Purpose Hacks

20 tips how to green your office

Little actions can make a big difference. Follow any of these steps for a greener and healthier office. 

By Susan Fish.

…We thought it would be valuable to find out what organizations whose mission is focused on the environment do in their own office. We talked with Emma Norton, energy conservation coordinator for Halifax-based Ecology Action, Julia Duschesne, outreach & communications director, Yukon Conservation Society, Mary Jane Patterson, executive director of Kitchener’s Reep Green Solutions, and Nikki Sanchez, queen of green at the David Suzuki Foundation about how their organizations walk the talk, and what knowledge and tips they can share with the rest of us.

20 simple steps that make a big difference

  1. Start with a big win like switching out lighting or a toilet – something that makes an immediate quantifiable difference, says Patterson.
  2. Keep up with how processes are changing — such as changes to items that can be recycled.
  3. Look for actions that will improve the quality of employees’ lives. Bike parking and showers are a terrific way to support people using active forms of commuting, says Duschesne.
  4. Recycle isn’t the only R. People tend to forget reduce and reuse, says Duschesne, while Patterson says few people know that Refuse is now an additional R. This could mean purchasing recycled computers or other electronics to reduce e-waste. It could look like selling or donating office furniture rather than putting it in the garbage. Patterson’s organization brings reusable glass containers to transport takeout food for meetings, and refuses plastic forks and straws and paper napkins.
  5. Track and reduce your phantom load. Even when computers and appliances are turned off, they still draw power. Norton suggests the best way to eliminate this is to give everyone a power bar and to turn off power bars at the end of the day. Some utility companies offer free or subsidized smart power bars to reduce phantom load.
  6. Find joy and meaning in your actions. Post a picture of a child whose future you care about, says Patterson.
  7. Use eco-friendly cleaning products and companies. Not only is it good for the environment to use less toxic cleaning products, but it is much better for the wellbeing of people in your space.
  8. Go literally green: cultivate plants that clean the air and improve the quality of the workplace.
  9. Use green materials when doing renovations. If relocating, consider a location that is accessible by transit and is close to places where you have meetings.
  10. Bird-proof your windows by hanging CDs on string to prevent bird strikes.
  11. Choose organic, recycled and fair trade merchandise where possible.
  12. Make it easy to do the right thing (and hard to do the wrong thing). Equip your office kitchen to encourage people to bring food from home rather than eating out. Make recycling more convenient than garbage.
  13. Remember that a green office is truly much better for the wellbeing of its people. People in an office with better daylight and lower toxicity are happier and more productive.
  14. Look at event waste and find ways to reduce it.
  15. Consider whether you could Skype into a meeting rather than flying or even driving to it.
  16. Look at the ripple effects of your actions, and keep building on your past actions.
  17. Nearly half of greenhouse emissions in some cities come from transportation. Encourage staff to use transit, to carpool, to bike to work, or to consider more fuel-efficient vehicles where necessary.
  18. Build community, both for accountability and for joy. The David Suzuki office holds a salad club in summer which becomes a soup club in winter with one person making food weekly. The Yukon Conservation Society is transforming a lawn into a community garden, with produce being split between volunteers and the food bank.
  19. Don’t get hung up on whether you can do something 100% of the time. Patterson says, “Even if you ride your bike one day a week, that reduces your work-related transportation emissions by 20%.”
  20. If you mess up? Patterson says, “Forgive yourself. Remember and carry on.”

It can be easy to slip into thinking our actions don’t count for much, particularly when we hear of governmental actions (or inaction) on climate change. While no one discounts the need for societal change and government action, individual actions are more important than we may realize.

“We might think, ‘oh, it’s just one lunch. What difference does it make if it’s in Styrofoam?’” says Duschesne. “But we lose sight of the difference that one person or one office can make. I am increasingly seeing that small actions make an impact on others and in turn affect the larger picture.”

“Climate change is happening and we have to acknowledge that,” says Norton. “Some of these actions – energy efficiency, working together on fun challenges help prepare us for significant challenges that will happen from climate change.” Duschesne adds, “Strong communities will get us through the tumult we can expect from climate change. Keeping waste out of the dump, yes we do it for the whales and seabirds but also for improving our own community. Look for actions that will have a positive local impact, and do them.”

Sanchez adds, “Feeling apathetic or overwhelmed and paralyzed is not going to help. We need to activate creativity, joy, commitment, and a sense of community, because our current system can’t keep going and we need these qualities to find innovative solutions.”

View the original article in full on CharityVillage where it was first published.

This article was written by Susan Fish. Susan is a writer/editor at Storywell, a company that helps individuals and organizations tell their story well. She has written for the nonprofit sector for more than two decades and loves a good story.

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2 Comments

  1. May 9, 2018 at 2:12 am — Reply

    I’m a bit confused as to why setting goals for greening a companies that the supply chain isn’t the top priority. I’ve tried to outline some procurement best practices here https://github.com/mgifford/bcorp-contracting

    State your goals. State your preferences. Make sure it gets into the language of your RFPs.

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