The concept of an office might have changed and shifted over the last year, but there are always a few key elements that make up a workplace. Things like computers, printers, bins, stationary, mugs and plates, electricity, heating and bathroom items exist in almost all workplaces, be they a large corporate office or a corner of the dining table at home.
When it comes to sustainability, almost everything we do comes with an environmentally friendly alternative. So even if an office is simply you at home, there will be choices to make to the space greener.
A green approach means actually utilising the off switch! When things are not in use, or at the end of the day, they should be turned off or put on standby. It really does save power, even if it’s just a little bit.
Printers are an obvious one – only use when absolutely necessary to save paper, and money too. A green office would likely have an energy efficient multi use printer, instead of separate devices for faxing and copying.
Newer models of computers, monitors or other pieces of equipment are usually more energy efficient. If a piece of technology is being replaced, look out for the green alternatives when shopping for a new product.
Waste and recycling
A green office environment reduces waste wherever possible. When waste is created, it needs proper disposal. For electronics this can require a bit of research into local recycling, or better still – donate them for parts!
An eco-friendly office works with local authorities to utilise their recycling services. Getting a recycling bin is a great start but ideally waste could be split into paper, glass, batteries and more ensuring the items go to the right place.
Even just having one or two computers and lighting, the space uses electrical power and energy. As well as turning things off when they’re not in use, you can choose energy efficient versions such as LED bulbs for your office space.
To some extent, the need for lighting can be determined by the space itself. A light and bright room with big windows and white walls relies less on electricity for lighting, so a green space considers the natural layout and how to make the most of this.
Heating and air
Older buildings often don’t perform so well on EPCs (Energy Performance Certificate) because of things like single glazed windows or their shape and insulation leading to a poor distribution of heat. A green office should perform excellently on an EPC, whether that be because sustainability was at the forefront of their design, or investment has been made in improving an older space.
Insulation and windows might require significant change, but there are also simple ways to improve conditions within a room. Having one or two plants can improve air quality, using a draft excluder and keeping doors closed can also help retain heat in the room, and like electricity, turning heating down when the room is unoccupied can be a green choice.
It is not a green choice to use disposable items or single use plastics like takeaway coffee cups or cheap plastic pens. In terms of kitchen items, a green office would provide plenty of reusable mugs, plates and cutlery so that staff don’t have to use single use. Quality coffee and food options provide good encouragement for people not to buy takeaway.
When ordering office supplies like stationery – consider the questions ‘where will this end up’, ‘does its use justify its lifespan’.
Bathroom and cleaning
A green bathroom replaces all disposables with reusable options where possible. This involves using towels rather than a hand dryer and using microfiber cloths to wipe surfaces instead of paper roll.
Conserving water is important in a green office. Turning the tap off when the sink is not in use is an important habit and green office owners would consider updating the toilet to include a small and large flush option. If there is ever a leak or running toilet flush, it’s a high priority to get fixed because it can amount to a lot of wasted water.
Most offices today are mindful of things like the overuse of printing, turning off lights and not over-running the tap. But there are plenty more things you might not first consider part of a green office – from notebooks to toilet paper to bins to the colour the walls are painted.
Everything in a space offers a small opportunity to be more sustainable. This also extends beyond the physical office; communicating a sustainable ethos to staff, stakeholders and clients. A truly green office houses a brand that cares about the environment and wants to play an important role in preventing climate change.
Therefore, the greenest offices are ones that take the sustainable mission outside of the four office walls and turn it into a core element in their brand identity.