Making a difference to the environment at work

We’ve all seen those, ‘Don’t print this email unless you really need to!” footers in emails, but have you ever stopped to think about how you could be more environmentally-friendly at work? You probably spend up to 40 hours per week there, so there are definitely things that you can do to have less impact on the environment. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Turn off your screen at home time

If you work in an office it can be tempting to leave your computer on stand-by to make it easier to pick up where you left off the next day. Don’t forget to turn off your screen, though! Leaving it on needlessly uses electricity. And just as you would at home, turn off the light if you’re the last to leave.

2. Say no to single-use Styrofoam or plastic

Cake saleThirsty? Step away from the disposable containers! If your office provides glasses or cups, make use of one of those instead of a cup made of paper, plastic or Styrofoam. If reusable containers aren’t provided, why not consider bringing your own? Having a cake sale or work picnic? Avoid using disposable cutlery and plates. Unfortunately we’ve even seen these used at environmental events where food was served! If it’s not possible to use standard cutlery and crockery, consider investing in good quality plastic ones which can be washed and reused, and transported more easily.

3. Understand and use the recycling bins

What we can and can’t recycle in Europe is changing. Your office should provide separate bins for landfill and recyclable items. Ensure you understand what goes in each bin so that you don’t accidentally contaminate the recycling. We’ve seen people in offices put coffee grounds in the recycling bin. This contaminated a whole bag of items that could have been recycled. Some offices even have compost bins, ensuring that less waste goes to landfill.

4. Think carefully about your need for new equipment

Some offices are very generous with their IT and stationery budgets. Often a new employee will be provided with brand new equipment, or upgrades are easily available. A fully-stocked and easily accessible stationery cupboard means there’s no need to scrimp on paper. But our mindless use of resources can lead to waste, unnecessary spend and almost-new equipment being cast aside to become obsolete in a drawer. Think before you consume, even if there is no monetary cost to you. There is always a cost to the environment! If your office stores old PCs and laptops indefinitely, consider asking management to donate them to charity instead. The phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” applies to more than just paper and plastic.

5. Push for more

Use reusable cupsIncreasing numbers of workplaces are introducing initiatives to reduce their environmental impact. If your workplace is lagging behind, why not encourage management to do more? There are many ways to make a difference but composting food waste, encouraging employees to cycle or use public transport, local community clean-up days and providing company-branded reusable coffee cups will all reduce environmental impact. This can also inspire employees to make changes in their personal life. Gentle pressure from employees will help push companies in the right direction.

What sort of changes has your company made recently? Have you made any changes at work to reduce your environmental impact?