Career Advice Workplace

Tips For Creating a More Sustainable Workplace

By: Dora Segall
Aug 26, 2020 • 10 min read

Tips For Creating a More Sustainable Workplace

As concerns over climate change grow, younger generations of consumers are factoring environmental impact into their lifestyles and purchasing decisions. As a result, incorporating green initiatives into company policy has become increasingly common and is crucial no matter what your industry. Whether you oversee a consulting team or a thrift store, there are several practices you can introduce to create a more sustainable workplace. Here are some tips that go beyond turning off lights and recycling.

sustainable workplace

Go paperless

We all know that pretty much anything can be done these days digitally. If you find that your employees are using the printer frequently throughout the day, look for ways to change that. For starters, consider introducing software that makes it easier to exchange paperwork online. For instance, if you find that your team is printing a lot of contracts for other departments to sign, look for a way to make digital signatures standard practice. Apps like GoCanvas make it easier to manage paperwork online while integrating it with existing company information. Shifting administrative tasks to digital platforms will save not only trees but time and office space as well.

Stay remote

Now that your team has probably adjusted to working from home, it might be a good time to reevaluate the necessity of having employees commute to an office beyond the pandemic. Ask yourself what the advantages and downsides have been to communicating virtually. Maybe you find that presentations work great on Zoom, but not meetings. If that is the case, consider leasing a couple of rooms at shared office space for only a couple days a week once it’s safe for people to gather in person again. Shortening your in-person work week will cut back on the need for employees to commute to work, drastically reducing your company’s fossil fuel footprint. This can help you create a sustainable workplace, and keep your employees happy! Keeping a remote work culture has added benefits, including added time on either end of the workday for employees to rest or get more work done, as well as a freed up budget due to lowered lease expenses.

Prioritize alternative transportation

If you are looking to lease new office space, factor location into your decisions. Prioritize walking distance to bus or train, for example, over cheap and ample parking to encourage employees to commute using public transit. Another idea for moving away from a car commuting culture is creating space for employees to store bikes. Setting up a few bike racks outside the office is a great way to send a message that you welcome a sustainable mindset.

Keep up-to-date on technology

Newer computers tend to be more energy-efficient. Consider whether your employees need to be working on desktops and encourage them to use laptops and other small devices whenever possible. Make sure to think critically before upgrading any of your company’s systems. Wireless phone chargers, though more comfortable to use, use almost 50% more power than traditional ones. This is because improper placement can lead to a slower charge. Wasting electricity will up your company bills and your environmental impact. Make sure to invest in new technology when it actually makes sense to do so rather than for the sake of keeping up.

Switch to energy-efficient lighting

There are tons of companies out there that create long-lasting, reduced energy-use light bulbs. You can also try motion-sensor lights, which switch off automatically after a certain period. This makes them especially desirable for bathrooms and other spaces that are used less frequently. Make sure you only install as much artificial as necessary and utilize natural daylight as much as you can. 

sustainable workplace

Lease equipment

Have you ever discovered that a company you were working for was keeping an obscene number of items in storage? Buying new equipment for every event introduces unwanted clutter, which is both stressful and wasteful. If your company is hosting an event, look into companies that offer rentals on products you will only need once. No one needs a cotton candy machine lying around their office 24/7 (if it does, we are jealous). 

Switch to reusable products

It might be tempting to stock up on plastic cups, plates, and utensils for company events and celebrations. The last thing anyone wants to add on to their workday to-do list is washing dishes for 10+ people. The amount of waste produced when employees use even as little as a paper cup for coffee each morning adds up. Quickly. To make cleanup less of a chore, post a sign in the kitchen telling people to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and run it if it looks full. Just a little teamwork goes a long way. Reusable items can be used beyond the kitchen, too. Whiteboards, for example, come in all shapes and sizes. They can be used instead of paper for individual tasks and presentations. Invest in a bulk shipment of personal size whiteboards to help employees cut down on paper when it comes to making to-do lists and taking notes.

Use sustainably sourced items

If you have to use paper cups, try purchasing ones made from recycled material. A lot of brands also sell compostable cups. As for bathrooms, consider investing in toilet paper made from renewable materials. Hand dryers are not recommended during the pandemic. So, if you must buy paper towels, you can find those made from renewable materials as well. 

Find ways to reduce your water use

Like time-sensor lights, automatic sinks, in addition to being more sanitary, are an extremely effective way of cutting down your environmental impact. When manual faucets are not turned off fully, water runs unnecessarily and drives up the utility bill. Automatic faucets eliminate this issue altogether. Other ways to ensure that water is run only when needed is by installing low-flow toilets or at least avoiding older models, which use an excessive amount of water in each flush.

Cut down on packaging

This especially goes for retail companies. With consumers trending towards sustainably produced products, a simple, undyed paper bag will likely leave just as good an impression as, if not better than, over-the-top boxing and wrapping. Cutting down on packaging is crucial to creating a more sustainable workplace. 

sustainable workplace

Organize a sustainability crash course

The best way to help your team lessen its environmental impact on the job, especially while working from home, is through education. Try scheduling a webinar through the Sustainable Workplace Alliance or another expert organization. Just make sure that you reinforce new concepts from webinars through follow up reminders. Do this either through in-office signage or email PSAs. It is essential when incorporating sustainability into your workplace culture that employees do not feel overwhelmed or patronized by your efforts. Find a balance by focusing on a few critical solutions for particularly weak areas of company practice.

Inform customers and clients about your company’s environmental standards

If you are working hard to ensure that your team is doing its part in creating a more sustainable future, you deserve to brag a little! Win over new clients and impress old ones by listing your sustainability efforts on your company’s website. Take note of other environmentally conscious businesses with whom you might want to partner with. Doing so will increase business for both of you and potentially give you new ideas for furthering your sustainability practices.

There are so many ways to work towards workplace sustainability. Every company is unique, so try out different methods and see what works best for you. Environmental responsibility is super important, so good for you for doing your part!

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