The 'small' things, however, add up to make big changes – especially if everyone pitches in. Here are some easy steps you can take to reduce waste, emissions, and energy consumption at your workplace:
- Air conditioners should be set to 25 degrees Celsius/77 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It is estimated that by increasing the temperature of a room by 1 degree Celsius, you can save about 6% of electricity. If it isn't too uncomfortable, go a step further and use only fans.
- Invest in smart power strips. Devices that are off but plugged into an outlet still draw power. Rather than manually unplugging all your gadgets, use a smart power strip, which does the work for you by shutting off the power to machines that are in standby mode. You can find them online.
- Don't ignore that leaky faucet! A faucet that drips even 10 times per minute can waste over 300 gallons of water each year. Do the responsible thing and call a plumber. Until then, you can collect the excess water and pour it into your office plants.
- Rent or buy second-hand equipment that is in good condition instead of buying new products, such as office supplies, furnishings, and decor. Doing so means less production and, ultimately, less consumption and waste of natural resources.
- Invest in reusable dishware instead of single-use products like plastic and Styrofoam containers. This is an easy solution for one of the most wasteful practices in offices.
- Upgrade those fluorescent lights to energy-efficient lights such as LEDs. It can cut costs as well as energy usage.
- Abandon the use of screensavers, which do not reduce power consumption, but only blank out your screen or fill it with patterns. Your computers and other equipment use a lot of power when not in use. To reduce power consumption, enable sleep mode and power saver features.
- Hold virtual meetings with your employees, clients and partners when they are commuting from a long distance, if viable. It will significantly cut pollution and travel costs.
- If you routinely step out for a takeaway caffeine fix, invest in a reusable container to take to the cafe. (While you're at it, say no to plastic cutlery and paper napkins!) You can buy these containers online if they're not stocked in your local stores.
- Want to breathe easier at your desk? Keep a plant, if it's allowed. It will add a splash of colour to your workspace and improve air quality. Cacti, aloe, bamboo palms, and English ivy are good choices.
- Segregate your waste into recyclable and non-recyclable, with clear signs and a list of things that should go into each dustbin.
- Go digital. According to Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist at Adobe, up to 90% of all office waste in the US is due to revisions, updates, and corrections on printed documents. You can help mitigate this by keeping files on computers and mobile phones. Cultivate the habit of reviewing documents online.
- If you must print, doing so on both sides will cut your paper costs by half and save you resources.
- Encourage your employees who live close to the office to bicycle to work – if you have the resources, you can also set up a bike rack.
- If bicycling is out of the question, encourage the use of carpools and public transport.
- Rather than buying single-use packets of sugar, salt, tea, and other pantry or kitchen essentials, buy supplies in bulk. It's cheaper and reduces transport miles as well as waste.
- To cut down pollution, encourage working from home. It will decrease company overhead, reduce stress for your employees, and enable you to hire the best workers, wherever they are. This is especially true in the case of companies where most work is done over email and phone calls.
- Using eco-friendly cleaning products is a great way to maintain a healthier environment for your employees. Norwex and Pink Solutions, along with many others, offer such products.
- Invest in a zero-waste box, if it is available in your country. It is on the pricier side, but worth it if you're serious about reducing as much waste as possible.
- As the saying goes in business, 'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it'. Set a baseline and track your company's water and energy use, as well as waste, and adjust your strategy for sustainability accordingly.
- Hold a quarterly company contest for the best idea for reducing waste and energy consumption in your workplace. It is a fun and productive way of diminishing costs and pollution.
Going green at offices is becoming increasingly important, and with steps such as these, you do not necessarily have to choose between being eco-friendly and saving money.
Be smart. Be sustainable.