Recognizing the many benefits of sustainable business practices (e.g. financial savings, enhanced brand, increased employee morale), organizations are increasingly adopting environmental measures ranging from greening office habits, to overhauling their workplaces into state-of-the-art “ecotastic offices.”
Why is greening our workplaces important? Approximately 20% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation activities such as daily commuting and business travel. Moreover, over two-thirds of our nation’s waste comes from commercial and industrial sources such as business facilities and offices.
Unfortunately, many businesses are not in the position to reconfigure their facilities and business practices in order to go green, so sometimes we need to get creative with how to manage the spaces we do have – many of which are decades old with drafty windows and aging HVAC systems. Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can help your company become more sustainable without affecting your business practices or breaking the bank.
In fact, greening your workplace is as easy as making a few small changes in your day-to-day work activities – here’s what you can do to make a difference!
1. Evaluate your current carbon consumption. Knowing your company’s footprint is the first step to making sustainable changes. You can evaluate your company’s daily carbon consumption by hiring a consultant or auditor to conduct a carbon review on your company. By benchmarking the present number of greenhouse gases generated (e.g. from transportation, waste etc.), you’ll be able to develop an appropriate strategy to follow. If hiring an expert is not feasible, setting a bench line can be as easy as using free online resources such as the Office Footprint Calculator.
2. Give your office and energy upgrade. These don’t have to be expensive upgrades. They can be as simple as investing in efficient blinds, upgrading your windows, conducting maintenance on your office’s central heating system, and switching to energy-saving light bulbs. Speak to your facilities manager about swapping your old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs to save your company both electricity and money. For instance, in comparison to an ordinary CFL bulb, an energy saving LED bulb saves approximately 13 kg of CO2 for every hour that the bulb is lit.
3. Implement telecommuting and encourage working from home. Business travel can be a huge expense to a company’s budget, as well as to the atmosphere. An office of 50 employees can emit as such as 125,000 kg of CO2 from air travel alone, equivalent to operating 24 cars for an entire year! More common, is the daily gasoline-guzzling drive that millions of Canadians make to and from work. Burning 1 L of gasoline produces approximately 2.3 kg of CO2, which means, the average Canadian vehicle (burning roughly 2,000 L of gasoline every year), releases close to 4,600 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere a year! Whenever possible, opt-in for a telecommuting option! Instant messaging and video conferencing is often more convenient, efficient and sustainable than unnecessary business commuting for face-to-face meetings. If you can telecommute, hold phone conferences, take online classes, or work from home, do it! Of course, it’s not always suitable; face-to-face meetings do have to occur, but if you can convince your workplace to allow employees one day a month to work remotely, you’ll cut your company’s carbon and associated financial costs.
4. Green your vendors and suppliers. Ask vendors about their social and environmental practices. Are they Conventional? Green? Dark Green? Greening your supply chain may not only give you insights on better ways of doing business, but you’ll help them become aware of where they can improve their practices. Question your suppliers about their environmental policies, and switch to alternate suppliers with better policies if necessary. Buy local, if at all possible, to reduce the CO2 footprint associated with the shipping of purchased goods. Support suppliers and vendors that use less packaging material and green shipping policies.
5. Manage your office equipment energy use better. Did you know that leaving your computer on over night for a year creates enough CO2 to fill a double decker bus? If you were to leave your average sized (17-inch) computer on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it would use over $200 of electricity and lead to the release of over 1500 kg of CO2 into earth’s atmosphere. Help your workplace cut its carbon by turning your computer, monitor and other office equipment off when not in use. Activate the power management features on your computer and monitor and unplug laptop power cords when not in use.
6. Don’t be a paper-pusher. Do you really need to print that 500-page document? Or, could you use an electronic copy? When you must print, print double-sided documents and print on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. When compared to the production of virgin paper, 1000 kg of recycled paper can save 1320 kg of CO2!
The biggest thing to remember about making green choices at work is that small actions can make a big impact. If everyone at your workplace adopts at least one of these tips, it can amount to big changes for our environment…and your company's pocketbook!
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