Concern for the environment is no longer a marginal activity. From energy-saving light bulbs to the plastic bag levy in supermarkets, there are more eco-friendly initiatives than ever. But those practices haven’t necessarily made it into our workplaces. And, considering we spend approximately 90,000 hours of our lives at work1, that seems like an oversight.
There are practical, financial and ethical reasons for being greener at work. Here are a few, with some tips on how to do it.
Offices are hives of energy – but a lot of it is wasted. And with wasted energy comes wasted money.
British Gas estimates that an energy-efficient office can save 65% on its energy bills2 – a huge amount for any enterprise, whether large or small. Three major sources of energy waste are heating, lighting and IT equipment. All three can be easily left on unnecessarily during evenings and weekends, burning off energy and adding zeros to the company energy bill. Putting equipment on standby isn’t the answer either as it still burns energy. In residential homes, the energy from computers left on standby accounts for 5-10% of the total electricity used3. In offices with multiple computers, that adds up to a mighty amount.
What to do
1. Install light sensors for lesser-used rooms.
2. Invest in automatic power shutdown software or plugs that switch off I.T. equipment during out-of-office hours. Or put up some friendly, clear signage to remind colleagues to turn off.
3. Make sure your heating system is set up to only be functioning during office hours. If you don’t have an office or facilities manager, ask for someone to volunteer to take responsibility for it.
Your surroundings have a huge impact on the way you feel – and therefore the way you act. For example, take the power of plants. Touching and smelling indoor plants has been proven to reduce physiological and psychological stress4. Not only that, another study found having plants in the office can improve brainpower and memory retention5. Similarly, encouraging natural light in the office rather than relying heavily on artificial lighting can also increase productivity by encouraging more – and better quality – sleep6. Plants and natural light: an eco-friendly and productive combination.
What to do
1. Open the blinds and turn off unnecessary lights, especially in the summer months.
2. If you can’t get enough natural light through the windows, there are lamps and light boxes you can buy cheaply that replicate the effect of sunlight.
3. Get some desk plants. To get you started, here’s a good guide on which to buy.
Morale, PR and ethics
Finally, and perhaps this should have been the first subject discussed, aiming to be eco-friendlier at work is just the right thing to do. And most people agree – 72% of UK workers say that having an eco-friendly office is important to them7. If you don’t have an active and thorough recycling scheme, for example, that can be alienating and frustrating for a workforce that wants to feel like they’re doing their bit for the environment. There’s no harm in showing it either. Why not sign up with a green waste-management service. They will work with the business to facilitate a company recycling strategy. And the free posters, stickers and certificates show off to office visitors that your company is responsible and outward-thinking.
What to do
1. Consider a recycling ‘challenge’, e.g. pitting departments against one another to limit the amount of material thrown away to one bag a week. Even such a small distraction is a good motivator – especially for a good cause.
2. Get rid of disposable paper or plastic cups. Everyone prefers a glass anyway…
3. Switch to green web hosting. Green web hosting is where the company invests in a carbon-offsetting scheme – so for every unit of energy used, they pay to generate that same amount of energy from renewables. It’s surprisingly cost-effective and means you can display your green credentials proudly on your website with an eco-label.
The opinions expressed by third parties are their own are not necessarily shared by St. James’s Place Wealth Management. This article originally appeared on the UNUM website
1 Gettysburg. (2017). A third of your life is spent at work
2 British Gas. (2018). Energy saving for offices
3 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (2018). Environment and energy
4 NCBI. (2015). Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress
5 The Guardian. (2014). Plants in offices increase happiness and productivity
6 Psychology Today. (2013). Exposure to natural light improves workplace performance
7 Morgan Lovell. (2016). Worker want sustainable offices