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Making your business or workplace more environmentally friendly

Whether you are a small business, sole trader or responsible for a large corporate team, this guide to going green in the workplace is full of easy tips & switches that will help in your sustainability mission no matter how large the business is. I originally posted this guide early last year and had a great response form both small businesses and large conglomerates but a lot can happen in a year (especially during a pandemic) so I decided to update it for 2022.

Today your customers are just as interested in your corporate social responsibility as they are in what you sell.  The below facts from rePurpose demonstrate that, aside from the obvious environmental and social benefits, businesses that adopt sustainability practices are also now more attractive to the buyer.  Being ahead of the game on this front can also set you apart from the competition.  In 2022 it should be an obvious decision to make your business greener.

Some facts for you

  • 2 out of 3 consumers consider sustainability when making a decision over products or services.
  • 91% of consumers would switch to a purpose driven product when given the option.
  • 66% of consumers would pay a higher price for environmentally and socially conscious products. 

We all tend to do the obvious and easiest options when it comes to having green policies in our workplaces, like making sure lights are turned off or having kitchen recycling systems in place.  However, there are so many more changes we could be doing to reduce the impact our businesses and workplaces have on the environment.

Working from home

There is a lot of debate over whether having your team work from home would actually reduce your businesses carbon footprint or not.  According to the carbontrust.com working from home can save over 3 million tonnes of carbon a year combined.  However, if the office is still open at the same time that you have team members working from home then you won’t save as much due to having to fuel multiple places at the same time to enable work to take place. 

However, an individual who drives to work will save a lot more by working from home than someone who uses public transport and there are other ways in which people can add to their own carbon saving.  For example, when people work from home they tend to buy less packaging. Takeaway drinks or grabbing a quick bite to eat on their lunch just to pass the time or because they didn’t have time to prepare something before work do not tend to happen as much as you are more likely to stick to what is in the fridge.  

Websites you can use to offset your environmental impact

There are lots of websites out there that will allow you to work out your environmental impact and then offset that impact.  These sites below are ones I have either used myself or ones I have researched and are highly recommended.

  • As well as providing the facts above, rePurpose Global are also the perfect place to start if you’re looking to reduce your plastic waste, both as an individual and a business. Their website allows you to calculate your plastic footprint, then offset your plastic footprint by funding vetted projects to remove at least as much plastic waste from nature as you use as the cost of $0.25 (or £0.18) per pound of your footprint. They will also help you reduce your use of plastic in your business and provide marketing tools that you can use to get your new green initiatives in front of your customers.
  • Similarly, another website you can use is carbonfootprint.com who use a calculator to work out your business carbon footprint. You can then choose which environmental projects you wish to support to offset your carbon emissions.
  • If you do a lot of printing as a business then you can also offset your printing emissions, by teaming up with PrintReleaf. They will measure your company’s paper consumption, calculate how many trees were harvested to produce that paper, and then offset your paper printing by planting trees at a destination of your choice.
  • You can also switch your regular search engine from Google (or similar!) to Ecosia, who use their ad revenue generated from our searches to plant trees where they are needed the most and the best thing is, it will not cost you a penny!

Making paper & printing more eco-friendly

We have all seen and are aware of the ‘Go Paperless’ marketing messages and it’s great if you can become a paperless office as not only will it save you money on printing and paper but also on filing and storage equipment.  However, if you need to print as a business you can rest assured that responsibly resourced paper is one of the world’s most sustainable materials as it is renewable, recyclable, and compostable.

  • If you are a paper-based business or carry out a lot of printing, then make sure you have a paper recycling plan and that all your employees are aware of it. A large portion of businesses will already use a professional destruction company for data protection purposes, but did you know that using one of these companies to shred your paper will also reduce your environmental footprint?  That is because all the paper collected by these companies is then shredded and recycled.  Shredding also improves the recycling process as it ensures there are no other materials in the process to contaminate it (i.e., plastic)
  • If you are buying any paper or card-based products, whether it be packaging or printer paper, just make sure it comes with an FSC certification. This means that the product has been harvested responsibly.
  • Use vegetable-based inks over petroleum-based inks and make sure you recycle your ink cartridges after use. Lots of companies, including Argos, run a free ink cartridge recycling scheme.
  • Random but true- switching from Arial to Century Gothic will save you 30% of your ink when printing!

Other office-based changes you can make

  • You do not need plastic for sending parcels. Plastic packaging can take between 5 and 10 years to decompose whereas cardboard may decompose in a month in the right conditions.  There are so many other alternatives out there from using kraft paper tape (and yes, it is just as sticky as sellotape!) to compostable plant-based packaging bags. 
  • Offices are often cleaned on a weekly, if not daily, basis but do you know what products your cleaner is using? Often these products are full of chemicals that are no good for our health never mind the environment.  Swap to plant-based products that use natural ingredients that are known for being anti-bacterial, tough, and naturally good cleaners. Even better if you can avoid the single-use plastic packaging and use refillable options such as the ones from Ocean Saver or take advantage of a local refill service, like ours, that will deliver cleaning products to your workplace.  You can find out more about our Chorley (and surrounding areas) refill delivery service here- Local Refill Service – TheEcoFriendlyLivingCo.
  • Encourage desk plants! Plants can increase the oxygen flow within an office and improve air quality too.  This can offset any chemicals released into the air by toxic inks or cleaning products.
  • Introduce employee volunteering days and encourage your team to use them. Alternatively, use team-building days to get involved with local environmental projects such as beach clean-ups, tree planting, and other conservation projects. The Conservation Volunteers website has dedicated sections on team building ideas and local projects that you can get involved in.
  • Keep the phrase ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ in mind when it comes to making decisions in the workplace and you won’t go far wrong.

Finally, make a noise about the changes you have made.  Spreading awareness of how you have made green changes within your workplace will not only encourage others to do the same but will also made you more noticeable as a business.  Your actions in the workplace can make a big difference in your industry and may inspire others as you lead the way.  However, it is important not to ‘greenwash’ just to give the impression that you are an ethical and green business.  A green sign does not always mean a green business and customers will see through any false claims. 

If you decide to implement new green policies in the workplace then my advice is to implement them gradually. That way they have a higher chance of sticking.  If you plan to implement any of my suggestions, then good luck and please let us know if you have found this post useful.  You can also get in touch or ask any questions by emailing me at hello@theecofriendlyliving.co.uk.


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