Tips for Greening the Office

Whether you are doing it to save the planet, to keep activist shareholders happy, impress customers with your environmentally friendly credentials or to attract and retain the best talent, greening your business seems like a win-win in the current environment.

Whatever your motivation the benefits from a few environmental hacks maybe further reaching than one could have hoped for. Fewer sick days –  a study done in conjunction with experts from Harvard University and Suny Upstate Medical University discovered that employees in Green Certified buildings require approximately 30% fewer sick days.

The study also identified these benefits of the Eco friendly office:-

Maximizing the available light can increase productivity by 15%( because of reduced absenteeism)

  • 26.4% higher cognitive test scores.
  • 6.4% higher Sleep Quality scores.
  • 30% fewer symptoms.

So, if you are looking to boost your company’s environmental credentials, the office can be the low-hanging fruit you need to get the ball rolling. It is a great place to start, in the face of more daunting major structural changes to the building, supply chain, etc.


Where to begin, there are, of course, the classics; one of those pieces of advice we have heard so many times and thought that makes sense the “I really must do that, buts …” like having an early night and eating a healthy diet. Those pearls of wisdom we never quite get round to.

A great first step is carrying out an environmental audit. If these words have sent your CFO into a cold sweat. No need to worry. Partnering with a local school or university is not just great PR but also a great chance to give the next generation priceless real-world work experience and a rewarding outcome.


Power saving

Electrical appliances

Set computers to sleep when not in use try not to use screen savers.

Try to remember not to leave things on standby. Unplug anything that can be unplugged overnight/over the weekend. Using a power strip can help with this. It means staff just need to remove one plug.

( NB. From our anxious friends in Health and Safety, please ensure you do not overload the cable.)

Switch to LEDs

Some experts say that LED lights use only 20% as much power as conventional lighting. Such savings can translate to as much as a 40% saving on your energy bill. If you haven’t made the switch yet, now might be the moment, unless you have a sentimental attachment to the high-pitch buzz or are aiming for a faux 80’s B movie horror ambiance replete with flickering tubular lighting.

Why replace them? For one, because tubular lighting isn't just sinister in the wrong hands it can be downright dangerous. The toxic chemicals they contain need to be carefully disposed of to avoid contamination.

What you may lose in upfront costs you more than get back in mid-long term savings in both time and money. From an environmental perspective, you save on power, resources, and the environmental cost of shipping and producing multiple single-use incandescent bulbs.

The Call of the Bright Lights

This truly is the big break we have been dreaming about.

Switch off the lights if you are leaving a room for more than 15 mins. Take advantage of natural light and try and steer clear of spots and other high energy bulbs where possible.


The Mantra of the 3 Rs

Ditch the individual printer and go communal

Get a networked multi-functional printer, MFP- they tend to use fewer resources all around and are a great focal point to catch up on all the office gossip.

Send toner cartridges for refill or recycling depending on your service agreement.

Create a scrap paper pile near the printer

Set the printer to print double-sided where possible and use draft quality. However, make sure this is well known, and if you have an IT department who are happy to do more than ask you to “switch it on and off again” then ask them to label it as such. The same applies to filling one draw with used paper. There is nothing worse than rushing into a client meeting with a sheet of impressive stats and an internal email on the back saying what an incompetent fool the project manager is.

Speaking of Paper

Why not take the plunge and go completely paperless. If you do decide to go down this route try and select a cloud service provider that will stay in business and that won't charge you fees that will put you out of business. However, make sure you establish a secure and sustainable off-site backup.

If you can go paperless, use pdfs, digital signatures, etc., why not?

Last year meant that even the last technophobes and holdouts(like myself) had to take the plunge. There are a host of apps and clouds that allow team development of documents and projects.

If you need to print, try to recycle the paper you use and seek out recycled paper. If possible go for FSC certified, chlorine and mercury-free options.

Re-useable Cups

Once, it was just the coffee encrusted trusted companion that got you through the morning commute but never left the car. Then it evolved into the highly desirable(read overpriced) or avoidable “keep cup” depending on which side of the hipster fence you sit on. Before, finally, reaching its current form; the ubiquitous unassuming aid to helping the environment and getting caffeine into your flagging workforce. Globally, we throw away 16 billion disposable coffee cups annually. The office can be a great place to make a dent in that frightening figure.

Enough of Being Single

Buy in bulk, single serving sachets are wasteful for the environment and your pocket, according to research done by the University of Portland, buying your coffee in bulk could lead to dramatic savings in expenditure and packaging.

A word to the wise, it might be worth investing some of the savings in some well-designed dispensers to avoid a passive-aggressive post-it war over teaspoon etiquette.

Plastic Straws and Stirrers

Just- no.

Introduce recycling bins and compost bins for food waste.

Clearly labeled, preferably color-coded, bins can help people see the difference they are making. Plastics and paper are a great place to jump off from, but if you feel like removing the training wheels, you could add glass and compost bins for food waste.

Planting the Seed

The health benefits of greenery in the office are often touted. In fact, we may have quoted some people much wiser than us doing so not so very long ago. Some  offices have taken to combining the office composting with nurturing the office foliage. This might be a time commitment a bit too far for many.If it is don’t be discouraged, the mere presence of plants in the office provides a pleasant reminder of why we are all striving to make these changes. 



Blowing bubbles and a Royal Flush

Aerators on taps can help to reduce water flow from 2.2 gallons per min to as little as 1.5-0.5 gallons. Aerators can also be retrofitted to over 90% of old taps, and they should pay for themselves within the first month.

There is, of course, the option of waterless urinals and re-plumbing toilets to use captured rainwater. However, this requires significant investment and disruption. In the meantime, you might consider retrofitting a short flush, WaterSense labeled alternatives, or just the old brick in the cistern. Older models can use 3.5 - 7 gallons per flush. a modern system can reduce that to just 1.6 gallons.


These few simple measures could help you reduce overheads, appeal to customers, increase efficiency and productivity, and they might just be good for the planet too.

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