We’ve been going green at the home & everyday life front so how can we not talk about green office? We all have a considerable carbon footprint at work which can be brought down with quick thinking and a concerted team effort. So today our ongoing green living challenge series helps you go green while at work.
Founder & Editor-in-Chief Mirela Orlovic’s comprehensive green living guide has been custom-made for the busy, multitasking urban who finds it difficult to marry sustainability and everyday life due to time constraints or just a lack of awareness on how to go about it the easy way. So far we’ve covered daily life topics like how to reduce pollution caused by food, how to build an eco-friendly but stylish wardrobe, how to make an eco-friendly fitness routine, how to cut plastic at home, waste management, urban commuting, greening the neighbourhood and travel and even green laundry goals!
We now move to how to make a green workspace where we spend a large part of everyday. Over to Mirela.
GREEN LIVING OFFICE TIP: Make your office life sustainable & successful!
A very close friend and owner of a family business recently asked me for tips to build a green office and that got me thinking that this is a very important area of an urban’s everyday life that can be made eco-friendly. For all the work hard & party harder motivation quotes that you going through the week, does it feel like you’re living your whole life in office only? On an average work day (read lucky work day), we spend 8-9 hours in the office premises. The sheer amount of time offices are running makes their carbon footprint huge. The carbon profile for a typical office would encompass everything from energy consumption- water, power, resources to machine emissions, waste generation- which includes e-waste, air conditioning among many other factors and this is why a green workspace becomes crucial. But do you shirk off the responsibility thinking a green office is not my business or out of my hand? Well it’s certainly your business because this is where you spend more than half your day and with my easy tips guide it’s actually easy to make a green office!
I also have some bonus pointers for start-ups & HR resources too because a green workspace is in the interest of employers too. Your company’s environmental performance has a direct impact on your business operations in terms of cost reductions, bottom line in terms of employee productivity boost and greater retention and a great brand lift as well. So let’s build a green office with 4 easy tips.
›› Go digital to go green in office
DIGITISE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE: Stop being a paper pusher. Don’t go printing and photocopying unless strictly required. And if you absolutely must print then do print on both sides of the page and install new softwares like GreenPrint or EcoPrint2 that delete blank pages from in between files before you hit print. Set the default settings in photocopier and printers to single copies and double sided printing. You can even chose eco-friendly fonts for printing: Courier or Century Gothic which consume far less ink than regular ones thus making printing faster and less electricity is consumed. Cynics might scoff that this step won’t probably save trees, but at UrbanMeisters we strongly believe, all small steps everyday add up to make a big change!
While you may love organising your work space with post-its, try working with digital notice boards and reminders. Use whiteboards to display meeting agenda rather than circulating prints. Even resignation letters are accepted over mail now! Instead of commuting for meetings try video conferencing and skype calls for a full on ‘face-to-face’ with client.
MAKE YOUR MARKETING MATERIAL GREEN: By using sustainable printing materials like recycled paper, printing techniques like embossing, UV Varnish and cutting lamination. I have collaborated with German green printing pioneers bonitasprint for a comprehensive guide on developing eye-catching yet sustainable marketing materials which you can read here. Rethink in general the process of how much you are throwing away through last minute projects that are not well planned or miscalculations and set yourself the objective to improve this for next rounds.
›› 2 pillars of a green office: Re-use & Re-cycle
PRIVILEGE RE-USABLE OFFICE & PERSONAL SUPPLIES: Bring your own cups and dish-ware to office for use and try and move away from disposables. Buy those cups with cheeky urban office one liners and maybe send some subtle yet effective messages to your boss or the hated colleague! Bring your own re-usable water bottle to office and remove the paper/ plastic cup dispenser from next to the water filter. These also look so much cooler than PET bottles! I recommend going for Retap glass bottles or cool ones by Two Thirds. Ask your office admin to cut disposables and single use plastic items like cutlery completely from office and use more sustainable material alternatives like bamboo or even metal. Another fun thing which you can undertake with office admin is a fun team compost challenge for all kitchen waste.
Use stationery supplies that have refills instead of throwing out disposable ones by the tonnes- not kidding, US alone discards 4 million disposable pens each year according to American Express Open Forum! If your office ships packages, reuse boxes and use shredded waste paper as packing material. You can also easily re-use office supplies such as envelopes, paper clips, elastic bands, file folders, binders, etc. When buying printer paper, look for recycled paper. Buy stationery made with re-cycled content and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Limit use of polluting stationery and office supplies like whiteners, markers, highlighters, air freshers as far as possible. These contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which accelerate indoor pollution. VOCs are a large group of chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature and have various adverse effects on your health: eye, nose and throat irritation, frequent headaches, nausea, and if exposure is longer then it can also cause damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system.
If your office/ company involves packaging services or uses them for orders then challenge your administration to reduce plastic, unnecessary double and triple packaging methods. Also check out REPACK as a shipment method which is a green packaging service that enables end user to re-use packaging cutting down disposable packaging trash.
FEEL FREE TO RE-CYCLE: Make use of your office re-cycling program and pester your HR for one if not. Did you know that 9 out 10 items we throw away in office can actually be re-cycled? Put waste recycling boxes near all printers and copiers and urge colleagues to recycle paper as much as possible. Also recycle your used ink and toner cartridges. Cut down e-waste by recycling electronics especially computers through e-recycling companies or manufacturer take-back schemes. Urge management to donate old/ discarded furniture. Why not set up this initiative yourself in collaboration with some local pre-owned furniture operator? Challenge your office on food waste in canteens and cafeterias by setting up food donation processes.
›› Save energy mode on for green office
Energy conserved is energy produced. And office is a major energy guzzler. So save power her you can by making sure lights and machines are turned off when not in use. Put computers and machines on energy-saving settings and don’t leave them on « standby » mode when leaving work because that still draws power. If your office has the advantage of natural lighting then use that instead as much as possible instead of lights. UrbanMeister and guest writer Gareth gives us some great energy management advice for homes that can be brought to office as well here.
›› Make a green office with indoor plants
Plant away to glory! Ok so not asking you to grow a jungle in office but a potted plant here and there will beautify it and clean the air too! Research- most prominent being the NASA Clean Air Study – has found that some plants help fight indoor air pollution more than others. I have developed a comprehensive indoor plant guide for offices with partners ProFlowers, enlisting 15 best plants for combating office pollution. These have been organised by categories like best for removing pollutants, low maintenance, and best for low light so each one of you can chose the appropriate solution depending on your office. Another very helpful tip I can give you is the green product- AIRY plant pot which enables plants to clean air more effectively.
›› Bonus tips for Start-ups & employers
GREEN PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: When developing your product or service- especially start-ups, take the challenge to try to make at least one sustainable decision, e.g. a sustainable material for clothing and accessories like tencel.
GREEN DECOR & EQUIPMENT: Give green decor a chance while making office. Use less carpeting. The American Lung Association says new carpet — as well as the adhesives and padding used during installation — can be a source of VOC emissions and act as a “sponge” for chemical and biological pollutants. Also consider energy saving items like LED lamps, which uses less power than even compact fluorescent bulbs- these are also quite power and cost efficient options.
Privilege multipurpose machines like fax, scanner, printer and copier in one while buying office equipment which helps in saving power and also reducing emissions. Start-ups can also look at pre-owned gadgets and equipments.
GREEN COMMUTE: Incentivise green commuting by your employees or get car pooling/ ride share services for them. Consider giving your employees telecommuting days even if its only a few days a month. It helps cut down carbon footprint of commuting and also saves energy at office. This form of work arrangement is gaining popularity worldwide. Balance out carbon footprint for all power travellers by corporate offsetting initiatives and travel eco as far as possible. Why not look at electric/ hybrid vehicles when investing in office cars?
GREEN BUYING FOR OFFICE: Use green cleaning products which eliminates harmful substances and odors from the office. Most commercial cleaning products are unhealthy containing toxic and carcinogenic ingredients apart from coming in wasteful plastic containers. Buy office supplies like soap, coffee, sugar etc in bulk which reduces packaging waste.
The key to a green office routine is TEAM WORK. Remember that making small sustainable choices can cumulatively make a big impact of everyone collaborates. If everyone at your workplace adopts at least one of these tips it can drastically reduce your office’s carbon footprint.
If you have more suggestions on how to build a green office or other green living tips then write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org