A green business credentials have never carried so much weight as it does today. Not only does an eco-friendly business practice reflect your values as a business, but it can positively impact employee talent pool, health, morale, and even productivity.

Both Google and Apple have recently announced that they’re running on 100% renewable energy. Unfortunately, these headline feats often deter smaller businesses, appearing too costly to tackle. In fact, going green can and often does help your bottom line.

You don’t have to work at Googleplex or have a limitless budget like Apple or Google to adopt an eco-friendly business practice. Below are our top 10 green tips for the office.

 

1. Recycling

It may seem obvious, but almost 80% of UK businesses don’t recycle and don’t care to[1]. As it stands, landfill tax is £88.90 per tonne[2], meaning it’s not only harmful to the environment but also an expensive way to dispose of waste. In sight of the government’s 25-year environmental plan, this figure is almost certainly going to rise, which is why setting up recycling bins is at the top of our list.

NB: Studies have shown that employees are much more likely to get involved if the recycling stations and food bins are easily accessible and clearly marked.

To take this a step further, many coffee shops offer discounts on hot drinks to those who bring their own cups. Get some business-branded coffee mugs and cotton bags (to replace plastic bags) to help to raise brand awareness. Good for the environment, good for business. Speaking of coffee, try stocking your office with organic and fair-trade products like tea, coffee and fresh fruit, or try an office ban on single-use plastics once a week.

 

2. Telecommuting & transport

The option to work from home can be to the benefit of both employers and their staff. For the employee, this flexibility is an attractive perk and a strong incentive to work harder. This in turn serves the employer; win-win. Here are some other points:

  • According to Forbes, “as long as the job can be performed from home, most people are more productive…”. Home workers apparently take fewer sick days and less holidays, there are less distractions from co-workers, and working from home can be a much-needed break from the confines of an office cubicle. A change is as good as a rest after all.
  • Considering the average daily commute for UK workers is just shy of an hour, working from home frees up a significant amount of time, saves money spent on fuel or public transport, cuts carbon emissions, and improves air quality.
  • Permanent telecommuting allows for an increased talent pool, and you can make large savings on office space.

If your line of work requires employees to come in, encourage public transport, cycling or walking. Can your company implement a Cycle to Work scheme, or can you help to set up carpooling?

 

3. Say no to screensavers and standby (also turn down the thermostat)

The average office typically wastes £6,000 each year by leaving equipment on over weekends and holidays. From the Royal Holloway University of London, “A typical computer might be on for 35 hours a week [9am – 5pm]. By turning your computer off during your lunch break or meeting, you can save at least 5 hours’ worth of energy per week, which is a 14% reduction in energy use.”

Similarly, leaving a standard halogen bulb on overnight consumes approximately a bucket’s worth of coal. Hook your energy saving light bulbs up to motion sensors to avoid wasting electricity (LEDs consume up to 90% less energy). You can also maximise the daylight in your office by painting the walls with light colours, since a bright office is cited to improve mental health.

On another note, the debate over ideal office temperature is both fiercely argued and largely undecided. From the BBC’s ‘The Never-Ending Battle over the Best Office Temperature’, “getting the temperature right can boost job satisfaction, productivity and collaboration. Getting it wrong can make workers slow, fat, or even sick.” Studies point to warmer environments being better for creativity, whilst colder ones keep people more alert during monotonous tasks.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg swears by a cool office temperature of 15oC, yet the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) puts the ideal temperature at 20oC. We say try somewhere between the two. Try dropping the temperature for a certain length of time: so long as employees are happy, this could boost productivity and save on energy bills.

 

4. Paper

On average, office workers print off 1,584 sheets of paper each per month, constituting the lion’s share of office waste.[3] Thanks to modern technology, we don’t need to go through hundreds of pages of paper anymore. Should you need hard copies, you can always stock your office with Post-consumer wastepaper (PCW).

The good news about paper is it’s one of the most widely-recycled materials in the world, so finding a local recycling company shouldn’t cause much of an issue. The bad news is that finding truly eco-friendly paper to stock your office with is something of a minefield. Many companies select stacks of “eco-friendly” paper with a recycling symbol, but while they may do so with the best intentions, that doesn’t guarantee it’s been sustainably sourced. Always check the paper supplier’s green credentials online before purchasing. Alternatively, check for the FSC label (ideally 100% or FSC Recycled).

You can also set up your printer to automatically print on both sides and use smaller fonts. A quick-fix solution that’s good for the environment and that saves your business money.

 

5. Office equipment

For other office equipment, here are some quickfire questions to ask:

  • Can your office supplies and stationary be recycled? Are they made from recycled materials?
  • Are the cleaning products used in your office eco-friendly, or are they laden with chemicals?
  • Is the packaging you use recyclable? Are you using it excessively or frugally?
  • Is replacing single-use paper towels with cloth towels and hand dryers feasible in your office?
  • What office equipment is available to buy in bulk? (Generally speaking, bulk buying saves on waste packaging.)
  • When upgrading larger appliances, is this the greenest option available or is there a more efficient alternative available? (Aim for a high green energy rating as much as possible.)
  • Are the companies I work online with eco-friendly? Can I find a green web host for my website?

 

6. Green energy suppliers

Switching to a green energy supplier may not only be an emotional decision anymore, but also an increasingly financial one. Many green energy tariffs can compete with and sometimes undercut conventional variable rate tariffs.

Keep in mind that the electricity will still come from the National Grid (a mix of renewable and non-renewable electricity), so electricity suppliers’ claims of 100% green energy isn’t strictly true. However, the money you spend will be put towards future renewable energy projects, increasing the proportion of green electricity in the National Grid.

7. Water

In office buildings, toilets are generally the biggest water wasters around, followed closely by leaky taps. Fix leaks as and when they appear, and consider low-flow toilets and faucet aerators for all your taps.

 

8. Add some green – literally

Desk plants don’t just make your office feel more homely and help oxygenate the room, but they also absorb pollutants from the air and are proven to increase employee satisfaction. It’s a no-brainer really.

Cacti are low maintenance, and Aloe Vera are useful for treating cuts. Jade plants (or ‘money trees’) are said to bring good fortune – not a bad idea for a place of work.

 

9. Create your own energy

This top tip is only for dedicated eco-friendly businesses who own their office building and plan to stay there long-term. Things like solar panels and green heating systems aren’t the cheapest to install, but in our opinion, one of the most impactful changes for businesses who are committed to making a large push towards sustainability.

  • Getting an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate is one of the quickest and easiest ways of finding out how energy-efficient your office building is. An EPC serves as a simple guide to cutting the building’s carbon emissions, be it with installing more insulation, sealing up draughts, and it also states whether your property is suitable for green heating or solar panel installations. Click here and fill in the form to contact a local and certified EPC assessor.
  • Whether solar panels are a worthwhile investment for you or not will depend on the nature of your building and its location. However, if your office ticks all the boxes, you could see a large drop in electricity bills, receive a tax-free income from the government’s Feed-in Tariff, and any excess electricity generated that you don’t use can be sold back to the National Grid.
  • Should your current heating system need replacing, it might be worth considering renewable heat technologies. These include air source heat pumps, water or ground source heat pumps, biomass boilers, and solar thermal panels. Over the space of 20 years, you could receive an income from the Renewable Heat Incentive (a government-funded scheme), drastically cut carbon emissions, and save money on your energy bills (dependent on your current heating method). If you’d like to book a survey from an MCS-certified installer who’s local to you, we’re happy to help.

 

10. Engaging with employees

Ultimately, setting up recycling bins, cutting down on waste and saving electricity is all for naught if people aren’t engaging with it. Consider putting the savings towards office lunches and parties, or implementing a casual wear day. We’ve found that ‘going green’ tends to work better in offices where bosses and office managers lead by example. Be the first to cycle to work, recycle or bring food from home. Your employees will pick up on these actions and soon follow suit.

Do you have any suggestions on how to be more environmentally friendly at work? Share your tips in the comments section below.

 

[1] Sourced from Businesswaste.co.uk, May 2013
[2] Correct at time of writing, 23/04/2018
[3] Sourced from Envirowise

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