Happy Earth Month! With Earth Day coming up this week and the conversation surrounding sustainability growing every day, we wanted to take a look at what makes an eco-friendly workplace. Sustainable office spaces are becoming increasingly common and can prove to be equal parts economical and eco-friendly. As Business News Daily reported, “In most major cities in the U.S., at least 40 percent of office square footage is now “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) certified”. LEED buildings consume 25 percent less energy and 11 percent less water than non-LEED buildings, and they cut utility costs by 20%.
Sustainable offices may have a big impact on the environment, but they can also affect employee engagement! We all know that employees gravitate towards companies that hold the same values, and these values have definitely gone green. According to Fast Company, over 70% of employees say that they would be more inclined to stay with a company long term if they have a strong sustainability plan. Furthermore, having an affinity for sustainability can make your employees more productive; more than a third of respondents in the study reported that they had given more time and effort to their company if they had an eco-friendly agenda. So how can we create a more sustainable office space? Here are five eco-friendly solutions to help you ditch common workplace waste!
Ditch the Plasticware
One easy way to head towards a more sustainable future is to remove all of the plasticware from your office space (the cutlery, plates, cups, and straws too!) and replace them with reusable options. The United States throws out more than 40 million single-use utensils per year, with many of them crowding landfills and creating gaseous emissions for decades to come. By purchasing a set of reusable kitchen supplies, you can help reduce the amount of plastic waste produced by your team while also saving your company money.
You can also combine this environmental effort with your employee engagement program by providing your team with reusable coffee mugs and water bottles to use both in and out of the office. Swag offers a wide range of drinkware that is perfect for your journey towards a more sustainable office, and will give your employees a fun (and actually usable) gift along the way!
Don’t have a sink or dishwasher available on site for your team to wash these reusable wares? Try switching to biodegradable, recyclable options for your kitchen, and keep the proper disposal stations nearby. Both of these options are healthier for your team (no harmful BPAs from single-use cutlery, score!) and the planet, so any of these reductions in plastic waste can improve upon your sustainability efforts.
Recycling can be hard; sometimes, you don’t know which products can be recycled, how they can be recycled, or even which bin each item goes to. To get your team on the right track, why not start a recycling program right in your office? Offering recycling bins with accompanying instructions around the workplace can encourage your team to take the greener route and learn more about the recycling process as a whole. By providing these stations, you can give your team the tools to be more eco-friendly both in and out of the office.
If you’re still struggling to get your team on the sustainability train, why not turn your recycling efforts into a fun competition? Split into groups and see who can amass the most recycled materials for a special prize. Everyone loves some healthy competition!
Another simple way to reduce your carbon footprint is by unplugging your electronics and turning off the lights at the end of the day. Electricity causes toxic fumes to be released into the environment; by simply unplugging your electronics when they aren’t in use, you can significantly reduce the emissions created by your company. Send a reminder to your team at the end of the day to unplug and power down, and ensure that lights are turned off in rooms that aren’t being used. To take this a step further, you can let technology do the work by opting for motion-sensored lights that turn off on their own when the office is empty. No waking up in the middle of the night wondering “Did I turn the office lights off tonight?”
Encourage the Use of Alternate Transportation
Is your office located in a metropolitan area? Does it have good walking paths or offer bike lanes? If so, encouraging your employees to explore alternate modes of transportation could have a large impact on the environment AND your team’s health! Employees with unfavorable commutes can have decreased productivity and engagement at the office. 68% of employees also are worried about the effect their commute will have on the environment, so taking a bike, the bus or a subway can help in more ways than one. Even carpooling with your colleagues can improve team relationships and take some of the pressure off employees who struggle with their commute. Make an adventure out of it and pick up coffee (or tea) on the way. Teams that caffeinate together, stay together!
Provide an in-office meal program
When it comes to the office lunch rush, many of your team members will be hitting local restaurants for takeout. This results in a large number of individual meals that feature plastic packaging that no one needs. And even though many of these containers are recyclable, only 9 percent of the 9 billion pounds of packaging produced has been properly disposed of. Family-style meals and catering options can help keep things simple. This type of program can help reduce packaging build-up and decrease food waste while feeding your team, which seems like a win-win to us!
Family-style meals from companies like Cater2.me are typically sourced from one vendor, reducing the environmental impact that comes with transporting the food. In some cities, food is even delivered by foot, bicycle, or train to mitigate potential traffic delays and reduce the number of carbon emissions produced.