Today, many companies are trying to raise awareness of the negative effect we have on the environment. Among other things, they are doing that by creating environmentally friendly offices where employees are educated on how to reduce their carbon footprint inside the office and where the organization and selection of appliances are green and sustainable.
Creating an environmentally office is not a daunting task but it requires a level of careful planning and being informed of all the big and small ways to be eco-friendly when at work. Not only will you be gentle to our planet Earth that way but it will also reduce your bills and make some things easier.
Why Exactly You Should Do It
To be more precise, there are several reasons why a green office space or so called environmentally friendly office will bring your company benefits other than the obvious one – saving the environment.
Saving money – from the financial viewpoint, building an eco-friendly office will be rather expensive at the very beginning. However, the maintenance necessary afterwards is surprisingly low. Also, heating and cooling bills will be reduced, as walls and flooring in an eco-friendly office are highly energy-efficient. In time, the initial investment in a green office will pay off, providing you with positive ROI (return on investment). Things like energy-efficient light bulbs are a clear example – they cost more than common incandescent bulbs but, in time, each bulb can save you around $45.
Happier employees – Building an eco-friendly and energy-efficient office often involves building more and bigger windows. This automatically leads to a better working environment – people need sunlight in order to be more productive and in a good mood. Allowing them to have natural light throughout the working hours will also make them sleep better at night, which again reflects positively on their productivity and mood.
Corporate social responsibility matters – CSR is essential to many customers, especially millennials – three-third of millennials are ready to take a pay cut if it means they will be able to work for a socially responsible company. Almost 90% of customers in the USA, for example, expect companies to be involved in some kind of socially responsible activity. Making efforts to turn your company green means boosting a positive brand image, which will also generate a positive ROI over the course of years.
The trick is how and where to start in order to have a green office. It’s clear that one can’t simply tear down the walls to build a new office but it’s smart to start with baby steps and then slowly move on to more ambitious goals.
1. Use Fewer Printers
It’s obvious that fewer people will print in the office if the company makes it a bit inconvenient through placing fewer printers inside the office. Of course, you shouldn’t do it if your business relies heavily on printing but there is the method of a slow transition. In that case, the employees would slowly be introduced to the digital document management system and given access to pdf editors and appropriate tools before you reduce the number of printers.
2. Switch to Paperless Statements
Many vendors and financial institutions offer paperless statements, reducing the number of paper mails. Also, if you focus more on email, you will lose it much harder than regular mail.
3. Digital Signature
E-signature tools are available on the majority of word processors and document management systems. So, no point in wet signatures when e-signing documents save you both resources and space.
4. Eco-friendly Procurement
It’s important to source goods that are as less environmentally damaging as possible. For example, you could use eco-friendly packaging which has been made of 100% recycled material. You could also encourage your customers to reuse the original packaging.
5. Get Rid of Fax Machines
Fax machines have their digital counterparts, so it’s time to toss them out. PDF editors, digital documents, and virtual fax solutions are more secure; no reason to hold onto the past times and its symbols.
6. Turn off Electronics at Night
It’s very important to instate a rule for your employees to turn off all electronics, heating, and lights in the evening. All of the equipment should be switched off at the main plug. It’s perfectly logical when you think about it – there isn’t anybody in the office, so why would any of these items be on?
7. Opt for Better Office Products
You may not have a budget big enough to buy sustainable office products only but you can focus on the most frequently used ones for starters. You should get energy-efficient electronics your employees use on an everyday basis. It will also reflect on your electricity bill.
Also, don’t forget to use LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs – LED lights can be up to 80% more efficient than the regular ones, not to mention that they will also last longer. Lastly, it would be good to replace the old water heater with an energy-efficient one.
8. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
Recycling is one of the simplest steps to be environmentally-friendly and to have a green office. Many materials used in the office every day can be recycled if properly disposed of and not being thrown away into the trash.
The first material to start with is paper; place containers around the office so that all the employees have easy access to them. The only paper documents that can’t be placed in a recycling bin are important documents that have to be shredded. The recycled paper will be used again for writing down notes or whichever other purposes.
However, the paper is not the only material that can be recycled. Electrical appliances which are not used anymore in the office can be recycled, too. Cardboard boxes can also be placed in a separate recycling bin. Even food scraps can be put away in a sealed compost container. Commonly used coffee pods can be switched with recyclable coffee pods – when you think about it, a lot of coffee is drunk every day in the office, creating a lot of unnecessary rubbish.
Just remember: The most important thing is to place a sufficient number of containers, which will motivate employees to use them rather than the trash bin.
9. Introduce Desk Plants
Bringing in desk plants inside the office will improve air quality, which improves employees’ productivity and mood. As plants produce more oxygen, chemicals that are released in the office environment by electrical appliances are absorbed by them, leaving a cleaner space.
Chinese Evergreens, Peace Lilies, English Ivies, and Spider Plants are plants very easy to maintain and excellent at filtering the air. Harming chemicals and gases like benzene, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde.
10. Install Motion-activated Light Switches
Energy efficiency can be highly improved if you install motion-activated light switches. They are a smart solution for conference rooms because they are rarely used. Don’t rely on your employees to remember to switch off the lights when they leave a room; it’s better to leave it to motion-activated lights.
11. Easy on the Thermostat
it’s very frequent that offices are over air-conditioned during the summer months. It’s important to increase the set point – that way, it will be more comfortable to work inside the office and the energy use will be reduced. If you run a small business, you may not notice a dramatic change but it will make a difference if you persist in it.
12. Greener Commute
If all or most of your employees drive vehicles to get to the office, their vehicles are distributing a lot of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. So, if you encourage your employees to take a greener approach – carpool, walking, cycling or using public transport – these changes will have a great impact on the environment. You could also offer certain employees to work from home, which will also reduce their carbon footprint. Whenever possible, avoid employee travel, especially when you can use web/video conferencing tools.
13. Maximize Natural Light
Employees who work near a window with natural light are 15% more productive. The reason behind this is that natural light sets the circadian rhythm of your body, which is responsible for falling asleep, waking up and synthesizing vitamin D. On the other hand, indoor light disrupts these natural cycles. So, if it’s possible, move the workstations closer to the windows – at least 25 feet of peripheral walls.
If you rely on natural light more, you will also use less electricity, as there will be no need to turn on lights as often as before.
14. Get Bevi
Bevi is a smart water cooler that will help you to reduce (or even eliminate) plastic bottles and cans inside the office. It is an eco-friendly way to hydrate your employees, with even fewer plastic bottles and cans for recycling.
15. Use Reusable Containers
Just think how many disposable cups of coffee are thrown away every single morning in the office. So, either get regular coffee cups for everyone or ask the employees to ing their coffee cups from home. You should also get regular kitchenware, which will be available to everybody. That way, you will prevent using paper plates and plastic cutlery. Lastly, you could also encourage the employees to put their lunch in a reusable container, not a plastic bag.
Creating an environmentally-friendly office is not a sideway matter anymore. It’s not done by rare businessmen who are firmly devoted to sustainable business and a greener planet. Today, it has become a necessity for two reasons: first, it has become clear that each and every one of us should give our contribution to help the planet in every possible way. Secondly, the modern business fashion dictates environmental awareness – may of your clients and potential and current employees expect from you to be eco-friendly and to reduce the carbon footprint that your business produces.
For these reasons, it’s clever to follow the trends that will improve your business in many ways and, what’s equally important, help the environment. Keep regular conversations with your employees on how to stick to these rules and ideas, allowing suggestions and improvements. Be open to a new business world – a cleaner, environmentally-friendly world that brings benefits to everybody included.
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