After over a year of working mostly from home, many of us will be relieved to get back into the office, for some of the time at least! But although it’s relatively easy to be energy-efficient and eco-friendly in our own homes, our good intentions can often get forgotten once we’re back in an office environment.
Being green in the office doesn’t only benefit the planet, but our own health and that of our colleagues too. Not to mention reducing the office bills – and show us an employer who doesn’t want to spend less on overheads! It’s up to all of us to stay sustainable and encourage energy-efficiency at work as well as at home.
What is the “green office” concept?
It takes a little more thought and consideration than just sticking a few potted plants around the building to make a “green office”. Although bringing a leafy friend to work is definitely an excellent starting point!
The “green office” concept means putting measures in place so that the workplace can be as sustainable as possible. The aim is to:
- Reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint
- Cut down on energy waste around the workplace
- Find ways to conserve energy in the office
- Save on those energy costs
- Boost the team’s wellbeing by making work a nicer place to be
What are the characteristics of a green office?
Walking into a green office feels instantly different to other offices. But why? What are the things that make up a green office?
- Sustainability – energy efficiency and sustainable building management are at the heart of any green office – like using LEDs and smart heating and cooling systems (HVAC) that waste less energy. And it doesn’t end there! The green office concept also looks into all sorts of areas like water consumption, waste management, and the wellbeing of employees.
- Biophilic design – that’s basically just a fancy way of saying plants! This approach also recommends the use of natural materials around the space, good air flow, and plenty of natural light.
Making the building more sustainable by putting in these environmental systems is down to your organisation. You could speak to your facilities team to find out what green measures are already in place and lobby for change where you can.
But there are many things you can do to improve your office space which aren’t expensive, are easy to do and can have immediate and effective results – from reduced environmental impact to a happier, more productive team.
Top ways you can make your office greener and more energy efficient
Considering there are no real disadvantages to going green in the office, there’s no time like the present to get started! Many of the actions we take at home, like recycling and turning lights off when we leave a room, can be transferred to the workplace. After all, it’s going to benefit both you and our planet.
10 tips to make your office space greener
You might not personally be able to make the big changes, but there’s plenty you can do around the office to go greener. And persuade your workmates to join in too!
- Adjust your computer power settings. Save energy by setting your computer to go to sleep when you’re taking a break. And a handy tip from Harvard Law School’s energy manager suggests that dimming your monitor from 100% to 70% can save up to 20% of the energy the monitor uses.
- Cut your energy vampires. Companies waste thousands of pounds a year on energy being drained from computers and other office equipment when on standby. It's always best to make sure your laptop and other devices are switched off and unplugged when they’re not needed. Make sure you unplug your chargers too, as they still use energy even when the devices aren’t plugged in.
- Turn those lights off. Many offices have large windows with lots of natural light. So do the lights really need to be on all day? If they do, just be sure to turn them off once you’ve finished that meeting.
- Build a green community. Leading by example is the best way to encourage your workmates that being sustainable at work is good for everyone. You could kickstart a sustainability team to raise awareness and inspire the change from within.
- Create monthly green challenges. Keep up the green momentum with monthly team challenges. For example, you could see who clocks up the most biking or walking miles, instead of using the car. Or go veggie for a week at work. Why not try not to use any plastic utensils for a month? A bit of healthy competition is a great motivator and a fun way to go green.
- Think before you print. Cutting down on paper around the office is an easy way to cut your carbon footprint. It’s not necessary to print large documents, so encourage your workmates to pause before they print too. And if you must print, use both sides of the paper.
- Skip the lift. So your office is on the 4th floor and you usually just jump in the lift. Why not save energy while burning some calories by walking up at least once a day? You could add this to your monthly green challenge list!
- Recycle. It kinda goes without saying, right?! You do it at home, so why not at work? Read our full guide about recycling to learn more.
- Commute the green way. How about switching your car, bus, or train journey for a bike trip a few days a week? You’d be surprised as to how quickly cycling to work becomes a habit you don’t want to give up.
- Bring a plant to work. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Plants and trees are terrific for your mental and physical wellbeing. Science tells us that plants absorb carbon dioxide out of the air and release oxygen from their leaves. A win-win for humans! But it’s not only that. It’s been proven that our lovely leafy friends improve our state of mind, bring feelings of positivity and reduce stress. So if your employer hasn’t caught on to the foliage trend yet, choose a desk-friendly plant yourself, for a nicer work environment.
6 tips to reduce your digital footprint at work
We talk a lot about the impact of aviation on climate change. But a study by the Boston Consulting Group found that internet use is responsible for around 1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That’s about 2% of total emissions – which is about the same amount of CO2 emissions as aviation1. So, here are a few tips on how to lower that internet footprint!
- Use your browser intelligently. Minimising the number of tabs you have open and making use of the bookmarks feature will cut down your carbon footprint.
- Green up your searches. Ecosia is a green alternative to major search engines. Plus, they use the profits generated from your searches to plant trees around the world!
- Say goodbye to boring emails and newsletters. Clearing your inbox of unnecessary emails and unsubscribing from newsletters you never read will not only lower your carbon footprint, it will also declutter your inbox.
- Avoid sending unnecessary emails. Every time you send an email, ask yourself if you really need to send it. One message might not make much difference, but if we all get used to saying less online, we could have a real impact on our collective carbon footprint.
- Cut your attachment size. Think about the size of attachments you’re sending and reduce their size according to what they’ll be used for. Many companies use Google Drive, so links can be used to share files instead of sending attachments.
- Remove unused files from cloud servers. Saving files on cloud servers uses up energy, so it's best to delete any files you don’t need.
By following the few simple tips above, and encouraging your employer to focus on sustainability measures too, your office could be as green and as pleasant to work in as your own home!