Green workplaces

How green is your office?

Even if you are not planning an office move or refurbishment, there are many positive steps you can take immediately to reduce the footprint of your office, at little or no extra cost.

These are some strategies that will contribute to your environmental policy and create a greener workplace.

Keep the place clean and bright

Keeping windows, walls and all surfaces clean and bright helps daylight penetrate into the room, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Similarly, keeping light fittings clean gives a brighter light for the money spent on electricity.

Use non-toxic products

Improve indoor air quality by using environmentally friendly cleaning products that have no toxic chemicals or perfumes. Avoid chemical air fresheners. Relocate the printer away from desks to reduce the chance of fumes reaching any person over an extended period. This has the added bonus of giving people a reason to get away from their monitor and stretch their legs every now and then.

Use daylight to maximum benefit

A more comfortable working environment and reduced electricity bills for lighting can be achieved by optimising the use of natural light. Opening up the internal layout to allow daylight into all offices and putting desks where the occupant can look outside and use natural light both help. Fitting adjustable vertical blinds, which can be used to limit glare whilst impacting little on daylight are a better choice than horizontal blinds. Painting the walls and ceilings in light colours (and keeping them clean) also helps.

Reduce your energy use and overheads

• Replace any remaining tungsten filament light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. A compact fluorescent bulb uses less than a quarter of the electricity of a tungsten filament bulb of equivalent brightness and will last about ten times as long;

• Turn off all monitors and printers when leaving the office for lunch and in the evening, in addition to shutting down the computers;

• Don’t leave phone or laptop chargers plugged in when they aren’t charging as this still uses a substantial amount of electricity;

• Switch off lights when there is no-one using the room;

• Switch your electricity account to a supplier that supports renewable energy through a ‘green tariff’;

• You can reduce your footprint at work by encouraging everyone to turn off computers, monitors, lights, printers and copiers when not in use and setting all equipment to low-energy mode.

Don’t overuse heating and cooling

Too many people – at home and at work – leave their heating on 24/7. Ensure that the timer is always set to switch off sometime before the office is vacated in the evening. If your office is too small to have a formal ‘facilities management’ function, ensure that at least two people know how to adjust the timer. Turn the heating down before opening a window.

Are you too reliant on air conditioning? Some buildings can be cooled effectively at night through ventilation alone – making it easier to keep cool during the day. Other air conditioning systems are set to run at too high a level and end up fighting local heaters introduced by dissatisfied building users. This is hugely wasteful, as you end up using huge amounts of energy to achieve nothing!

Use recycled products and recycle yours

Make sure that your office paper is of the recycled variety and think about how you can recycle the office’s waste. There are thousands of recycling depots for cans, bottles and paper.

Also print double-sided documents with low quality settings, to reduce use of paper and toner.

Recycle your printer cartridges and all office paper. If you don’t have the option of organising a collection of office paper waste, can a run to the local recycling centre be organised weekly? Is there an opportunity for composting? Avoid using disposable cups for water dispensers or coffee – take a mug or glass instead.

Pot plants

Pot plants in the office will help occupants to connect with the natural world and have been shown to remove certain pollutants from the air, thereby improving indoor air quality.

Rethink your travel

Set up a lift sharing scheme for car-dependent commuters. For a large organisation this might require an intranet, but in a smaller office word of mouth should work very well.

Buy from sustainable sources

When selecting new furniture and fittings look for products manufactured from sustainable sources. Many furniture manufacturers can offer products made with timber sourced from sustainable forests under the Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody system. These products have an FSC ‘Tick Tree’ logo and reference number on the packaging. Most timber products can be sourced from FSC-certified suppliers.

Develop a reuse system

Look at all the products used in your organisation and devise a simple reuse plan for their end of life. This could include reuse by other parties that can make use of your old or unwanted items, from carpets and furniture to IT equipment.