More and more companies are going green, and they’re enjoying some serious payoffs in the process.
For starters, developing an eco-friendly office reduces your company’s eco-footprint and benefits the health of the planet. Beyond these big-picture benefits, implementing sustainability initiatives at the office can also create a healthier workplace, yield significant cost savings, reduce waste, satisfy consumer demand, and improve your company’s reputation.
Ready to enjoy these perks? Here’s how to make your entire office greener
Going Green in the Reception Area
- Limit newspaper and magazine subscriptions
Sure, it’s nice for visitors to have something to read while they wait in the reception area, but all those newspapers and magazines add up to a lot of potentially wasted paper. Stem the tide of wasted paper by unsubscribing from any publications that aren’t useful to you or your visitors. Also make sure to recycle any subscriptions you choose to keep, once you are finished with them.
- Purchase vintage furniture
There are plenty of high-quality secondhand furniture options, that can also bring some character and charm your office space. Investigate this route before purchasing brand-new furniture for your reception area.
- Recycle old furniture
When you’ve outgrown reception area furniture or you’re otherwise ready for an upgrade, don’t drop that furniture at the dump. Instead, recycle or donate it to reduce the use of raw materials.
- Invest in indoor plants
Not only do plants make your reception area more attractive, they also filter out air pollutants and help cool the air in the office on warmer days, which can reduce the need for fans or air conditioning, and save energy in the process. Not to mention there’s a great deal of benefits your team stands to enjoy.
Going Green in the Kitchen
- Recycle everything you can
Kitchens are often home to aluminum cans, plastic containers, and other recyclables—so make sure it’s easy for team members to discard these items in recycling bins. Set up bins in a prominent place in the kitchen, and post signs that detail exactly what can be recycled.
- Create a composting system
Food scraps and coffee grounds that get dumped in the trash end up in landfills, where they’re unlikely to decompose. Composting, however, helps ensure those food scraps biodegrade into a rich fertilizer that can then be used to grow more food. Set up a composting station in the kitchen and consider donating the scraps to a local farm or a community garden.
- Unplug appliances when not in use
Toasters, microwaves, coffee makers, and other appliances that remain plugged in can drain power, even if they aren’t actively in use. For this reason, a simple way to save energy is to unplug all appliances except for when they’re in use.
- Use green cleaning products
Choose biodegradable, nontoxic, and petroleum-free cleaning products. Opt for reusable rags instead of paper towels when possible. (And if you must use paper towels, choose an unbleached, recycled brand.) When in doubt, a mixture of diluted vinegar and baking soda can take care of most of your scrubbing and disinfecting needs.
- Use reusable dishware and utensils
Ditch the paper plates and plastic forks and opt for reusable dishware and utensils instead. Establish clear expectations in terms of washing these dishes so piles don’t end up in the sink (and cause resentments among coworkers).
- Buy in bulk
Instead of purchasing individual packets of sugar, ketchup, salt, and so on, buy condiments in bulk to cut down on packaging waste. That means purchasing full-sized bottles and encouraging sharing.
- Source local food for catered events
If your company plans to supply lunch or another meal to team members, clients, partners, and so on, then choose local suppliers to reduce the meal’s carbon footprint. (Bonus points for sourcing from organic farms or restaurants.)
- Donate office leftovers
If you purchase large quantities of food for a meeting or event and your team members won’t be able to eat it all before it spoils, consider donating those leftovers to a local food bank or similar organization. Not only does this reduce food waste, it also helps members of your local community.
Going Green in the Break Room
- Use a water filtration system in lieu of a water cooler
Water coolers create a ton of waste in the form of giant plastic bottles. While these bottles can be recycled, you can eliminate this waste entirely by investing in a tap water filtration system instead. Generally, tap water is a more pure option than bottled water.
- Ditch paper cups
If you’ve done away with the water cooler (and even if you haven’t), you may as well ditch the disposable cups that often come along with it. Opt for reusable cups and mugs to reduce paper waste.
- Use reusable towels
Encourage team members to clean up spills and dry their hands with reusable cloth towels instead of wasteful paper ones. (Just make sure these towels are cleaned regularly to maintain office hygiene.) If you must use paper towels, invest in unbleached, recycled varieties.
- Encourage people to turn off the lights when the break room isn’t in use
Inspire energy savings by posting a sign by the light switch that reminds people to turn off the lights when they leave.
Going Green in the Main Office Space
- Source eco-friendly products
Purchasing eco-friendly versions of common office products is a simple way to reduce your eco-footprint. Whenever possible, invest in locally manufactured, recycled, recyclable, nontoxic, and/or re-manufactured products. It’s also a good idea to work with suppliers who have certified eco-friendly credentials. There are greener versions of everything from paper clips to light bulbs to ink and toner cartridges, so do your research before making any purchases. While eco-friendly supplies may cost a little bit more than their conventional counterparts, think of it as an investment in the future of the planet.
- Create an office recycling system
Recycling is one of the easiest ways to reduce the waste produced by your office. Make it easy for your team to recycle by placing recycling bins in each office or room. Also be sure to post guidelines clearly explaining what types of products can be recycled and any specific requirements (such as whether lids can be recycled, containers need to be rinsed out, and so on.)
- Cut down on paper use
Reducing your office’s paper usage may require everyone to change some habits, but it’s well worth the effort. Trim paper use with the following steps:
- Encourage team members to think before they print. Try not to print anything unless it’s absolutely necessary. Make the switch by distributing memos via email, foregoing handouts at presentations, issuing digital invoices instead of paper ones, backing up files on the cloud instead of on paper, and so on.
- Program your printers so the default setting is to print on both sides. This can seriously reduce paper usage in those cases when someone does need to print.
- Place a scrap paper box by the printer so people can reuse the scraps from failed print jobs.
- Make sure all your mailing lists are up to date so you don’t unnecessarily send paper mailers.
- Purchase recycled, chlorine-free paper so any paper that does get used is as eco-friendly as possible.
- Encourage employees to recycle all paper products. Make it easy by placing recycling bins throughout the office (as noted above)—including in the printer room.
- Take steps to save energy
- Only use lights when it’s absolutely necessary. Rely on natural light as much as possible.
- Post signs beside all light switches to remind people to turn off lights whenever they leave a room.
- Replace all incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs.
- Encourage team members to ditch screen savers (which eat up energy) and program computers to switch into standby mode when not in use.
- Conduct an energy audit to learn whether you’re unnecessarily heating rooms in the winter and cooling them in the summer. Adjust temperature settings accordingly.
- Make sure all electronics and lights are switched off at the end of each workday.
- Recycle used office supplies
Whenever a product has reached the end of its usable life in your office, research recycling options. It’s possible to recycle everything from furniture to computers, ink and toner cartridges. Pursuing these options can significantly reduce the waste generated by your office.
Taking the steps to make your office a greener space is an investment in a healthier present and future for your team members, your local community, and the world at large. Of course, all of these strategies only happen if your team is on board. For this reason, it’s important to bake eco-friendly attitudes into your company culture. Incorporate sustainability guidelines into your onboarding process for new hires, create a Green Team to manage the office’s green initiatives, and/or provide team members with resources and training to beef up their eco-friendly knowledge. By making sustainability a priority company-wide, you can increase the odds of shrinking your office’s eco-footprint.