Get your office Eco-Friendly ready for the New Year

Many of us do our bit for the environment at home by putting garden waste on the compost heap and bottles in the bottle bank. But what about when we’re at work? Here are some tips on how to be eco-friendly in the workplace...

Getting to the office
Reducing your carbon footprint can start before your working day does. If you live close to your workplace, consider walking or cycling in: good for the environment; great for your waistline! If that doesn’t appeal, use public transport. Getting the bus or train uses fuel, but not as much per traveller: using a small car emits more than twice as much CO2 per person as travelling by train. If the car really is the only option, consider car-sharing schemes and split the cost as well as the carbon.

A nice cup of tea
Before cracking on with the day’s toil, there’s nothing like a cup of tea or coffee to perk you up. But be careful when making your morning brew: use only as much water as you need when you boil the kettle. Filling it up takes longer to boil, and uses more electricity. Also make sure you recycle the milk carton when it’s empty – give it a rinse and pop it in your recycling bin. If you prefer freshly ground coffee (organic, naturally – none of those pesky pesticides!), you can even put the grounds on your compost heap, paper filter and all!

Pulp facts
For years now, there has been talk of the “paperless office”. But very few workplaces can run without paper, and even the least eco-savvy person knows that the sheet of paper that pops out of the printer was once part of a tree. So how do we reduce the damage to forests? Firstly, use recycled paper. Secondly, make sure you then recycle the paper you use. Also, print double-sided and you’ll use half as much paper. Oh, and that extra copy you made when you accidentally clicked the print icon twice? Stick it in the recycling bin!

An e-reminder about eco-friendliness
We already use email a lot, which helps cut down on paper use. Think how much paper we would use if we sent all our emails as letters! But a lot of people print emails, probably out of habit. Yes, there are some documents that need to be printed for records, but do you really need to print the one telling you the sales meeting is at 11:30 instead of 11:00? When you send emails, why not add a signature? “Please think of the environment and only print this email if it is absolutely necessary” is a tried-and-tested reminder. Your IT Department may even add this automatically to outgoing mail!

Using office supplies responsibly
In the office, you can reuse and recycle more than just paper. Think about the ways you can reduce waste and you will find many. These can range from how you fasten your paper (you throw away staples, but you can use paper clips time and time again before metal fatigue sets in) to how you send fragile items through the post: rather than polystyrene packing beans and bubble wrap, choose crumpled old newspaper instead. It’s a great way to use up the copies of the morning paper people discard on the bus and train!

Eating for the environment
We’re surrounded by packaging, and nowhere more so than in the canteen. Those triangular plastic and card sandwich packs are so convenient, but so wasteful. Why not bring your own lunch to work in a reusable container? Think of how many tonnes of cardboard and plastic would be saved each year if everyone in your workplace brought their own lunch in!

Monitor your PC
When you turn off your computer, do you leave the monitor light flashing? It’s not the most obvious thing to think about turning off, especially when you’re in a hurry. But think about how many computers there are in your building. If all of them are left on, that’s quite a bit of energy being wasted until the next morning. Same with the lights – switch them off before you leave!

Spread the word
There’s no use keeping your knowledge to yourself – time to share it with your colleagues! Not always easy, especially if you work somewhere that has one bin for everything, a full kettle, and overflowing printers. But it can be done. The trick is to provide information rather than telling someone what to do. “There’s a separate bin for glass – did you know? It’s over there” works much better than “What do you think you’re doing putting that bottle in the bin?”

Become a recycling champion
Getting healthy means making lifestyle changes, and the same is true of making the environment better. It takes a bit of effort, but these little changes quickly become second nature. If you really love spreading the word about recycling, appoint yourself the unofficial recycling champion in your workplace! Speak to the people in purchasing and waste management at your organisation and tell them you want to help. Who doesn’t need a bit of help every now and then? The environment certainly does!