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Revisiting the Idea for 2018

By Jonathan Starling

A “green” workplace is a space that works to minimise its overall ecological footprint. It is, essentially, applying sustainable development to the workplace. Ultimately, the aim of a green workplace is to reduce the overall environmental impact of the workday. It can involve:

  • considering sustainability from the earliest stage of designing the workplace;
  • retrofitting an existing workplace; or
  • focusing on purely behavioural change to be more sustainable in one’s working life.

Not only does this mean the workplace is better for the environment, but it also involves green savings, which leads to benefits for the workplace’s bottom line. For a worker it often leads to a healthier working environment (which also benefits the workplace’s bottom line!). One aspect that is often overlooked, as long as it’s worker driven, is that it can create a sense of belonging, of ownership and empowerment, which can lead to improved work satisfaction.

It can create a sense of belonging, of ownership and empowerment, which can lead to improved work satisfaction”.

Greening the workplace can be daunting when you start out. Just as sustainability is all-encompassing, covering social, economic and ecological aspects, greening the workplace can consider a range of issues, from transport, water, waste, energy, food and more.

The first step to greening the workplace is to make that decision in the first place. This can be worker led or an initiative coming from management, either way it will need a champion, preferably a “green team” to lead it.

The next step is to do some brainstorming about what green ideas you can do. It’s always good to try and hit the low-hanging fruit first to get a sense of momentum.

It can be useful to approach greening the workplace using the same pathways we use in our Eco-Schools Programme, so to focus on a particular aspect of sustainability at any one time.

For instance, you could decide one year to focus just on energy.

Your first step there is going to be to conduct an audit. Ask the questions:

  • What are the energy bills?
  • What is the lighting like?
  • What is the energy efficiency rating for appliances and machines?
  • What behaviours are contributing to the energy bill?

That lets you identify what can be done to become more energy sustainable. It helps identify low-hanging fruit as well as long-term goals.

You might find that there’s some simple behavioural changes that can work – office or room not in use? Turn the lights off. Likewise, unplug equipment. Make sure sleep modes are in place. Switch off computers at the end of the day.

Beyond that, can you change the lights over to LEDs? We know that really reduces energy bills – not just in terms of reducing greatly the amount of energy being used for light, but also the amount of energy needed to air conditioning, as LEDs produce a lot less heat energy. Can you install sensors into bathrooms or hallways so that the lights switch off when not in use? Can you introduce a policy, so any new equipment purchases are for the most energy efficient? Can you install solar PV on the building?

And you can apply this to other aspects. If you’re looking at waste, you can provide reusable bags for staff to use for take-out or shopping. You can phase out plastic cutlery or water bottles in the workplace and provide reusable cutlery or bottles. Coffee pods can be a big producer of plastic waste and can be easily replaced with alternative coffee machines. Holding a function? Ban single-use plastics such as straws or water bottles; go for glass or cans. Don’t use balloons.

There really are lots of ways to green the office, make it a healthier and happier place and at the same time reduce the costs to the bottom-line while also reducing the costs to the planet.

And, of course, join Greenrock as a Corporate Supporter and through that attend our Green Building Forums to learn and share from other green workplaces!

Image from Pittsburgh Today.

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