Going green in the workplace involves actions like recycling, the use of green materials, and the reduction of waste. Companies that take steps to go green do their part for the environment and increase their reputation as thoughtful businesses. While some changes might require an initial investment, the savings and benefits outweigh the cost. In this article, we provide some steps you can take to make the workplace green for a healthier and more productive environment.
What does it mean to go green?
Going green means taking certain steps to put conscious and sustainable choices in place that reduce waste, encourage sustainable actions, and save energy. Companies may go green in response to customer or vendor requests or as a conscious decision to be environmentally aware. Going green starts with small changes, like changing light bulbs, and may inspire bigger changes, like a new HVAC system.
Why is going green in the workplace beneficial?
Going green in the workplace has many benefits, not only to the environment but to personnel as well. Going green results in a lighter carbon footprint for the company and an overall healthier workplace for employees. Businesses might enjoy tax breaks that come with installing solar or energy-efficient heating and cooling, or when they implement recycling programs.
In addition, green workplace practices can:
Promote a healthy environment
Reduce employee absences
Boost company reputation
Attract environmentally conscious employees
How to create an environmentally conscious workplace
With a little thought and planning, making the workplace green fulfills corporate social responsibility and promotes environmentally aware habits.
Here are eight steps you can take to make the workplace greener:
1. Incorporate the entire office
The first step is to engage employees and inspire them to suggest or follow green practices. Consider providing incentives to employees such as rewarding those who bike to work or bring their lunch. Assign teams to:
Research products to inform purchasing decisions
Locate energy-efficient appliances
Switch to non-toxic cleaning supplies
Teach employees green methods
2. Assess printing practices
Printers use tons of paper and ink, but a few changes can make a big difference and save the company money in the long term. Encourage employees to print on both the front and back of paper or use scraps for messages or note-taking.
Go even further and become paperless. Incorporate paperless transactions with vendors and suppliers and incentivize customers to receive statements or bills online. Consider offering a credit, discount or bonus to customers and vendors who go paperless.
Incorporate cloud-based or email communication and encourage file uploads and downloads (such as agendas or memos), rather than printing
Stop receiving catalogs through the mail and opt for digital versions instead.
3. Overhaul the break room
Break rooms are typically filled with single-use plastics, toxic cleansers, inefficient appliances, or faucets that don’t entirely shut off. Remember that not all plastics are recyclable, aim to replace non-recyclables with sustainable products.
Get rid of paper and foam products and replace them with reusable cups, dishes, and cutlery. Eliminate single-use products like disposable cutlery or water bottles and replace them with reusable items or encourage employees to bring their own.
Washing dishes can use additional power to heat water and may pose a problem if dishes pile up. Assign break room duties and rotate staff to wash or put items away. Consider installing an energy-efficient dishwasher that can make all those tasks simpler while saving water and heating costs.
Replace harsh cleaners and detergents with non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaners.
Provide a way to compost coffee grounds and use them to feed and fertilize office plants. Use compostable coffee filters as well.
4. Make recycling easy
To reduce the number of recyclables tossed in the trash, add bins to make recycling simpler. Label bins so there is no question about what goes where. Consider bins for plastics, and paper and one for batteries or ink cartridges.
Recyclable office items:
Paper products including envelopes and magazines
Soda cans and plastic bottles
5. Freshen air naturally
Plants not only offer a beautiful way to clean the air but they also lend a sense of calm and wellness to the atmosphere. Plants can clean carbon dioxide from the air and absorb other potentially harmful chemicals.
Plants in the office can:
Reduce sick days
6. Think twice
Changing habits like simply tossing something in the trash takes some time. Before discarding an item, consider other ways to put it to use. Donate books and manuals if you can, if not, recycle. When it’s time to replace equipment or furniture, consider donating items to a new business or charity and enjoy the corresponding tax breaks.
Consider product choices and aim to purchase products that use reduced packaging. Buy items in bulk to save trips, delivery costs, and packaging, Retail operations can make reusable bags available to customers and encourage their use when shopping or provide incentives in the form of discounts.
7. Assess the bathroom
Plumbing issues or leaks not only waste energy, but also cost money. Check pipes and connections for integrity and make repairs as soon as possible. Consider adding motion-activated faucets to regulate water usage and lower energy costs. Older toilets use seven to eight gallons of water per flush, replace with low-flush models or you can fill an empty soda bottle with sand and place it in the tank to reduce water usage.
Stop using paper towels and install hand dryers instead. Or, keep a paper recycling bin in the bathroom. Switch to eco-friendly cleansers to eliminate exposure to harmful chemicals.
8. Evaluate energy needs
Take a look at which items you can unplug each night. Unplug microwaves, printers, and routers or plug into a surge protector or power strip and switch it off at the end of the day.
Change light bulbs to LED or CFL, or install motion sensor lights that automatically turn on and off. Make use of natural light whenever possible.
Create a bigger change and switch to clean energy like solar, wind, or geothermal.
Tips for individuals to go green in the workplace
Incorporating green practices into the workplace takes time and effort. In the meantime, consider the ways individuals can make a difference in their office practices to add to the overall change.
Here are a few things you can do to go green at your desk:
Brown bag lunch: Bring your lunch to reduce waste and eliminate the need for single-use plastic. You’ll save money and improve your health by making your meals rather than eating out.
Telecommute: Times have changed and working from home is a much more viable option today. Find out if you can telecommute part of the time or if your employer offers full-time telecommuting.
Bring your own coffee or water bottle: Keep a coffee mug at work for day-to-day use and bring your water bottle instead of single-use plastics. Using your mug or bottle cuts down on plastic or foam waste and promotes healthy practices.
Recycle it yourself: Until the whole office goes green, you can recycle items yourself. Consider bringing a shopping bag or tote to collect recyclables and sort them appropriately.
Send e-cards: For office events like birthdays, retirements, promotions, etc, start sending e-cards in place of traditional paper cards. You’ll reduce paper waste and delight coworkers when they receive an animated, personalized e-card.
Use the stairs: Leave the elevator behind and take the stairs. You’ll not only save energy, but you’ll also improve your health by incorporating the activity into your day.
Inspire others: By adhering to green practices, you may encourage coworkers or management to do the same. When individuals strive to recycle, reduce, and reuse, they inspire others to follow their lead.
I hope you find this article helpful.