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How to Create a Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Office

Iftekar Ahmed
Iftekar Ahmed  |  July 29, 2019

Buzzing printers, recycling bins overflowing with papers, obsolete electronic storerooms, bright unnatural white lights, air conditioning blasting as if there’s no tomorrow. Do these scenarios paint a picture in your head?

No points for guessing, it’s the obvious typical corporate office setting. What isn’t obvious are the stats below.

  • A survey of 200,000 employees worldwide revealed that 78% of them feel more productive in natural light and only 58% of employees are satisfied with their current offerings.
  • 38% of employees are satisfied with the quality of air in their office.
  • Employees are 23% more productive when working in a natural lighting setting with access to views.
  • Energy-efficient office equipment can save up to 75% of electricity uses.
  • Paper consumption in the USA has increased from 92 million tons to 208 million tons in 20 years.

You probably have a good idea of where I'm going with this.

What is a green, eco-friendly office?

The answer is simple.

Building or investing in a sustainable office might seem like an unnecessary luxury. The initial cost might be high, but the true cost and the positive impact on the environment are worth it over time.

Why does having a green, eco-friendly office matter?

The skepticism arises due to the high installation and upgradation costs. Even industry giants are reluctant to opt for an eco-friendly office.

But there is more than one reason why an eco-friendly office matters in the long run.

You can actually save money

I have mentioned the initial cost of having a green eco-friendly office a couple of times. But beyond that, you can actually end up saving money, while also having a clear conscience.

The maintenance of eco-friendly offices is surprisingly low. An energy-efficient office ends up saving a lot when compared with central air regulation. Eventually, your periodic savings will help you break even.

Additionally, a green, eco-friendly office saves money through less paper consumption, decreases in electricity consumption, and tax credits on eco-friendly offices.

CSR win and employer branding

It is vital for consumers, especially in the United States, that companies have some corporate social responsibility. Creating an eco-friendly workplace makes a great case for CSR activity. It also acts double as promoting your employer brand.

75% of employees oblige to a pay cut when given the opportunity to work for a company that socially and environmentally responsible.

An efficient and productive workforce

An eco-friendly workplace generally results in a much more productive and efficient workplace. This productive workforce owes itself to the fact that eco-friendly offices are flooded with natural settings. Natural lighting and not-so-stuffy air quality are one of the main reasons behind it. Back up that productivity with some collaboration and productivity software, that will help your business communicate information, organize projects, and develop ideas. 

Read reviews of Collaboration & Productivity, FREE. Learn more →

The green office

With a plethora of options available for an efficient eco-friendly office, it might seem overwhelming at times.

Here are a few good places to start.

1. Install large windows

This is probably the first step that has a direct effect on your workforce. Large windows flood the office with natural light. This reduces your dependence on artificial lighting and leads to a decrease in electricity usage.

Natural warm lighting transforms your workplace from a cold, unwelcoming and sad place to a warm and inviting one which fosters creativity. There is a science behind it. The human body copes with stress by releasing cortisol. Artificial lighting hinders and reduces cortisol levels in the body. So, all the more reasons to opt for a natural lighting atmosphere.

According to the Harvard Business Review, people working near a naturally well-lit area reported they were 30% more productive.

TIP: Use light colors to paint your office walls as they can reflect sunlight better and reduce the use of artificial lighting.

2. Get rid of those noisy printers

What would a normal person do if he has easy access to a large quantity of unhealthy junk food? The most probable answer is that he is likely to gorge down the items more than he would normally do.

That works the same way with printers. Convenient and easy access to printers results in them being exploited. Employees are less likely to use printers if they are not readily available.

The key to nailing this idea is to provide a slow transition for the employees. Make your employees really comfortable with using document creation software, sharing digital media and editing pdfs.

Find the best document creation software on the market. Explore Now, FREE →

Getting rid of printers not only reduces paper consumption, but it also reduces unnecessary noise in the office.

3. Renovate and modernize your washroom

One of the key factors in maintaining a green workplace is minimizing water wastage. Having an outdated and leaky washroom ends up wasting 1000s of liters of water every year.

The first step should be to replace every leaky tap. A tap leaking at 1 drop per second ends up wasting 10,000 liters of water every year.

Another way is to replace paper towels with cloth towels or hand dryers. This ends up saving a huge amount of paper towels.

4. The green challenge

A monthly green competition can be a fun and effective way to incorporate an eco-friendly nature in your employees.

The monthly eco-friendly tasks work great for a slow transition into a complete overhaul of your office structure. Challenges like going plastic-free for a month in exchange for a small reward for those who stick with it can work wonders and will help people adjust when your office goes plastic-free.

5. Increasing dependence on renewable energy

It's not the 70s, and your office shouldn't act like it is. Embracing renewable energy like solar energy or wind energy is easier than ever. With almost all electricity suppliers having the option of renewable sources, it is neither difficult nor expensive to install solar panels or juice your office with wind energy.

Since its a relatively new and booming sector, with almost every supplier jumping on the bandwagon, the prices are really competitive compared to traditional energy sources.

Making your office depend completely on renewable energy improves your employer branding and helps you score brownie points in terms of being modern and progressive.

6. The green team

The best way to make something work is by assigning responsibility and accountability. A sustainable green team can work to spread awareness and help in the transition to an eco-friendly office.

Employees engaging among themselves is much more effective than orders from above. The green team should be briefed in seminars and training sessions showing them how to effectively carry out eco-friendly campaigns.

Their tasks can include initiating and leading a recycling campaign or acting as the go-to person for advice on the purchase of renewable products. The team should monitor monthly electricity and water consumption, keep track of order supply, recycling of paper, and so on.

7. The literal green office

Decorating your office with plants not only provides an aesthetically pleasing look but also helps in reducing the carbon emissions of the office.

Since plants release oxygen, they naturally offset emissions from electronics and set the mood for a happy workplace. It is a great way to optimize your office design.

We recommend using spider plants, bamboo palm, or lemon balm plants as they require very little maintenance.

8. Contain those energy leeches

One of the main reasons for high electricity consumption in offices is due to sneaky energy leeches. Computer and electronic devices in standby mode continue to pull electricity even when they are not in use. Large machines generally tend to consume electricity 24/7 if they are not cut off from the source.

The only way to stop the energy vampires is to cut them from the source. Unplug all electric appliances when leaving the office.

You can also opt for smart strips with timers that cut off the supply after some time, even when they are plugged in. Installing sensors to automatically turn of air-conditioning or lights will not only diminish your carbon footprint but also minimize your bills.

With proper use of PLC and sensors, you can optimize your electricity savings.

And finally? 

Even if your office is not essentially green, every bit you do goes a long way towards creating a changing workforce and environment.

Every initiative you take helps push us one step closer to a greener earth. What you need to do is to broadcast your initiatives. As a middle manager, your efforts towards creating a sustainable work environment helps you create a positive brand image.

Instill in your employees that their work is holistic and helps society and the environment in the grand scheme of things. That goes a long way in reducing attrition in your workforce. Of course in the end, you are doing your bit for the environment and that goes a long way in giving you a good night’s sleep. 

Want to learn more? Read about green marketing along with 5 examples from major businesses!

Iftekar Ahmed
Author

Iftekar Ahmed

Iftekar is a content marketer at Vantage Circle, an employee engagement platform. Vantage Circle helps corporates to manage human resources efficiently. Iftekar has worked in various departments in his professional career ranging from finance to marketing. He is an avid reader and likes to be updated in every business field.