How green is your business? Creating eco-friendly policies in the workplace can help your company positively impact your environment. Not only do green workplace policies help make the world a healthier place, but they can also positively impact the health and wellbeing of your employees while reducing your operating costs, too!
Here are fifteen ways you can create a more sustainable business.
Paper is the third-largest industrial pollutant for air, water, and soil. During production, paper manufacturers use chlorine bleach to get those uniformly white sheets of paper you load into your printers, which results in toxic materials being released into the environment.
You might think that its biodegradable nature lessens the environmental impact of paper; however, rotting paper emits methane gas that is 25 times more toxic than Co2.
It's time to go paperless in the office. Use E-file software to capture signatures from clients and store your documents online. And be sure to pass the (paper-free) memo on to the legal department—legal is usually the biggest offender when it comes to paper use in an office.
Use Sustainable Eco-Friendly Products
How do you shift over to more eco-friendly, sustainable products at work?
One at a time.
When you start running out of conventional products in your office or business, look for more eco-friendly alternatives to replace them. (Because filling our landfills with half-used bottles of toxic cleaning products is not going to do any favors for the environment.)
What are some swaps you can make?
- Replace paper towels with microfiber towels
- Replace conventional toxic cleaning products with all-natural cleaning products
- Replace single-use plastic cutlery with reusable washable silverware
- Replace plastic water bottles with a bottle refill station
- Replace printer and notebook paper with recycled paper
Reuse Packing Materials
Does your business regularly ship out products? Reuse and recycle boxes and packing materials from your incoming orders for your outgoing orders.
This is an easy swap that can also save you money.
Worried about how customers will react to this change? Let them know that reusing and recycling packaging and boxes helps the environment and they’re sure to cheer your efforts.
Keep Offering Remote Work
Many businesses are transitioning workers back to the office now that lockdowns and mandates have been lifted. Before you bring workers back to the status quo, consider if it is feasible to continue to offer remote work.
Remote work decreased global Co2 emissions by 17% in 2020 when the percentage of people who worked remotely skyrocketed from 5% of the workforce to 37% during the peak of the pandemic.
Provide Public Transit Incentives
If it doesn't make sense to keep your workforce remote, you can still help cut down Co2 emissions by offering public transit incentives for your employees.
When the Expedia Group started offering public transit incentives to employees after relocating their headquarters (in the form of fully subsidized transit passes), ridership increased from 22% to 26%.
Expedia also offered a bike-loan program, resulting in a near doubling of the share of employees who biked to work.
See other ways the Expedia Group incentivized alternative transportation, read this case study.
What do you do with laptops, desktops, and other electronics when they've hit the end of their life cycle?
Answer: recycle them!
According to the EPA, recycling electronics helps reduce pollution that would be generated while manufacturing a new product and the need to extract valuable and limited virgin resources. Electronic recycling also reduces the energy used in new product manufacturing.
How do you get your employees to recycle while at work?
First, make it easy. Placing clearly labeled recycling bins in areas like kitchens and other common areas is a simple way to increase participation.
Another option is to decrease the size of your garbage bins! If the garbage bins are small and the recycling bins are large, your employees won't even have to think about what goes where.
According to a Great Forest experiment, the percentage of recyclables in trash dropped by 75% when they audited and centralized their bins.
- Make sure you have enough bins for the size of your company
- Your bins should be visible and easy to access in prominent locations
- Group bins together and separate them by materials
- Place recycling cans near usage hotspots – paper bins in the copy room, plastic bins in the break room
Don't stop at placing recycling bins out for employees to use. Placing composting bins in the kitchen and other eating areas can help reduce food waste.
Food waste rotting in landfills greatly contributes to methane emissions. According to the Washington Post, reducing food waste can have a major impact on our environment:
"More than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gasses could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere. It represents one of the greatest possibilities for individuals, companies and communities to contribute to reversing global warming"
Use Renewable Energy Sources
Do you own your building? Then you may be able to incorporate renewable energy into your business.
The bonus to using renewable energy is cost savings; according to data from Energysage, commercial property owners can reduce their electricity bill by 75% by installing solar panels.
Maximize Natural Light
Reduce energy use and lower your energy bills by maximizing natural lighting in your workspace.
If your office building has plenty of windows, keep them uncovered during the day and let the natural light shine through.
Not only does natural lighting have energy conservation effects, it can also increase workers' health and wellbeing.
A recent study at Cornell showed workers exposed to natural light experienced an 84% drop in issues such as headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision. Because those symptoms can lead to increased fatigue, workers exposed to less natural light were more susceptible to other health issues.
More natural light can also make workers more productive.
According to a 2011 study at the University of Oregon, the quality of the view from a person's desk and their exposure to natural light are interconnected with the amount of sick time they take. In the study, those who had nice views of the outside and received a decent amount of sunlight took 6.5% less sick leave than others.
Optimize Heating and Cooling
Save energy (and money) by optimizing your HVAC system.
Use a programmable thermostat to keep the office comfortable during the day when employees are around and to turn off the system at night.
If your HVAC system is old and doesn't function properly, install a new one. The savings you'll see from an updated, energy efficient HVAC system may very well offset the cost of replacing an older model.
From office supplies to office snacks, buying in bulk can help your business be more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Typically, bulk buying means more product in less packaging. That reduces the amount of packaging that will end up in your office garbage bins. It can also help reduce the Co2 emissions that come as a result of receiving shipments. Fewer shipments = fewer emissions.
Opt-Out Of Single-Use Plastics
While the pandemic did show some positive sustainability results, such as fewer drivers on the road and reduced Co2 emissions, it also took us a few steps backwards when it came to eliminating our reliance on single-use plastics.
Now that your employees are returning to work, it's a good time to refocus our efforts on banning plastics. From cutlery to plates and cups, replace single-use plastic items with reusable, washable versions, instead.
Using a dishwasher with a high-heat, sanitation cycle can help ease the concerns of employees worried about germs from community glassware and silverware, or you can always encourage your employees to bring their own reusable items from home.
Use Ecofriendly Cleaning Products
Conventional cleaning products are hiding a dirty secret. The chemicals and fragrances used in cleaning products can have negative effects on the health of your employees and the environment!
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic air contaminants (TACs), and greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are emitted from the use of chemically formulated cleaning products, including detergents, cleaning compounds, polishes, floor finishes, disinfectants, and sanitizers.
Certain chemicals emitted by cleaning products can be harmful from direct exposure or can react with other chemicals in the air to form harmful by-products.
Swap out your conventional cleaning products for all-natural or eco-friendly products and you can make a healthier indoor work environment for your employees and take steps to remove these toxic chemicals from the air, waterways, and landfills, too.
Get Employees Involved
What's the easiest way to be more environmentally conscious in your workplace? By getting your employees involved!
Let your employees know that your company is committed to being a better steward of the environment. Have a brainstorming session about ways you can all be more eco-friendly at work. Create competitions and challenges that keep your employees engaged and willing to participate. And be sure to award and incentivize employees who go the extra mile in helping your company be greener.