Our tips for a greener office

03/11/2015

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The level of public awareness of environmental issues has increased exponentially in recent years. Businesses now recognise the importance of playing their part in looking after our planet and climate — how can you help your office become a greener workplace?

The benefits of a more sustainable office

There are a number of clear benefits to having a greener office, but these don’t simply extend to saving the planet. There are other added bonuses from making sure that your office measures up to environmentally friendly standards. Some of these include:

  • Reduced costs – recycling, using less power, becoming a paperless office – all these initiatives and activities can actually help cut down on business spending and overheads.
  • Improved productivity a survey conducted by United Technologies has shown that green buildings can produce a 26% boost in the thinking power of your workforce. What business doesn’t want a more imaginative, decisive workforce?
  • Appeal to customers – a greener office is a more pleasant office for your customers. With an increasing awareness in the public sphere about environmental issues, this could even give you an edge over the competition, as many businesses prefer to work with partners that show a level of responsibility and care to the planet.
  • Fewer sick days Harvard University instigated a study that looked at employee experience in environmentally friendly workplaces and found that workers take around 30% fewer sick days in green certified buildings.

Get the team involved

The first stage in creating a more environmentally-friendly office is getting a commitment for change from your team. If you are going to successfully implement environmentally friendly practices then it is vital that everyone is ready to put in a little extra effort to make a difference.

  • Choose a team leader who can talk to people about your green plans and the new schemes you’re going to implement in the office. Change is better handled on a personal basis, rather than sending around emails or posting notes in the breakout room wall. Use an inspirational person to generate real motivation for need procedures.  
  • Incentivise activities when they are first implemented. If the business is trying out new policies and procedures, you can make them into team games with prizes. For instance – the first team to go without paper or to only produce recyclable waste in the office could be up rewarded for their hard work. The important thing here to remember however is not to create division in the office.  
  • Appropriate dress codes are a good way of controlling the thermostat and air conditioning controls. Encouraging people to dress warmly in winter and allowing the code to become more casual in summer can be a great way to save energy.
  • Working from home can also help. If members of your workforce have to travel long distances to work, or if they are booked to complete a number of appointments in a day – are they always required to be in the office? Video calling can be a great way to keep up to date with the team, without requiring them to drive to the office in rush hour.

Reduce your consumption

Most forms of office equipment use power from the national grid, which increases the carbon footprint of your business. Cutting energy use is not simply about saving money, it helps contribute to the upkeep of the planet by reducing gas emissions formed by traditional fossil fuel power stations, which have been proven to contribute to climate change; one of the greatest ecological concerns of our current time.

Reduction goes beyond looking at power too. Think about how you are utilising other resources in the workplace and try to find alternatives or implement processes or technologies that can substantially reduce your consumption.

  • Adopt an office policy where if an electrical item like a printer or light isn’t it use – then it is turned off. Additionally, make someone in charge of ensuring that all electrical items are turned off at the socket when the office is closed down for the night.
  • If possible consider having a solar PV panel on the roof of your office that could be used to collect power and store it in a battery. Such a system is the ultimate way for your office to go green.
  • Change your air conditioning systems to evaporative coolers, consider using LCD bulbs in the office and even changing your heaters to air source heat pumps. All these technologies only use a fraction of the power of conventional systems.
  • Also, take a look at how people are getting to and from work. Could carpooling help reduce the overall carbon costs of travel? And could you cut emissions further by switching to electric only or hybrid company cars?
  • Don’t waste water. Be more vigilant when making hot drinks and ensure that the kettle isn’t over-filled. You can also purchase dual flush toilet cisterns that allow people to reduce the amount of water they use on flushing.
  • Cut down on paper and plastics wherever possible. From sending emails instead of letters to completely switching to a paperless office, it’s is possible to reduce the amount of consumables you use and therefore the amount of waste you create.

Create a better working environment

Making a more environmentally-friendly office is not only about making considerations for our planet’s future, it’s also important to take into account the wellbeing of staff. If not enough is done to keep conditions at an acceptable standard, it’s possible for your workplace to suffer sick building syndrome, increasing the chance of workers becoming ill.

  • A greener office is a happier office. Putting a range of plants and even small shrubs in the office creates a more pleasant atmosphere and better air quality, boosting morale in the workplace.
  • Maximising the available light can increase productivity by 15% in the office according to the World Green Building Council. Try to ensure that the blinds are not always set down and a good stream of natural light can get into the workplace.
  • Studies have linked excessive sitting with type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Combat the need to sit down at the desk all day with standing desks or office team exercise breaks and fitness classes.

Can an EMS help?

ISO 14001 is the internationally recognised standard that allows businesses to set up an environmental management system (EMS). Through the use of the EMS an organisation can set up processes to meet key green targets in order to gain certification.

This not only gives you a system of continual improvement where you can consistently reduce the ecological impact of your business, but it also demonstrates to potential customers that you are serious about green issues.

Make a change

As with all ecological issues, a significant impact can be made by many organisations all making small, meaningful changes. By playing your part in creating a greener office you are helping not only improve the lives of your workforce but hopefully the future of our world too.

 


If you need more help in implementing green practices within your company, read our post: How to write your sustainability policy. 

Or if you’re ready to take the next step towards ISO 14001 certification, The British Assessment Bureau can provide a fixed price, no-obligation quote at your convenience. Please call free on 0800 404 7007 or get in touch online.

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