As things have slowed down during the coronavirus crisis, some positive changes to the environment have been observed, prompting some companies to take a new look at the way they’re promoting eco-friendly initiatives internally.
By setting an example and demonstrating that being mindful of natural resources is important to your company culture, you can help the environment in your workplace.
1. Instill good habits
Being eco-friendly around the office can make a big difference, but you also have a good opportunity to encourage your employees to carry the initiatives beyond the workplace. Educate them on how they can save energy at home and emphasize how it can reduce their costs—showing that you care and helping employees to get the most out of their paychecks, as well as protecting the environment, highlights that you’re committed to making a difference.
Try offering a tip each week in an employee-focused newsletter, or share helpful tips that other employees have found saved energy and money at home. Taking actions such as unplugging or using ‘sleep’ modes in electronics, washing clothes in cold water, or hanging clothes on the line are simple actions that have significant impacts. Installing light-blocking window coverings, planting greenery, and updating appliances require a greater investment but pay off in the long run. If you’re in a position to do so, try offering rebates or incentives for making these positive upgrades at home.
2. Offer swag
You can reduce paper and plastic waste in your office by offering swag such as company water bottles that can be perpetually reused and refilled. Keep ceramic coffee cups and metal eating utensils in the breakroom, and encourage employees to bring their own. Offer stainless steel straws (and the mini-brushes needed to clean them) as an alternative to the wildlife-injuring plastic straws. Give your employees time to adapt to these changes, then set a deadline to ban single-use items from your office space.
Additionally, consider offering links to companies that produce fair trade or eco-friendly, work-appropriate clothing, and see if you can establish a deal with them to offer a special discount when your employees order from them. It’s another way to show your commitment to protecting the planet and creating a culture of compassion in the workplace.
3. Set up a team
Demonstrate your commitment to the environment by setting up a sustainability team or committee to set priorities within your company and examine areas for new initiatives. There might be ways you can cut down on waste – and therefore costs – in some areas, depending on the industry you’re in. In manufacturing, your team may be charged with looking at efficiency in production, for example, seeking areas where excess raw materials can be reduced, recycled, sold, or even up-cycled into other products. Or perhaps it’s time for a change in the raw materials themselves.
In an office environment, the first area examined is often the use of paper – your team can set up goals for reducing paper waste, such as instilling habits of keeping documents online or electronically whenever possible. Offering incentives such as parties or bonuses for meeting certain goals can help keep the initiative interesting.
4. Get some sunshine
Taking time to assess how your building is using light can save you thousands in the long run. Consider reconfiguring cubicles to best take advantage of natural light during peak daytime hours. If you don’t have a smart lighting system in place, consider this addition when it’s time to update – these systems can be programmed to automatically shut off lights when no one’s in the office, or to turn on during lower-light times of day, adjusting for the changing seasons and even cloudy or stormy weather.
If your office is going through a major renovation or even building a new space, consider a contractor that specializes in eco-friendly construction and has experience designing offices and spaces around those sources of natural light. Think about installing skylights for greater light capacity, and investing in the most efficient energy systems that’ll allow you to save the most energy overall.
5. Let people keep working at home
We’re getting used to this – signing in for Zoom meetings, checking emails, and finishing work assignments while getting the kids set up in front of their online classes and navigating “office” space with our spouse or partner. In the weeks since the COVID-19 crisis prompted a worldwide stay-at-home policy, people have settled into a routine of working at home, and some companies are allowing their workers to continue, even as we begin to get back to business as usual.
Telecommuting saves innumerable tons of carbon emissions from driving into work each day. It saves the production, energy, transportation, and expense associated with manufacturing work-appropriate clothing. Allowing employees to work at home also saves commuting time that can be put to better use. If employees need to be present at the office some days, encourage public transportation or even cycling to work when possible. Letting employees dress casually or have an opportunity to change – or even shower – at work can make that choice easier.
Whatever changes or initiatives you adopt will be a step in the right direction toward promoting an eco-friendly workplace, and it’ll encourage good habits that your employees will carry forward.