The Soar Point, Leicester, UK

Making your office work for the planet: Going Green in the Workplace*

"It is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision, it will take courage, it will take fierce, fierce determination to act now, to lay the foundations where we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling. In other words, it will take cathedral thinking. I ask you to please wake up and make the changes required possible." - Greta Thunberg
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg made headlines once more in the past week when she set sail across the Atlantic on a yacht that will see her arriving in New York and Chile for UN climate change summits without incurring any carbon emissions. Greta's two-week journey won't exactly be pleasant - videos have shown the yacht's very basic toilet facilities (a bucket is your only option if you need a no.2!) and the fact that there is no shower onboard. What's amazing about Greta is that she doesn't just talk the talk with her activism, she walks the walk too. It's certainly inspiring!

If you've been feeling the Greta effect in your life and want to make some positive changes of your own, you needn't have a high-tech eco-yacht at your disposal. Every little helps when it comes to sustainability and little things that you do at home and at work all add up. The people at Seareach recently conducted a survey to find what positive changes offices have been making in an effort to go green and the results have now been released. The most popular environmental action was going paperless, which 20% of offices reported doing, followed by labelling waste bins, using solar panels, and switching to LED bulbs, which were carried out by 18%, 14%, and 12% of surveyed offices respectively. If your office is behind the times and isn't making these simple changes, I've put together some tips to help you encourage your workplace follow suit. 

Abbey sitting in a cafe working at her laptop

1. Give paper the boot 

Printing? It's a thing of the past. Printing less is obviously much better for the environment because you're wasting far fewer trees, and digital records have clear practicalities too. It's far easier to search through all of your files and folders when they're all stored on your computer. Plus organising digital files and sharing them with your colleagues is a doddle. You can almost never lose an important document either if you back it up on a memory stick or on the cloud! If you work with older pieces of paperwork, scanning and archiving it can help you make the digital switch. Saving the trees has never been easier! 

2. Idiot-proof your waste bins

How many of you have finished your lunch and then stood dithering in front of the office bins for a few minutes while you try to work out whether your yoghurt pot belongs in landfill or recycling? I know I have. It's important that items make their way into the appropriate bins as bags of recyclablesmaterials can simply be sent to landfill if they're contaminated with the wrong kind of waste! To make sure you and your colleagues are getting it right, many county councils (Leicester included!) offer online information about what you can recycle. With these clear and concise instructions provided, your office mates can't get it wrong!

3. Switch to solar 

Solar powered electricity can provide lighting for your workspace and enable you to run lower power appliances. The photovoltaic cells use the sun’s energy to provide a green, renewable energy source. Don't think you can convince your boss to turn your office roof into a solar garden? Don't worry, you can still make a positive environmental change at a personal level. You can purchase solar charging devices suitable for your phone and other gadgets fairly inexpensively online. Who knows, your colleagues might see you with your amazing solar powered devices and jump to follow suit!

4. Light up your world for less

Want to make LED lightbulbs really appealing to your boss? Present the financial savings incurred by the switch as well as the environmental benefits. The energy consumption of LED lights can be up to  75% less than your regular halogen bulbs. This results in much less energy being needed to light the workspace and your office running costs plummeting. But again, if your boss isn't buying it, you can still make the switch to LED at your own desk. Energy saving lamps are available at various price points.

Abbey sitting at a cafe with a coffee, working at a laptop
Close up of Abbey's coffee cup. She works at a laptop in the background

If your office is one of those already making the sustainability changes outlined in the Seareach survey, that's brilliant! But if you want to push things that little bit further and really put a smile on a polar bear's face, there's always more you can do. Here are a few green measures that weren't outlined in the survey that you may like to implement!

5. Consider email the enemy

While you're tapping out an email to Joy from accounts, the carbon footprint of your actions is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But you should really reconsider. That's because a typical year of email activity adds the same amount of emissions to a person's carbon footprint as driving a car for 200 miles. Eek. "How on earth does that work?!" I hear you cry! Well, when you take into account the electricity used to write your email and the energy that it takes to store and transmit that information through the relevant data centres, it all adds up. So, next time you need to ask Dave from sales if he's FINALLY submitted that invoice, why not just pop around the corner to his office and ask in person instead of wasting an email?

6. Switch off when you clock off

There's nothing that I find more depressing than walking past empty office blocks at night and seeing lights and computers still switched on. Instituting a strict switch off when you clock off rule can really help to save electricity and money. Small signs or labels reminding your colleagues about turning off the lights if they're the last to exit the room and not leaving their computers on standby overnight could make a massive difference. It's a simple but really effective measure!

7. Make it fun!

Why not consider making going green a game for you and your workmates? You could, for example, challenge everyone in the office to eat meat-free lunches every Monday or see if everyone can give up plastic utensils for a month! The satisfaction of completing a challenge and contributing towards saving the planet may be enough to get everyone joining in, but offering a reward such as a home baked cupcake for every successful participant might persuade anyone who is less convinced to get on board.

Abbey sits at a table at a cafe with her laptop, sipping from a coffee cup

What does your office do to save the planet? Leave your tips and tricks down below!

*This post was written as part of a paid collaboration with Seareach