Get green at work: 5 steps for a more environmentally friendly office

The recently released UN Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report warns that urgent changes are needed to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report’s authors suggest the goal is feasible, although it is ambitious and requires urgent and unified action. This has amplified conversations about climate change and is mobilizing people around the globe to look for new ways to combat climate change in their daily lives.

Sustainability and eco-friendly practices in the workplace continue to gain momentum, with organizations streamlining efficiencies, reducing resource waste, and championing green initiatives, which not only helps the environment, but also tends to have a net-positive result on the bottom line too. Looking for new ways to go green around the office? Here are five simple things you can do to boost environmental sustainability in the workplace.

Reduce paper waste

Even with all the paperless technology we have these days, there’s still a lot of paper making its way around the office. Some sources suggest that the average person uses as much as 10,000 sheets of paper per year. That’s approximately two cases of paper (10 reams per case) for each person in your office, every year.

Now think about all those print jobs you don’t even pick up off the printer and all those emails you print even though that same information is easily accessible in digital form. Up to 45% of printed paper ends up in the recycling bin by the end of the day.

Sure, we’ve trained ourselves to diligently recycle paper and we use eco-friendly shredding companies to dispose of sensitive documents on our behalf, but the overall lifecycle of paper—from logging truck to the paper tray in your copy machine—consumes a lot of energy and resources. And if a piece of paper provides a functional purpose for less than eight hours, we need to start rethinking every single sheet that hits our desk. If you haven’t already done so, here are a few easy, paper-saving tips to employ:

● Change default settings on computers, printers and copier machines to automatically print on both sides

● Always review a document before printing and ask yourself: Do I really need to print it? Can this be digitally filed away for future reference instead?

● Adjust the number of pages you are printing so that you exclude any blank pages or pages with unnecessary information like email signature lines, etc.

Eliminate single-use drinkware, plates, and cutlery

Canadians throw out 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups annually and the jury is still out on whether or not the majority of plastic- or wax-lined cups can be fully recycled. Approximately 500,000 trees are used to produce these cups and it would take 4,000 full-sized garbage trucks to haul away this waste each year.

Using a refillable coffee mug has its perks—many coffee houses provide a discount if you bring your own cup and you might even be motivated to make your own coffee before you leave the house, which means more money in your pocket and eco-friendly consumption!

Most offices have a stash of plastic cutlery and paper plates on hand for the monthly birthday celebration or seasonal potluck lunches. While it’s nice that no one has to worry about dishes piling up in the lunchroom sink, so few of those items actually end up being recycled. It takes five to 10 minutes to wash a few dishes, but it takes 450 years for plastic cutlery to biodegrade.

Use technology to save energy

That may seem like an oxymoron, but there are actually some ways in which smart technology can make it easier to reduce energy consumption in the office. There are plenty of digital building solutions available now that automate energy-saving features, such as optimized lighting, integrated HVAC, and sensors that use IoT to control energy-consuming systems to increase efficiencies and reduce overall energy usage.

Over time, the upfront investment in automation technology is more than offset by the reduction in operating costs and energy savings.

Encourage green transportation options

This can be as easy as designating a secure location for bicycle storage in your office building, or allowing employees the opportunity to work from home a couple days per week to help reduce weekly commute hours.

Weave sustainability into your corporate culture

Including eco-awareness and sustainability as core values for your business keeps these initiatives and green thinking in general top-of-mind for your team. It also encourages ongoing dialogue and drives engagement that is focused on your business’ continued positive impact on the environment.

The call to action on climate change has never been more resounding. It’s time to seize any opportunity we can to make meaningful changes at the workplace and beyond.

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