It’s time for an upgrade.
If you work in an office, you know how much energy waste there is, everything from lighting to computers, and paper waste to the heating and cooling of the building. Looking at paper alone, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper per a year, and two-thirds of this is considered to be wasted.
If you have a target to reduce your business’ carbon footprint (which you should!) it can seem daunting just to know where to start. As your office’s carbon footprint refers to ‘the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the air as a result of the activities of your establishment’, (we like to think) this includes everything from how you get to work to the systems you use, to how you choose to source and dispose of your furnishings.
Anything you do will be an improvement, so the pressure’s off! To get you started, here are the first steps you can take that will help reduce your office’s carbon footprint, and save you money and resources at the same time.
To start, don’t rely on guesswork, but actually begin to keep measurable data that you can leverage to make tangible improvements. Figure out where your needs are; what are the areas of greatest waste? Assign an internal manager to own the processes, or alternatively if you have the budget (or don’t feel like you have the time or internal resources) you can hire external consultants who come in and conduct an in-depth audit. Of course, if it seems like a monumental task, don’t feel like you need to tackle everything at once. There are a number of online climate calculators you can use to get an idea of where your needs are. Start with something easy, and then plan to take on a more in-depth issue.
Upgrade your office.
Can you change your lightbulbs? Add a timer to your lighting system? What about the windows– should they be upgraded? If you are renting, what is the building already doing, and how can you partner with them? Furthermore, are the relevant issues ones that they should be responsible for? If you propose ideas that are ultimately saving them money, then they may be open to implementing the changes themselves.
This is so simple, but so impactful. What system for recycling (and hopefully composting!) is already in place, and are you using it? If you are, can it be streamlined or improved somehow? Maybe you have recycling but people don’t use it because your signage is hidden or confusing. What areas of your office go through the most paper? Look into placing more bins in those areas, and check the process for emptying them. Beyond paper recycling, examine how you are disposing of electronics (e-cycling companies or take back programs) – making sure that all data is securely wiped before disposal! What kind of plastics program is in place? Hand-in-hand with this is employee education: ensure that the very people who are enacting these initiatives on a day-to-day basis actually understand how to take advantage of them, and why it is important. And, you can make it fun! If these are new processes that you are implementing, perhaps create a competition between departments for who can ‘green’ their area the most, or introduce some other incentive to help build them good habits.
Leverage digital by automating what you can. Do you find that lights are often left on in empty rooms, or your heating kicks in when there is no need? Using a managed print system will not only outsource, the costs associated with running a fleet of printers, but also ensure that you are using the most up-to-date and energy-efficient equipment. Turning your thermostat down by just one degree can cut your energy bill by up to 10%! There are a number of smart heating controls that will adjust your heating throughout the day depending on how many people are in the building, the season, and time of day.
Does your office have a rideshare program, or use a cycle to work scheme? In 1999 the UK government implemented a tax exemption initiative, designed to reduce environmental pollution by helping employers provide cycles and cyclists’ safety equipment as a tax-free benefit. If many employees drive to work, create a rideshare group where people can arrange travel plans and cut down on driving.
Deliveries and errands.
As part of your audit, check how often deliveries are made, and the necessity of them. Often, deliveries from resources like stationery suppliers are automatically scheduled to come on a fortnightly or monthly basis, but if you were to open the filing cupboard, it is more than likely that you have an overflow of plastic paper protectors and a dearth of black sharpies. Knowing what you use up most often (and the supplies that take the whole year to go through!) will not only save you money, but keep that stack of crushed supplies gathering dust in the bottom of the cupboard from being tossed when spring cleaning happens.
Once you begin to implement carbon-reducing changes, make sure that you continue to measure your impact. Taking concrete steps to keep it a priority will ensure that your goals do not get sidelined a few months down the line, and as you see the positive benefits (both monetarily and environmentally) it will provide justification for making further changes in the future.
Recycle More is a useful resource for business legislation, regulations, and tools to help businesses recycle.
Did you know that the UK has a Green Office Week every May? Kickstart your carbon-reducing initiatives by participating.
Check out the Energy Saving Trust for more implementable strategies to save you money.