Many of us are eco-conscious at home, but those habits don’t always translate into a sustainable office space. Here’s how to turn over a new leaf.
Australian workplaces generate over 12.5 million tonnes of waste each year, 46 per cent of which is sent to landfill – when much of it could have been recycled or repurposed. A sustainable office isn’t just good for the planet, says Kerryn Wilmot, research principal and architect at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, “It’s been proven that our physiology, nervous and endocrine system function better in eco-friendly offices.” So, armed with good intentions, where do you start?
Introduce separated bins for glass, tins, plastic and paper. You can have a worm farm in a unit, so why not an office?
If everyone brings their lunch in reusable containers and uses office-provided cups, plates and cutlery, you can reduce landfill waste to zero. Encourage people to drink tap rather than bottled water,
or install a water filter.
Paper accounts for about 76 per cent of office waste. If you must print, set all printers to draft double-sided, narrow margins and black and white.
Lobby the procurement manager to buy refillable pens, recycled toilet paper, cloth towels and dishcloths and environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Recycle printer cartridges: try Cartridges 4 Planet Ark or Quickfill Toners, Lamp Recyclers Ezy-Return takes old fluorescent tubes.
IT staff can ensure computers go to sleep or screensaver mode when not in use. At night, turn off computers at the power point.
Lobby the business to switch to a renewable energy provider through the government’s Greenpower program. You can also have stairways, corridors, toilets and kitchens with movement sensors that turn lights on only when needed.
A sustainable office can start from home. Encourage employees to use public transport by subsidising travel cards and also providing bike racks, lockers and showers. If employees must use cars, consider carpooling.
And why not allow employees to work remotely and have a hot-desking system? When they do come in, employees can use laptops which require a third less energy than desktop computers. Your business will then need a smaller office space, and will make a lighter overall environmental footprint.
At the same time, video-conferencing reduces business travel and especially carbon emissions if it cuts down on plane trips.
4. Plants and green views
Bring nature indoors. Plants reverse some toxicity by absorbing and degrading Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs (found in paint solvent, glues, furniture, computers and carpet backing), carbon dioxide, nitrogen and sulphur oxides. Plants also cool air through transpiration. Be inspired by Canon, who have built a green wall in their office made from recycled cartridges!
5. Structural change
If you are considering an office refit or new build, contact the Green Building Council of Australia, which is a resource for how to build sustainably. Top tier buildings are also adopting the WELL Building Standard, an international system that measures and certifies a building on how it impacts health and wellbeing.