Author – Bettina Pace
The majority of the world’s population spends approximately 58% of their adult life at work. In fact, it may be fair to conclude that some individuals tend to spend more time at work than at their own homes.
Providing a healthy and sustainable work environment makes an average working day more bearable, decreasing the likelihood of injuries, accidents and health issues arising from being at work, whilst simultaneously increasing employee productivity, and ultimately, increasing earnings. The most cost-effective initiative at the workplace (or anywhere for that matter), is to change wasteful habits.
This includes - turning off appliances (such as computers) out of working hours, dressing appropriately for the season to avoid having to use air-conditioners and heaters throughout the year, setting printers to print double-sided on default (to minimise paper usage), and improving efficiency by opting for T5 fluorescent lighting to lower electricity bills.
1 - Training & Employee Involvement
A sustainable working environment is only possible with the involvement of internal employees. Ensure that a suitable Environmental Awareness Training course is introduced at the workplace, ensuring all employees are up to speed with the environmental policies, and encourage individuals to get involved and make suggestions on decreasing the company’s carbon footprint!
A company should set specific goals for sustainability initiatives, setting baselines and tracking metrics to monitor the effectiveness of efforts over time – compiling utility bills, and tracking expenditure on a monthly basis may serve as an incentive to improve energy efficient efforts over time.
Furthermore, the Company should establish a green team responsible for managing the sustainable and environmentally friendly incentives within the workplace. This gives employees an opportunity to contribute to the development and implementation of sustainable initiative.
2 - Sustainable Dining
Offering healthier options in the company’s cafeteria may encourage employees to opt for healthier food options, which in the long run may contribute to decreased risk of developing lifestyle-related illnesses. Rather than processed, packaged food, stock the vending machines with healthier food options.
As opposed to using plastic and polystyrene containers and cups, these can be substituted by reusable dish-ware instead. Investing in glass cups and mugs, and getting rid of plastic and polystyrene cups altogether, will ensure that employees have no option but to make use of the available reusable glassware and dish-ware instead.
3 - Meetings & Interaction
The majority of jobs require meetings to be held with external clients, as well as internal employees across different geographical locations. Rather than travelling to participate in meetings, opt to hold video conference calls instead. This saves time, effort and other resources – including fuel, water, electricity etc.
4 - Electrical Appliances
Use automatic heating and cooling timers to control room temperature, and ensure that these are turned off out of office hours. Using smart power strips will ensure that peripheral equipment is turned off once the primary device has been turned off (e.g. once a computer is shut down, this will turn off the connected devices, such as the monitor and printer).
Invest in solar panels to minimise electricity consumption.
Enable sleep mode and power saver features on computers and other equipment to reduce their power consumption when not in use.
Ensure regular cleaning and maintenance of electric appliances and office machinery – dirty and poorly-kept machinery consumes more energy than clean ones.
Rather than using desktop computers, opt for laptops instead as these tend to be more energy-efficient, ensuring that old appliances are replaced with energy-efficient ones.
5 - CSR & Workplace Wellness
Consider introducing an incentive programme for carpooling between employees – creating environmental awareness around the use of transport is essential, and should be included in the company’s environmental awareness training (if any!)
Set up proper signage for each waste, recycling and compost receptacle at the office. Added infographics and images will create a visual element, encouraging employees to sort things properly.
Create and distribute infographics and posters to employees to encourage a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle – such as using the stairs, rather than the elevator, or opting to read material online rather than printing it out, etc.
Encourage employees to be healthier at work, through for example, gym programmes, or discounts for employees to attend workout classes.
Implement a no smoking policy on company premises, or alternatively, introduce designated smoking areas on company premises, to encourage individuals to dispose of cigarettes only in the assigned smoking bins.
Allow employees to use standing desks to encourage movement during working hours.Where possible, creating an open workspace with natural lighting and green spaces, can minimise electrical consumption, and motivate employees.
6- Greener solutions
Introduce recycling bins across the office, that are easily accessible to all employees, creating also the necessary guides to ensure that materials are thrown in the correct bins.
Set up a battery collection and bottle cap programme by introducing jars or containers across the office for employees to bring in and recycle old batteries and bottle caps.
Reduce the use of paper! We are all guilty of printing off documents we don’t really need. Hence, introduce incentives to keep things digital as much as possible, and track and publish within the Company’s network, statistics on who is printing the most, wasting the most paper etc. This will encourage individuals to avoid printing documents when not required to do so. Or alternatively, introduce printer passwords to make the printing process lengthier (to discourage any unnecessary printing).
Swapping office materials to more sustainable ones, such as refillable ink cartridges, non-toxic stationary items and carbon neutral paper.
Encourage cleaning staff to also swap over to more environmentally friendly products.
7- Implementing a Sustainable Supply Chain
Work with clients and suppliers to ensure the overall sustainability of the business, using sustainable raw materials as much as possible, and avoiding raw materials that contain hazardous substances (such as lead and mercury).
To contribute to the local economy, ensure that as many business purchases are possible are shifted to local vendors. Whether its an office purchase, catering equipment, or business cards, supporting local vendors is always the best option.