Sustainability in the office: 15 ways to be greener at work
The climate crisis is on everyone’s mind, and we all want to do our bit to be greener. As we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, small changes made at the office could have a big impact on our personal (and company) carbon footprint.
Try out these 15 ways to be more environmentally friendly in the office.
1. Invest in a reusable coffee cup
The UK throws away around 2.5 billion coffee cups every year, of which only 0.25% are recycled. Finding a reusable cup that works for you is an easy way to do your bit. You can get collapsable cups that are easy to fit in your bag or pocket, like Stojio. Plus, some coffee shops give you a discount on your coffee if you bring your own cup, and your coffee will stay hotter (or colder) for longer. It’s a win-win!
2. Thrift your office wardrobe
Need a new jacket for the spring or a smart dress for a big meeting? Before you buy new, check out the charity shops on your local high street. Buying pre-loved clothes is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, and you never know what you’ll find! You can even shop at Oxfam online if you don't have time to go to the shops. If a charity shop buy isn’t doable, consider shopping from a sustainable retailer such as People Tree if it's affordable for you, rather than buying into fast fashion.
3. Bring a desk plant
Indoor plants are a brilliant way to naturally filter the air in your office by absorbing pollutants and storing carbon. Plants also emit negative ions and oxygen into the air, improving the air for everyone. They can also improve your mood, productivity, and stress levels!
4. Take the stairs
An oldie but a goodie, taking the stairs instead of the lift is a simple way to use less electricity every day, and it’s good for you too.
5. Clear out your inbox
Every email you send and receive has a carbon footprint. Although it might seem inconsequential, the average email has a footprint of about four grams of carbon dioxide. Try cutting down on the number of unnecessary emails you send, unsubscribing from junk you receive, and clearing out your inbox regularly.
6. Choose sustainable coffee
Consider the origin of your coffee and the recyclability of its packaging. For example, Taylors of Harrogate are a carbon-neutral, fairtrade company and their packaging is recyclable with Terracycle. Companies like Nespresso now offer coffee pod recycling schemes to cut down on plastic waste without compromising the quality of your morning pick-me-up!
7. Turn off your electronics
A huge amount of power is used by machines that are switched off but plugged into a live outlet. Turn electronics off while they’re not in use, such as your monitor during lunch, and turn everything off at the wall before you head home.
8. Pack your own lunch
Buying lunch every day can add up to a lot of plastic waste. Even if it’s possible to recycle it all, not using it in the first place is preferable. Pack up your leftovers in a reusable container for lunch the following day, or make yourself a sandwich. An office canteen serving hot meals is also a great waste-free option. If you do have to buy lunch on the go, keep a set of cutlery in your desk drawer so you don’t need to pick up the plastic ones.
9. Plastic-free tea
Shockingly, not all tea bags are plastic-free. Many are sealed with plastic to stop them from falling apart in the hot water. Teapigs, PG Tips, and Sainsbury’s are all great plastic-free choices and can be thrown away with your food waste.
10. Rethink your printing
We all know to think before we print, and in an increasingly digital world, this has become easier and easier. But when you do need to print something, consider using a smaller font size and printing double-sided. Your organisation could also invest in software like Green Print to track and analyse print consumption and ensure no blank pages are printed. Heat-free printers use less power and re-manufactured ink is a great way to recycle cartridges that would otherwise end up in landfill.
11. Use refillable pens
Refillable pens can reduce plastic waste by about 50%, as you only need to throw away the ink cartridge inside, rather than the whole pen. This Bic pen comes with two refills on Amazon.
12. Beware of standby mode
Instead of using a screen saver while you're away from your desk, you can set a monitor to power down after a set amount of time has passed instead. An easy swap that could add up to a lot of energy saved.
13. Switch to LED bulbs
LED bulbs are a nice easy switch to request at your office. They last longer, and you can get dimmable bulbs for a softer glare. Motion sensors are also a great way to save electricity in rooms that aren't used all day, such as the kitchen, bathrooms, and corridors.
14. Take public transport
We were all encouraged to drive ourselves to work during the pandemic of 2020, and switching back to public transport might feel like a stretch. But, this really is one of the biggest ways you can reduce your carbon footprint during the working week. If you're not comfortable catching the train, consider carpooling with a colleague instead.
15. Level up your recycling
Though it might sound obvious, we could probably all recycle more. Make sure you’ve got recycling points in common areas such as the kitchen, as well as in your actual workspace. Etsy replaced individual desk-side rubbish bins with communal recycling points and reduced their waste by 18% and upped their recycling by 20% and composting by 300%.
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