For many companies, reducing greenhouse gas emissions benefits the bottom line because saving energy saves money. Saving costs is one good reason why your workplace should go green but there are much bigger factors at play, how big? Well, planet earth big! Global temperatures are now at their highest since records began. In fact, 17 of the warmest years on record have all taken place since 2001. We humans have been adding to the planets carbon dioxide levels by using electricity, heating, transport and cutting down forests (80,000 acres daily – Scientific American) for agriculture and logging. There are dire consequences for planet earth if we continue at this pace such as rising sea levels, extreme weather, loss of wildlife and biodiversity to name just four.
So, what’s being done?
Every year, the United Nations holds a global climate change conference known as COP which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. In 2015, the meeting was held in Paris under COP21 and each country entered ‘The Paris Agreement’ which is a legally binding international treaty focusing on climate change. The goal of ‘The Paris Agreement' is to limit global warming to keep global warming ‘well below’ 2C – and to try to aim for 1.5C.
The 2021 COP26 climate summit was hosted in Glasgow and each participating country revisited the ‘The Paris Agreement’ to keep the 1.5 limit pledge at the forefront. Not surprisingly some of the biggest CO2 offending countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia have been reluctant to agree to focus on the 1.5C limit, preferring to point out that the Paris agreement states the world must hold temperatures ‘well below’ 2C while ‘pursuing efforts’ to stay within 1.5C.
There were of course many more pledges at the COP26 climate summit which are shown in more detail here. One important pledge included the cutting of funding overseas fossil fuel projects with public money by the end of 2022.
It is important that we all play a part in reducing our Carbon Footprint because reducing our impact on the environment has never been more important. Over two- thirds of office workers feel that it’s important that UK companies are environmentally responsible because office life can have a big impact on the environment.
So, let’s look at some ways to bring green strategies into the workplace. Creating a green office is not as challenging as you may think, and you will eventually enjoy the benefits of knowing you have a more sustainable office that’s easier that weighs less heavy on planet earth.
It’s a simple formula that comes down to the 5 R’s. We will explain what each ‘R’ stands for, and provide helpful tips to help you implement each one at your office.
No, not the nonhazardous solid waste refuse…. refuse as in ‘No Thank You!’ Refusing products is the most effective way to reduce waste at work. The refusal method prevents materials and products from entering your workplace in the first place, eliminating waste completely. So, what materials should you refuse? Anything with a short lifespan and can be replaced by reusable options.
Here are some examples of how you can incorporate the refuse ‘R’ into your office routine:
Rufuse unwanted freebies at trade shows and conferences.
Refuse single-use disposables in the office kitchen, such as disposable cutlery, plastic bottled water, paper plates – go for reusable instead.
Refuse junk mail at the office by opting out of mailing lists.
Refuse promotional catalogues or just take one and ensure a pdf version is accessible.
If you can’t refuse a product, reducing your usage is the next best thing. By lowering the consumption of waste producing goods, you’ll help diminish items that end up in the bin. Here are a few tips on practising this ‘R’ of sustainability:
Go paperless in the workplace to reduce paper usage.
Buy office supplies in bulk, and that have little or no packaging.
Buy nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning products.
Turn on energy-saving settings on office computers.
Encourage responsible transportation to work, like carpooling and biking.
By reusing items, you already have at the office rather than buying new versions is another way to practice sustainability. When you do purchase products, focus on reusable products instead of disposable or single-use ones.
Go for reusable water cups or bottles instead of plastic ones or bring your own water bottle to the office.
Reuse boxes and packaging materials.
Try and repair broken or faulty office equipment.
Donate items the office doesn’t need so that someone else can reuse them.
Repurposing is another of the 5 R’s of sustainability. When you repurpose something, you reuse it for a different purpose. Here’s how:
Take office cardboard, paper towels, or toilet paper tubes home to be used for crafts for kids.
Repurpose scrap paper for office or home time games like Pictionary or shopping lists.
Use unwanted glass jars as penholders.
There’s also plenty of items at home you could repurpose at work. Many home products end up as waste, but with a little ingenuity, they can make for handy office supplies!
Recycling is the last of the 5 R’s of sustainability because it should be the last resort in a green minded, sustainable office. However, it is still an important step because it can align with employee morale and enhance your company image. You can promote your green efforts in marketing materials and mention it on sales calls to give your company a competitive green edge.
Clean, flatten and recycle plastic packaging. Wash glass containers and sort them correctly. Make sure there are no further purposes for paper and put it in the right bin.
So, after reading this, how many of the 5 R’s could you introduce? Why not strategise about how you can approach your current waste production and disposal to see where you can make improvements that benefit of your business and the environment?