There are many reasons to be sustainable in business. Not only is it better for the planet but it can also help to attract employees, win over consumers and open doors to working with other eco-conscious companies. Many businesses, especially those seeking to become B-corps, are striving to ensure their supply chains are ethical and that their products or services are sustainable. However, if you’re a business dedicated to being greener then your offices are an excellent place to begin.
Eco-friendly offices are also said to have a positive effect on employees and their wellbeing. Environmentally-conscious offices tend to make use of natural light to help warm and light the space and they often have lots of plants too, both of which can boost mood and energy levels.
You will likely find you meet many obstacles in your journey to operate more sustainably and being completely carbon neutral may take a while but many eco-friendly office ideas can make a big difference.
Here are some of our top eco-friendly office ideas for a greener business:
Eliminate Single-Use Products
In terms of single-use products, there are two problems that companies can address - those available for use in the office and those being brought into the office.
It’s not your place, as an employer, to ban employees from bringing in single-use products but you can deter them from reaching for these by offering other options. Making tea and coffee available in the office and keeping a supply of mugs and glasses in the cupboard may make employees less likely to buy takeaway drinks on the way to work each morning. Even recyclable cups are not as sustainable as using washable mugs. You may find you have to invest in some decent brewing equipment and blends if you’re going to tempt them away from coffee chains though.
You can also limit, or maybe even eliminate, buying single-use items for the office. For example, you can buy refills for biros so you’re not replacing the whole pen when the ink runs out. Ensuring that you have proper cloths in the kitchen and dryers in the bathrooms you can also negate the need for blue rolls and paper towels.
Provide Reusable Water Bottles
One of the worst culprits for single-use products in the office is cups. Plastic or polystyrene cups are often used for the office water cooler. This can mean your employees each use multiple sing-use cups per day. Not only is that wasted spend but it is a lot of unnecessary plastic. Employers should stock the kitchen cupboards with glasses so that employees can take advantage of the water fountain or cooler, without needing to use throw-away cups. Even better, why not welcome new employees with their own reusable water bottles? This can then be used for external meetings, in the gym and on the commute, as well as in the office. Our reusable water bottles are made from 92% recycled plastic bottles and are an ideal sustainable employee gift.
Fewer Bins, More Recycling
Most offices have recycling bins and facilities but these often go underused. There are a few possible reasons for this but a key culprit may be the desk bin. When employees have individual wastepaper baskets they’re very likely to throw items fit for recycling in their desk bins without thinking.
In 2014, desk bins were removed from Etsy employees. At first, according to Business Insider, Etsy employers were unimpressed but they quickly adapted and recycling in Etsy offices increased by 20%.
To encourage recycling you need to make it really easy to do. Or, another way to approach it is to make it difficult not to do. Make sure there are enough recycling facilities in the office so it isn’t a mission for anybody to reach one and make sure they’re well labelled and it’s clear what can and cannot be placed in there.
Change Office Printing Habits
Collaboration is essential in an office environment and printing documents is
often very necessary. Although we can encourage employees to think before they print, if documents need to be properly read, shared, poured through or seen in hard copy then the printing will be necessary. However, there are things we can do to reduce the impact of this, including:
- Using recycled paper
- Two-sided printing
- Using a paper shredder to repurpose used paper for packaging purposes
- Print fewer copies and encourage sharing where practical
Not only are we using ink (in plastic cartridges) and paper, but the machine is also using energy so carries a significant carbon footprint. Therefore, eco-friendly office ideas to reduce printing are worth implementing.
Eco-Friendly Office Supplies
Eco-friendly products can sometimes be more costly. However, if you’re buying office supplies in bulk then you may find they are far more reasonable. You might consider notebooks made from recycled materials, such as Vent For Change notebooks made from reclaimed cotton that can also be co-branded with your company logo. Alternatively, Out Of The Box includes a sustainable notebook, made from reclaimed corn pulp, in our corporate onboarding gift box.
There are many changes you can make to your stationery order to opt for more eco-friendly items, including pens made from recycled materials, staple-less staplers, refillable ink cartridges and bamboo products. However, keeping a discernible eye on your stationery spending is also wise, to ensure that you aren't overordering which can encourage waste.
LED Office Lighting
If you have not already switched to LED lighting then this can cut your energy usage dramatically. Plus, it can reduce spending and you’ll need to replace bulbs far less frequently.
Since most of us in office environments are usually facing bright computer screens, it may not be necessary for your office lighting to be so harsh. Many modern offices are adopting softer lighting which is better for employee wellbeing as well as for energy saving.
The more modern your tech is, the better it tends to be at conserving energy. However, if you are updating your office equipment, don’t forget you can recycle computer hardware or you can donate your old computer to charities and organisations such as the Turing Trust who securely refurbish unwanted computers that are then used by disadvantaged students around the world to further their education.
Leaving office computers on standby for long periods can also use unnecessary energy. Encourage your employees to turn off their computers when they leave the office, even turning them off at the mains if possible. This will reduce your carbon footprint and your energy bills.
One of the largest parts of your company's carbon footprint is likely made up of employees commuting into the office. During the pandemic, there were many notable improvements in the environment and this can be put down largely to
human beings travelling far less. If some employees can work from home, even some of the time, this can be a simple way to become a more sustainable company. Naturally, this will depend on whether roles are suitable for remote working and you needn’t leap into full-time home working either, even one day per week could make a big difference over a year.
In terms of wellbeing, remote working has differing impacts from person to person. Many employees have found many benefits to working from home, including better work-life balance and more productivity too. However, others have felt isolated and unsupported during periods of home working. Therefore, it is important to adopt a flexible policy if remote working becomes an option for your employees.
Eco-Friendly Corporate Gifts
If you’re going to be an eco-friendly office then you’ll want to be opting for sustainable options in your external business too. Many traditional corporate gifts are not environmentally friendly but this is changing fast. Now your corporate gifts must be sustainable, especially if you’re promoting eco-friendly values. Even if you’re not, your clients could be and may not welcome single-use gifts or plastic items. It is not only more sustainable but it is generally wiser for businesses these days to invest in eco-friendly corporate gifts.
Out Of The Box have many sustainable gifts ideal for corporate clients, corporate events and employee gifts. We even have a highly popular Eco-friendly Onboarding Gift Set for new employees, which contains a desk plant, reusable water bottle and many other sustainable and wellness-inspired treats. Perfect for welcoming them to your organisation and sharing your values with them.
Promoting Eco-Friendly Values
It doesn’t matter how good your environmental policies are if no one knows about them. Office communications that aren’t urgent or directly relevant to a person’s role may go unnoticed or forgotten. Still, many companies write an environmental policy, put a couple of posters up around the office and add a sustainability page to their website and consider the job done. Businesses that have been more successful in going greener know that ongoing communication is key.
Here are a few ways you can encourage employees to get behind your eco-friendly office ideas:
- Appoint a Sustainability Officer
- Measure performance by monitoring your recycling, energy usage and waste
- Include your environmental policies and guidelines for the office in employee handbooks
- Ensure all new employees get a tour of the office and are made aware of recycling bins, reusable cups, etc
- Set an example by making sure you and your management team are adhering to your sustainability values
- Consider the carbon footprint when planning events and when buying corporate gifts, making sure you follow through with your sustainability commitments in all areas of your business
Taking simple steps to make your office more sustainable can be highly beneficial. It is becoming increasingly important to employees that their employers are operating ethically and ensuring their operations are not impacting the environment negatively. With many other businesses placing value on sustainability, this has driven up demand and choice in eco-friendly office supplies, making it easier and more affordable to become a sustainable business. Furthermore, conserving energy in the office can help to reduce running costs.