By Stephanie Rowe

Environmental issues are a big concern for everyone these days. The news tells us almost daily about the effects of climate change, un-recycled plastics and deforestation. This inspires many of us to be greener at home, making efforts to recycle, carry reusable water bottles and choose sustainable products. So why don’t we make our workplaces greener, too?

Read this article to discover the best ways to make your office eco-friendly.

Encourage Green Commuting

Traveling to work is both a hassle and a big contributor to pollution. You should ask yourself if everyone really needs to be in the office. Could some staff work from home instead? Modern technology like Skype and SharePoint make telecommuting easier and a great way to cut down on your company’s carbon footprint.

However, not everyone can work from home, for a variety of different reasons. For staff that must commute, encourage them to use public transport, walk or cycle to work.

To encourage cycling, consider investing in a bike rack or storage area. If staff really must drive, encourage carpooling, where one person drives the others in. They could alternate this on a daily or weekly basis to share the cost of fuel, reduce emissions and keep the stress of driving down!

Go Totally Paperless

We’re living in the digital age where we use lots of paperless technology like emails, word processors and spreadsheets. But we still feel the need to use paper!

Discourage paper use by having a paperless policy. Ask staff not to use paper unless necessary. Reduce the number of printers in the office, request paperless invoices from clients and digitize important paper documents. Make notes using desktop apps like Evernote or OneNote, instead of paper.

Of course, some professions need to use paper, such as illustrators, architects and designers. If you absolutely must use paper, ensure it is recycled paper. And if you need to throw it away, ensure you use a recycling bin and get this collected by your local council or waste disposal scheme.

Finally, ask yourself if you really need disposable paper cups. If your staff grabs a fresh paper cup each time they stop at the cooler, and chuck this away once used, that’s a lot of wasted paper. Consider investing in ceramic cups instead or encourage staff to bring a re-usable bottle to work.

Buy Eco-Friendly Stuff

Think about all the things you use in the office, from stationery and electronics, to food and cleaning products. Can you be greener in your approach to these things?

You could purchase recycled or non-toxic stationery. The same applies to cleaning products – try buying non-toxic products like those made by Ecover and Method.

If you provide coffee, meals or snacks for the team, you can go green by purchasing organic or Fairtrade. You can go a step further by offering only vegetarian and/or vegan options, due to the meat industry’s bad reputation for carbon emission.

Finally, when purchasing electronics, look for the blue Energy Star label. This shows that the product is energy efficient and perfect for an eco-friendly office!

Turn It Off!

While we’re talking about electronics, remember to turn things off before leaving the office. Set up a ‘turn it off’ policy for all of your devices. This applies to all electronic devices — your computer, monitor, water cooler, coffee machine, printer, scanner and phones.

Of course, you might have to leave servers or fridges on overnight. But if you remember to switch most other electronics off, this is OK. At least you are making an energy reduction in some way. Something else you may consider is switching to renewable energy. For example, solar panels can be a very effective alternative for powering your office.

In the winter and summer months, you can cut down on heat or air conditioning costs by having a less formal dress code. Tell staff they can wear their favorite fluffy jumpers in winter, and light airy clothes in the summer. You can also assess your office structurally and buy draft excluders for your doors and windows. You might also consider double-glazing if you don’t already have it, though this is pricey. Of course, these seasons are also ideal times to whip out the organic ice cream or Fairtrade hot chocolate!