This year, lots of organisations and individuals have embraced a new way of working after COVID-19 has forced us all to reconsider how we carry out our daily work tasks.
For many, this has meant working from home, using Microsoft Teams to collaborate with colleagues, and generally relying more on digital services.
There are many positives to this new style of working, such as greater flexibility, elimination of the daily commute, and ultimately a better work-life balance. Remote working is also better for the environment, something you may not have considered up until now.
With fewer commuters on the roads, there are also fewer carbon emissions in the air. A greater reliance on digital services means less paper being used and cooking your lunch at home equates to less plastic packaging being dumped into our office bins.
As things are beginning to return to normality in 2021, the wave of remote working is starting to break down, and it has got us thinking about how we can all go back to the office in a greener and more sustainable way.
How to be greener at work
Did you know that the past decade has been the hottest on record? Climate change is a serious concern for this generation, and we all need to play our part in helping to repair the damage that has been done.
We've put our heads together and come up with some of the best ways to transform your work environment into a much greener place. Additionally, to help you convert these tips into action, we’ve also included lots of practical guidance and helpful links along the way.
1. Starting with a simple one: introduce recycling bins in your workplace
Lots of us have become accustomed to sorting our household waste into recyclables and non re-cyclables, but for some reason, this custom has not transferred so well into the workplace.
Make sure your office has a recycling bin; in the kitchen and near your desk so that any plastic or paper materials can be disposed of appropriately.
2. Embrace a recycle and reuse mindset
This is similar to our last point, but we are pushing the boat out regarding the kind of office items you should start to deem recyclable. It’s not just paper, cardboard and food packaging that can be recycled, many batteries, light-bulbs and even electrical devices can be recycled too.
Many of the devices your organisation purchases for use will normally be purchased brand new, but refurbished electrical goods can perform just as well, save you money, and of course, reusing is always better for the environment.
Also, if it’s time for an office chair upgrade to replace the old faithful one that’s literally on its last legs, why not opt for a refurbished one? This company sells re-vamped 2nd-hand office furniture at half the RRP. Out with the old, in with the... refurbed.
3. Carry on preparing your lunch at home
Not only will this save you money, but it’s also great for the environment too as it cuts down on packaging.
Cooking your lunch at home and taking it to work the following day means you won't have to spend a fortune on pre-made supermarket meals or at the nearest cafe - and you’ll avoid the lunchtime rush...bonus!
If making additional meals at home sounds like too much effort, why not try making a little bit extra of your tea-time meal and saving the leftovers for lunch the next day. That way it takes no extra time or effort, and you can even involve your colleagues by organising a ‘lunch swap’ system. This is where a number of employees will take it in turns to prepare and supply lunch for the rest of the group. Not only does this cut down on waste, it also equates to a much more interesting lunch experience.
Stuck for ideas on the sorts of delicious and nutritious meals you can prepare for your work lunches? Have a look at this meal plan we’ve put together which is inspired by evening meals you can cook and then convert into lunch-time meals for work the next day:
|Leftover Sunday roast.
|Stir-fry - egg fried rice
|Midweek chilli burritos
|‘Bangers’ and pasta
|Before everyone else gobbles up the last roast potatoes, snag a few for your lunch on Monday, along with some veg, whatever protein you’re having and all the trimmings…delicious served cold in a ciabatta roll too.
|A quick weekday meal and great in left-over form! Make some extra stir-fry and boiled rice...when everything has cooled down, fry up some egg in a wok or frying pan, add the rice and left over stir-fry and saute for a few minutes.
|Chilli con carne can be stretched into a brand new meal by mixing it with some boiled rice and serving in a tortilla wrap with your choice of other accompaniments such as salad, guac, sour cream, salsa or cheese.
|When making ‘bangers and mash’ for dinner, cook a couple of extra sausages, veg and get some pasta boiling alongside your potatoes. Then you can chop up the cooked sausages and veg, add to the cooked pasta, and bring together with a jar of tomato and basil pasta sauce.
|Did you know that curry always tastes better the next day? Mix some of your curry leftovers with boiled pilau rice and a tbsp of fresh greek yoghurt with some roughly chopped coriander. The flavours will marinate even further in the fridge overnight.
4. Bring plants into the office
With the house-plant trend on the rise, it has become a common sight to see your work colleagues on video calls with plants around them in their WFH set ups.
Plants don’t just look nice, they’re also beneficial to the environment and the air we breathe in throughout the day. By removing CO2 and other harmful chemicals from their surroundings, office plants make a positive contribution to our planet by cleansing the air around us.
If you’re worried about maintenance and upkeep, and generally concerned that you might not be green-fingered enough to keep an office plant alive, here is a list of the best plants, along with a handy plant watering guide, to have on your desk that thrive in the kind of conditions you would expect in an office environment:
- Devil’s Ivy
- Ficus Benjamina
- Zamioculcas Zamiifola
- Peace lily
5. Start unplugging devices that are not in use
Lots of people unplug their devices at home because they are concerned about their electricity bills, but are complacent about energy consumption in their workplace.
If WFH has gotten you used to unplugging your work devices at home, try and transfer this habit as you return to the office. Electricity usage is a big drain on our planet, and is bad for the environment in lots of different ways, from air pollution to climate change to water pollution and thermal pollution.
A positive change that your entire organisation can make is to consider switching their energy supplier, and opt for a greener one.
6. Create an advocacy group
If you feel that your organisation is lacking the incentive / motivation / drive to make greener choices then creating an internal group whose role it is to advocate and generally push for a greener working environment is a great way to keep up the momentum.
The idea of introducing new green initiatives into the workplace might feel a little daunting, but remind yourself that they can have long-term benefits for both employee well-being and future spend that your organisation is going to thank you for in the long run.
Wondering where to begin? Here are the first five initiatives you can create that will kickstart your advocacy group:
- To help get everyone on board and motivated about going green, start by introducing some inclusive challenges that everybody can get hyped about.
- Cycle to work day.
- Use less fuel day.
- BYO coffee cup day.
- Wear recycled fibres day.
To really incentivise your colleagues, create a green challenges leaderboard and give the best participant a ‘greenest employee award’.
- Organise a team meeting to educate your colleagues about going green, including the main reasons to do it, and of course, the benefits it will bring.
In preparation for this meeting, gather lots of information, especially statistics that will galvanise your colleagues, and try to use graphics such as this one…
Visual representations of information are incredibly effective at getting messages across.
Now that you’ve got everyone on side, you can start to implement some really simple changes to the workplace that your colleagues will, hopefully, welcome with enthusiasm.
- Assign roles to different people in the office so that everyone feels like part of the same mission, and the responsibilities are shared equally. For example, one person could be responsible for checking all the plugs and light switches are turned off, another person could be in charge of watering the plants, etc.
- Initiate a ‘fruit & veg day’. On this day, a member of the office will be responsible for picking up an assortment of loose fresh fruits and vegetables for everyone in the office to snack on throughout the day. This might seem like more of a health initiative, but if it stops people from bringing in packets of biscuits and other snacks that come in plastic packaging, then it’s great for the environment too.
- Switch up materials. We’re assuming, with some confidence, that there are many tea and coffee drinkers in your office. If that’s the case, there is probably also a lot of milk being drunk, which equates to a lot of plastic bottles being thrown away. Have a look online to see if there is a local dairy farmer in the area who can supply your office with milk in glass bottles - which can then be taken to a nearby bottle bank at the end of the week. Some other materials you can switch up are things like paper and toilet roll, and you could opt for compostable versions of both instead.
These 5 should hopefully give you some ideas and help you get started with your greener workplace mission.
7. Re-think your gift giving traditions
Christmas time and birthdays in the office usually result in a lot of unwanted gifts that often end up unused or put straight in the bin.
Instead of buying pointless presents for your colleagues, there are lots of greener ways you can show your appreciation. For example, consider paying for e-subscriptions, organising a ‘gift swap’ where you simply swap items from within your home, or even making something yourself such as baked goods, jar candles, or organic home-made body scrub.
Many workplaces already practise this one, but if it’s not happening at your office, encourage your team to organise a ‘secret santa’. This means each person will only be buying one gift, and reduces the amount of waste caused by those who go overboard with their present shopping.
We hope you found this guide insightful! If you're looking for other ways to better your workplace, such as improving your workplace diversity policy, we've got lots of expert advice to help you. If you'd like to chat with a member of our team, you can contact us here.