Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Steps to a Greener (Home) Office
If every office worker in the UK used two fewer staples a day, we could power an extra 1,500 homes for a year with renewable energy.
Sounds like nonsense, but it’s true. Those two staples would save us 240 tons of steel, enough to build a wind turbine that could keep 1,500 houses running for 365 days.
When you turn on the news every day and see the Amazon burning, the Bahamas being destroyed by a freak hurricane, and ice cap after ice cap melting, it can be easy to feel like you, one tiny person amongst billions, are powerless to stop it, but you couldn’t be more wrong.
Even the smallest change can make a big difference.
With that in mind, here are some small actions you can take in your own office that may seem insignificant to you, but which, on a grand scale, might just save this planet we call home.
Do you really need to print out that report?
No, I live in 2019 and can instead email it, or Slack it, or DropBox it, or Google Docs it, or put it on the company portal so that everyone can access it.
Yes, I also live in 2019, but I’m going to use recycled paper, because recycled paper saves up to 70% of the energy and 55% of the water it takes to make nasty non-recycled paper.
In Europe, 87% of professionals want to be working digitally, no printouts, no paper, nothing, and yet UK businesses alone lose £15 billion every single year to office waste, and that doesn’t even account for the 70% of wasted office space going to filing cabinets and storage. So, do your business and the environment a favour, stop printing out every document and go digital.
Shared commutes, working remotely, and teleconferences
In today’s world, time is money, and yet 50% of the workforce wastes an hour a day just getting into the office. This commute is not only costing your business money, it’s costing the environment as well. In the US, it’s estimated that same 50% of workers could telecommute from their own homes and the offset from carbon emissions would be equivalent to the entire New York workforce never driving again!
Of course, it’s not possible for everyone to work remotely. Manual labourers can’t construct buildings or fix the nation’s plumbing by staying at home, and yet even here changes can be made for the better. Shared commuting not only cuts travel costs you and your workers have to pay for, it’s also a really simple way to dramatically decrease your business’s carbon footprint. In fact, over 8 billion gallons of petrol would be saved if every American commuting by car shared their commute with just one more person.
Another easy win comes in business travel. It’s becoming more and more common for companies to send employees abroad on work trips, and yet why waste that money and burn that fuel when video calling exists? Travel is on average the biggest contributor to a business’s carbon footprint, often adding up to a whopping 50% of a company’s overall emissions, and yet it can be easily remedied thanks to teleconferencing software. So, if you’re finding clients are calling for more environmentally-friendly business practices, this is an area where changes can have a big impact at little cost.
Turn it off
How many times have you left your computer on, thinking you’ll be back in just a minute, only to find you’ve ended up going home instead? We’ve all done it at some point. In fact, we do it so much that, every year, the amount of energy we’re all wasting equates to putting an extra four million cars on the road. And when it comes to lighting, we’re even worse. In the UK alone, the amount of energy wasted every year from not turning the lights off when we leave a room is the equivalent of 62 flights around the world.
However, there are simple things you can do in your business to help combat this, as well. Installing light sensors that detect when a room is empty and then proceed to switch off the lights is one. In fact, if we all did this we would each save over £800 a year!
You don’t need to install anything for the computers though. Instead, simply make it a company rule that the last to leave at night should ensure all systems are off. Being environmentally friendly doesn’t need to be complicated!
With the 3 R’s, the possibilities are endless
There was a time when recycling meant a trip to your local supermarket car park with bags full of empty milk cartons, but these days anything can be recycled if you try hard enough. Got loads of old print cartridges lying around? Send them back to the manufacturers to be refilled and reused. Getting rid of old resource books you no longer need? Send them to charities where they can be used to help those struggling to get on the employment ladder. Why waste money on new envelopes when you’ve got piles of old ones lying around? Just stick a new label on it and away you go!
Get yourself and your employees into the habit of thinking twice before throwing anything away. Even old, broken computers that seem doomed to an eternity displaying the blue screen of death can be recycled and reused in the right hands!
Some final quick and easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint:
- Buy multi-purpose machines. Why just buy a printer when you could buy a printer, a scanner, and a copier all-in-one?
- Encourage staff to bring in packed lunches and reusable drinks bottles instead of buying single-use food and beverage containers every day.
- Provide your office with reusable dishes and silverware.
- Add to the office decor with some lovely, oxygen-producing plants. You can even feed them your old coffee grounds that are full of nutrients!
- Reduce your paper waste even further by installing hand dryers in bathrooms in place of towel dispensers.
- Ensure radiators are open to the office and not blocked by desks and furniture that can reduce their efficiency.
- Encourage your cleaners to use non-toxic cleaning fluids which emit environmentally-damaging chemicals.
Blog written by Transcriber Lydia
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