We are all more aware of the climate crisis than ever before. Many people are taking steps to reduce their impact on the environment – including in the workplace. This guide will explain how to set up a green office space and why it’s beneficial.
What is a green office?
A green office is a workspace which takes its impact on the environment into account by introducing sustainability measures.
|Sustainability = Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.|
Whether you’re building or renovating an office building, or want to make some changes to an existing workspace, our green office guide will explain how you can be as eco-friendly as possible – without affecting productivity.
Inside your green office
Already have an office space? There’s more to making the inside of it green than adding a few plants (although that is a good option, because plants can purify the air). Let’s explore all the measures you can take.
Green energy suppliers are becoming increasingly popular, offering 100% renewable energy. Be cautious when choosing a supplier, as some may engage in a practice called greenwashing – using language to suggest they’re eco-friendly but not taking sustainable measures.
Green Square identified the best green energy suppliers available in the UK currently. Below, we compare the ones which offer tariffs for commercial spaces.
There are some things which you’ll always need in an office, and electricity is one of them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t minimise the amount of electricity you use. Here are some power-saving tips.
- Turn down the brightness settings on computer and laptop screens. An energy manager at Harvard Law School found that turning the brightness down from 100% to 70% can save 20% of the monitor’s energy consumption.
- Close apps or programmes that aren’t in use. The more programmes you have open, the more power your device needs to use in order to run.
- Put your computer or laptop in sleep mode if you know you won’t be using it for a while.
- Unplug all equipment that doesn’t need to be left on 24/7, such as computers, laptops, and printers, at the end of the day. Although one device being on standby does not use a lot of energy, the cost and energy use of multiple items being left on can quickly add up. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that the average home could save £35 per year by unplugging devices – think how much more that could be in a busy office.
- Create a list of everything that needs to be shut down and unplugged if the office will be closed for an extended period of time (at Christmas, for example). Share it with your team and make sure everything has been ticked off before the last person leaves.
Heating and cooling
You can’t underestimate the importance of a comfortable temperature when you’re trying to get a job done. Anything too hot or too cold will cause distractions and, in extreme cases, health and safety issues.
Setting the thermostat to a high temperature can increase both energy use and bills, so it can make a significant difference if you turn it down. The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers recommends a temperature of 20°C for offices.
You can programme your thermostat so the office is only heated up when people will be using it. This prevents heat from being wasted.
As for cooling the office down? You can open the windows to let natural airflow in, unless the office already has air conditioning, in which case the windows need to be kept shut. You could also introduce a more casual dress code for summer to ensure your staff stay cool and comfortable.
The right lighting is important – no one wants to strain their eyes trying to see, or squint because the glare is too bright. Luckily, there are ways to adjust it to the optimum level and reduce your impact on the environment.
- Use natural light whenever possible. It’s free!
- Label your light switches, if it’s not clear which one operates which light.
- Switch lights off in rooms which aren’t being used. You could also install lighting which uses motion sensors, and only turns on when movement is detected.
- Check what type of light bulbs you have. Replace any incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. They convert more energy into light than traditional bulbs (which only convert 5%).
- Paint the walls with light colours. They reflect daylight, meaning you’ll need less overhead lighting.
- Make sure the last person to leave switches off the lights.
The average person uses around 142 litres of water per day. This may be surprising to some – 46% of people believe their entire household uses less than 20 litres per day.
You can reduce the amount of water used at your office by taking the following steps:
Toilets can use anything from two to 9.5 litres of water for every flush, depending on how old they are. You can reduce this by placing a Hippo bag in the cistern. This saves up to three litres of water per flush.
The most sustainable thing you can do is use what you already have. But when the time comes to replace a toilet, consider a low-flush model, which is more efficient, using between two and four litres of water per flush.
Make sure taps are turned off completely. Not only is a dripping tap irritating, but it has the potential to waste a lot of water over time. A leak of 10 drops per minute wastes three litres per day (109 per month), while a leak of 120 drops per minute wastes 41 litres per day (1,249 per month).
Do your taps need to be replaced? You could also install low-flow taps, which mix air into the water that’s flowing out of the tap. This reduces water use, without affecting the flow and water pressure. Motion-sensor faucets are also an option. They only emit water when someone holds their hands out, minimising the amount of water used each time.
It’s easy to forget what happens to our rubbish when we throw it away. But with England generating around 37.2 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste in 2019, there’s more that businesses can do to change the way they deal with rubbish disposal.
Start by making it as easy as possible for your staff to recycle. Put your bins somewhere that’s easy to reach and label them clearly. How your rubbish is split will depend on what collections your local council makes, but having one bin for paper and card and another for plastics and cans is a good place to start. You can use the government website to find recycling collection information in your area.
If your electronic devices are no longer suitable for business use but still work, donate them to a charity, local school, or anywhere that would benefit from having more tech. If the device is beyond repair, take it to an electronics recycling centre or use a service like Gigacycle, which prevents electronic waste from being sent to landfill.
You’ll always need supplies in order to run an office. Minimise the impact of procuring them by choosing the most sustainable option wherever possible.
Consider buying refurbished, second-hand laptops and other devices. Not only does this cost less than buying something new, but you save a perfectly good piece of equipment from being thrown away unnecessarily.
There are lots of eco-friendly alternatives for everyday essentials like notebooks and pencils, with some companies making their stationery from post-consumer materials.
Ask your team not to get rid of any stationery which is still fit for purpose. Set aside a space where they can donate it instead, so other staff can use it if they need something.
Paper and printing
Lots of things are digitalised nowadays. For example, you can use cloud storage to share important documents, communicate with others via emails and instant messages, and display presentations on projectors. You could also set up a scrap paper tray so no materials go to waste.
However, there may be occasions when printing is required. You can take the following steps to minimise the impact:
- Next time you need to buy a printer, choose one which has multiple functions, such as printing, copying, scanning and duplexing (printing on both sides of the paper).
- Put up a sign reminding your team not to print unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Print on both sides of the paper.
- Use the printer’s eco setting, if it has one.
- Use refillable cartridges if possible, or recycle them. Companies such as Canon and Recycle4Charity offer schemes that keep used cartridges out of landfill.
Food and drink
Supply cutlery and plates that can be washed up and reused, instead of relying on disposables that are thrown away after one use. You could even give out branded reusable water bottles and coffee cups so your team is prepared wherever they go.
Consider asking your cleaning team to switch to refillable products, such as those by Ocean Saver and Splosh. Instead of buying a new bottle each time, you simply stock up on refills, reducing the amount of packaging used.
Switch to bar soap in the toilets, or use refillable liquid soap. Provide washable cloth towels or energy-efficient hand dryers instead of paper towels.
Building a green office space
Building an office space? You’re in luck. It might be a huge undertaking, but you’ll be able to start from scratch when incorporating eco-friendly elements. Let’s take a look at what these are.
New buildings must have double glazed windows. They are more energy efficient than single glazed windows, reducing heat loss and condensation, and preventing cold draughts from coming in.
Triple glazing is becoming more commonplace, but the energy efficiency payback is similar to double glazing, so you may want to save money (unless your workspace is somewhere very cold and would benefit from the extra pane of glass).
Two-thirds of heat in an office is lost through the building fabric. It makes sense to prevent this from the outset by ensuring the office is insulated, both in the roof spaces and in the walls. Cavity walls can be injected with insulation material by a professional, while roof spaces can be insulated using layers of mineral wool.
One of the best ways to encourage staff to bike to work is to provide secure cycle storage, plus shower and changing facilities. They’ll feel more confident locking their bikes up and their commutes will produce less or even no carbon emissions (depending on whether they also use public transport). And they’ll feel more comfortable coming into work if they can freshen up after their ride.
You could even introduce the Cyclescheme, which allows your employees to save between 25%-39% on the cost of a new bike and accessories, and spread the cost. As an employer, you’ll recover the full cost of the bike and save up to 13.8%.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re making your office more environmentally friendly. But break it down step by step, as we have here, and you’ll be surprised at the amount of progress you can make.