, but by far the biggest office offender when it comes to waste is the disposable pen. 12 years ago pen manufacturer Bic announced the sale of its 100 billionth disposable pen. To give you some context, that many pens could circle the globe 348 times! Make reusable pens part of your office culture to do your part in reducing this huge plastic wastage.

3. Work From Home

The digital revolution has made connecting with your co-workers and clients instant and seamless, and taking advantage of this technology can help the environment as well as your business objectives. Enabling your workforce the freedom to work from home as well as the office means that commuting pollution and deterioration of the road network is reduced. Lower traffic emissions and a smaller volume of cars on the road also leads to improved safety levels and reduces the cost of the highways’ upkeep.

4. Nature’s Light Bulb

Painting your office bright, light and neutral colours will help to maximise the impact of natural daylight by reflecting it off the walls and around the room. Keeping windows clear from obstructions, and opening blinds will allow as much light in as possible and can help to save on electricity bills. Having a higher saturation of natural daylight in your office has also been proven to improve staff wellbeing and reduce absence rates.

5. Think About Ink

Rather than ordering a new ink cartridge the next time yours runs out, look into buying remanufactured cartridges instead. Remanufactured cartridges are typically about 10-15% cheaper than brand new ones for a start. Each new ink cartridge that’s manufactured uses half a gallon (4 pints) of oil to produce its packaging, whereas remanufactured cartridges save on manufacturing costs and component parts.

6. Standby For Savings

Leaving just one typical office PC on overnight for a year creates enough CO2 to fill a double-decker bus. Experts in office moves and office efficiency, suggest introducing an office-wide policy to properly power down all PCs and office equipment at the end of the day. This can save thousands in electricity running costs and help reduce your commercial carbon footprint.

7. Recycle Your Hardware

Office equipment that is no longer needed or outmoded can still go on to have a useful purpose. There are many companies who offer a recycling service for old hardware and will even cover postage or collection of the items. Their aim is to recycle as much as possible and ethically dispose of whatever elements can’t be recycled.

8. Go Green With Greenery

Adding houseplants to your office environment can dramatically improve air quality. A study by NASA concluded that houseplants can neutralise chemicals found in furniture, household products and decorating materials. This is ideal as office furniture is a key culprit in ‘off-gassing’ volatile organic chemicals into the atmosphere, creating indoor air pollution. Giving each employee a desk plant improves air quality, and boosts employee wellbeing. Improving air quality with plants isn’t a new concept; hospital patients with plants in their rooms have recorded lower blood pressure, better recovery rates and lower stress levels.

9. Car Pooling

Incentivising your workforce with a ‘company carpool’ scheme can encourage employees to share the commute and reduce pollution levels. If carpooling is not feasible then encouraging use of public transport is another option. If you want to go super green and have a fit active workforce then there is a government cycling scheme available. In 1999 the UK government issued a tax exemption incentive for people looking to cycle to work. Employers can sign up to the scheme for free; employees select a bike from a partner retailer worth up to £1000. The scheme then allows employers to loan cycles and cyclists’ safety equipment to employees as a tax-free benefit.

10. Rechargeable Batteries

Wireless keyboards and mice are a constant drain on battery supplies and need replacing fairly regularly. A typical battery can take over 100 years to biodegrade. Rechargeable batteries therefore are a more eco-friendly solution to single-use batteries, if you keep spares then you can rotate between charged and charging sets in your equipment.

11. Reusable water bottle and mugs

National Geographic magazine states that eight million tons of plastic is discarded into the ocean every year from coastal countries. That’s the equivalent of five shopping bags for every foot of coastline around the globe. As an island nation we can help turn the tide on this rubbish tsunami. Giving each employee a reusable water bottle or mug can help reduce the huge amounts of waste caused by plastic water cooler drinking cups, and vending machine coffee cups. This can also be a nice way to welcome new staff with their own personalised mug and water bottle.

12. Meat Free Mondays

If your workplace has a canteen or communal dining room why not incentivise your staff to take part in meat free Mondays? This is the brainchild of Paul McCartney (yes THAT Paul McCartney) and aims to help reduce the production of greenhouse gases by reducing the consumption of meat products 1 day a week. It’s estimated that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions, so this is one small way in which you and your colleagues could help impact on these figures and learn some new recipes whilst you’re at it!

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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