There’s lots of ways we can reduce waste at home and we’re sure lots of you have made some small (and big!) changes already. But one area we don’t always think about so often is the office. There are loads of things we or our workplaces could tweak to be more sustainable, so we thought we’d share some of these for you.
The first thing to do it find out which energy supplier your business uses. There are companies which specialise in green energy, so just by switching you can make a big difference, without having to do that much! If you don’t own the building, this one tricky one, as the decision is usually made by the building manager or can be difficult if you have a shared office and don’t have the power to switch.
If you can help facilitate this change though, companies like SSE & Ecotricity offer green, renewable energy for businesses. You can compare tariffs on switching sites and make sure you’re getting a good deal. Most suppliers offer a ‘no disruption’ switching service so you won’t have any downtime.
Reusable bottles and cups
Why not encourage staff to use reusable water bottles & reusable coffee cups for their daily drinks instead of plastic ones? We know just the place! Plastic bottles and cups are a huge source of unnecessary waste so if your company is particularly generous you could see if they would subsidise some (or all) of the cost for team members. When a new person starts, if you have the budget, you could give them a reusable drinks set as part of their induction or as part of a celebration such as a birthday gift, passing probation or getting a promotion.
Similarly, you could also encourage your team to use lunch kits or boxes instead of buying lunches in plastic packaging. You can get BPA-free lunchboxes and Tupperware (made from bamboo), or stainless-steel sets for cold items like salads – these are great and will last a lifetime if looked after properly.
BPA is an industrial present in lots of food & drink packaging, including ready meals and traditional Tupperware. Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain and bodies of foetuses, infants and children. It can also affect children's behaviour. Additional research suggests a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure. Although not much is known for sure, it’s good to try and avoid BPA where possible and use alternatives.
You could also use beeswax or soya wraps for your sandwiches instead of clingfilm. Clingfilm can never be recycled and it can take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to break down.
Suggest eco-friendly lunch places nearby
If you can, get together a list of eco-friendly places nearby or lunch services that deliver. Look out for anywhere that uses compostable packaging and cutlery, locally sourced ingredients, and companies who are trying to go carbon neutral.
If your team like to order food in, you could negotiate a deal with one of the food places where you get a discount on a group order, then you’re reducing the amount of carbon by reducing the number of individual deliveries
Drink tap water instead
You can replace any water coolers using individual plastic bottles if you have them and replace with ones that are plumbed in instead, this reduces the amount of plastic waste generated every time a bottle in replaced. Same thing goes for any cups. Get rid of plastic cups at water coolers and replace for eco-friendly versions.
You can even get boiling water taps, so there’s less energy wasted from boiling the kettle. After all, your cuppa tea doesn’t need to cost the Earth
Compostable Bin Bags
You could also ask the building maintenance or cleaning company to use compostable bin bags instead of plastic ones. They are usually a little bit more expensive but are made of material like corn-starch and break down to nothing, instead of traditional plastic bags which go to landfill and can take thousands of years to degrade (into smaller bits of plastic).
It can be easy not to recycle at work as most people have small desk bins instead. Make sure you’ve got plenty of recycling bins around, with separate compartments for different types of recycling. Even better, take away those pesky tiny bins with their tiny plastic bags and ask your team to stretch their legs and walk to the bins instead! Get lots of posters up and guides so people know how to recycle properly and there’ll soon be no more excuses.
Check that you’re building maintenance or cleaning company recycles properly. If you don’t have a recycling collection service at the moment you can set this up with a company like Veolia quite easily. They will usually come and do an audit of your premises and tell you how you can improve and set up a collection agreement with you. They will work with you to keep increasing the amount of recycling you’re able to do.
If you can, reduce printing as much as possible and encourage people not to print where possible. Also, if you have to print, try and use recycled paper and use recycled paper envelopes to send out letters.
Get everyone to make an Eco-Pledge
Try and encourage everyone to do something to make themselves more eco-friendly. You can make it friendly-competitive and give a prize for the person (or team) that does best! Here’s a few ideas:
- Track steps and have a competition between people of who can walk the most
- Organise a clothes swap instead of throwing clothes away
- Who can stay plastic-free for longest
- Make eco-bricks with any plastic you’ve not been able to dodge
Do a plastic audit
You could do it for the whole company or get teams to do it individually. Get everyone make a list of everything plastic in their areas (cubicles, desks, floor spaces etc). This can include anything from stationery, plant pots, water bottles, fans and so on. Get them to note what’s necessary and what’s not. Can they get rid of the unnecessary stuff? Then ask them to keep a track of all the things they throw away over the course of the week. Do they throw away anything they could recycle instead? Could they swap something being thrown away all the time for an eco-friendly version instead?
You could even incentivise it and give a prize to the greenest team! Could be for team that got rid of the most unnecessary plastic, team that reduced their waste the most, or best recyclers. Don’t forget to update on progress in team meetings and internal comms.
You can do this for the whole business, such as the kitchen – can you swap anything in here? Change washing up liquid for washing up blocks, replace plastic cups, clear recycling bins etc.
Toilets, look for eco-friendly swaps such a refillable soap dispensers instead of individual ones, using eco-friendly toilet paper and using recycled paper for hand towels.
Like above, do a carbon audit for the company. Use a carbon footprint calculator to check what the current carbon output is, such as this one.
Companies such as the Carbon Trust can create footprints for you. Once you have the total, look for ways you can lower it. Can you reduce the amount of deliveries you get/send out? Change the power supply, lower the amount of computers left of standby overnight etc. Display around the companies, get people to get involved in it.
You could see if you can pay a levy to offset your carbon footprint. Doing this means you could promote yourself as a carbon neutral company! You have to pay a charge but then things will be done on your companies behalf to account for your carbon use such as tree planting.