No matter where you work there are ways you can make your own working day more sustainable by making some small changes to how you operate. Of course, if you can bring some colleagues along on the journey with you then that’s even better, but unfortunately that’s not always an option! So today I thought I’d share with you some of my top tips on how to be sustainable at work, and I’d love to hear yours too!
My day job is at an organisation that prides itself on its eco-credentials (and rightly so, they definitely walk-the-talk) so many of the big picture issues like focussing on producing renewable energy, becoming carbon neutral and the like are well addressed. Even so, there are many things that are completely in the hands of individual staff members, and that’s where these tips come in! The best part is, even if your workplace might need a little work in their overall eco-focus, these are all things you can do no matter what!
Most of these tips are most easily applied in an office setting, but not exclusively, so hopefully there’s something here for everyone!
Turn Off Your Monitor & Computer
Every time you walk away from your desk you should switch off your computer monitor, and at the end of the day make sure you power down both your monitor and your computer. These small changes will make a huge difference to how much electricity you’re using, and it’s really only a small change. It might take some time to get into the habit of switching your screen off each time you walk away, but eventually it will become second nature, I promise!
Sort Your Rubbish
Hopefully your workplace has already got separate bins for waste and recycling, so really try and ensure you’re using them correctly. Often in offices paper needs to be recycled separately, but otherwise your recycling bin should operate much like at home – cans, glass, cardboard and the like should all go in there. I may have been known in the past to remove contaminants (plastic bags, food etc) from my work recycling bins (using tongs & gloves, I promise!) but that might be a step too far for most people!
If you work doesn’t have a separate food waste stream then you could consider collecting up your own food waste (and your colleagues if you want!) to take back home with you for your compost bin. Removing food waste from landfill makes a huge difference, plus then you’re not wasting all those fantastic nutrients your garden could be enjoying!
Reduce the amount of waste you generate at work by choosing reusable options whenever possible. The easiest change is to get a reusable coffee cup (I love my glass keep cup^) for your takeaway coffee, but you can also take your own containers if you buy your lunch to reduce the amount of plastic you then need to dispose of. If you take your lunch to work it’s best to avoid glad-wrap or single use plastic sandwich bags, so treat yourself to a nice, reusable option like one of these from Biome.^
Switch Off Lights
If you’re the last to leave in the evening make sure all the lights in your area have been switched off, to avoid wasting huge amounts of energy overnight. If you have your own office then get into the habit of switching off your lights when you leave the room, and if you have meeting rooms or storerooms that aren’t used all the time, then flick those lights off when they’re not needed as well. It’s a simple change but it really does add up!
Only Print When Necessary
It might not be ideal, but whenever possible try and read documents on your computer to save having to use quite so much paper. Try and share documents with colleagues whenever you can as well – it’s rare that everyone needs their own copy of a meeting agenda!
If you can, set your default printer setting as double-sided printing to ensure you always print double-sided, and even try printing two-to-a-page for documents that are still readable at that size. When you’re done, make sure everything goes in the recycling bin!
If you can influence the paper choice of your organisation then try and steer them towards recycled (or at the very least sustainably sourced) paper, it really makes a difference.
Change Up Your Commute
Lots of workplaces these days have programs to try and reduce the number of staff who drive to work, so check with your HR department to see if there’s anything you can sign-up for. This often includes reduced rates for yearly public transport tickets, subsidies to promote cycling or even an organised car-pool system. Each trip that you can make that doesn’t require driving makes a huge difference, so even if you can’t give up the drive completely you might be able to ride or PT a couple of times a week – it all adds up!
If you travel around for meetings then try and avoid driving to them whenever you can – often public transport is just as easy for meetings in the CBD (and then you don’t have to worry about parking!) or if you don’t have far to go maybe walk or borrow a bike? We keep electronic-bikes at work that people can hire to get to meetings which is a great alternative to driving, whilst being slightly less work than a regular bike!
Improve Catering Choices
If you hold meetings with catering then try and avoid over-catering as this results in unnecessary food waste, which not only is a waste of money but a waste of all that delicious food too! Try and also order a higher-proportion of vegetarian options as meat-free meals require less resources to create, and go for seasonally appropriate food too (avoid the tropical fruit salad in winter for example – who knows where that fruit has come from!).
It’s also worth finding a few local caterers you can use as that way the food won’t have to travel as far to get to you, meaning it is not only going to be fresher, but won’t have all the added emissions relating to the transport of the food. Nowadays there are lots of caterers that clearly outline their eco-credentials, so it’s worth shopping around a little.
In most offices there is no need for each employee to have a complete set of their own stationery, instead try and share items like staplers and hole punches by storing them near printers or in other shared areas. Sharing these kinds of items might seem like a really small thing, but if everyone did it then we would be using a lot less resources creating them, and we wouldn’t have as many to dispose of in the future either.
There are lots of eco-stationery brands out there these days as well, so if possible speak to whoever is in charge of ordering stationery at your workplace to see if they can be included as choices in the future.
Make Your Own Notebook
If you need a notebook on your desk for things like taking phone messages or the like then a great way to re-use paper is to turn single-sided scrap paper into a notebook. You can go fancy by giving it a cover and binding it together, or go low-key and just staple a collection of pages together, but either way it works! It’s usually unnecessary to have proper, fancy notebooks for these purposes so using the scrap paper at your desk can really cut down on the number of notebooks you go through!
Try Electronic Meetings
If you’re only meeting with one or two other people then it’s worth exploring whether there are other ways you could ‘meet’ without all having to travel. Phone conferences and video conferences are much better than they used to be, so are an excellent way to still be able to discuss everything you need to without the associated emissions from having to travel between offices or other venues – plus, you save time as well!