Helping your office go green

I received an email last week from a member of the Julia Ross team, who wondered whether “a more sustainable workplace, one that encourages and provides facilities for little things like recycling, increases morale amongst employees, leading of course to higher productivity”?

We already know indoor gardens can improve the atmosphere of the workplace and act as a motivating factor for employees.  It makes sense that ensuring your whole office is green is going to provide a positive sense of putting back to the planet.

There are some very simple things that we can each do.

It’s important to remember that most IT equipment must be unplugged or switched off at the wall before it stops consuming electricity.  It is estimated that unused devices in standby mode account for up to 40 percent of the average energy bill.

For example, even a PC that has been shut down continues to draw power – it must be switched off at the wall before it stops using electricity. Additionally, many monitors must be powered off independently of the computer before they can truly be considered ‘off.’

In general, all computer peripherals will use power when they remain plugged into a live outlet. The main offenders are modems, printers and photocopiers. However anything that requires power to operate usually counts, such as laptop docking stations.

While technologically driven solutions will be a major enabler of environmental management solutions in the future, technology itself can be a large consumer of electricity and needs to be carefully managed today.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Karen Jamal said,

    Treehugger (www.treehugger.com) has some great tips for going green in the office, including digitising as much information as possible instead of using paper, and wearing “green sleeves” (vintage or recycled clothes that don’t need dry cleaning).

    Other tips include teleworking, which you have referred to, Sheryle, in previous posts, plus office redesign to maximise natural light. There’s some fantastic material for anyone interested in minimising their office’s carbon footprint.

  2. 2

    The one who emailed said,

    I must admit my two personal bugbears are wasteful use of paper/lack of recycling, and more sustainable transport; and that I am now actively trying to be more sustainable in my life generally.

    On the first point, it amazes me just how much paper some offices are capable of using, and indeed the nonchalance with which employees in those offices print, print and print, usually single sided too. However, once the office has prominent recycling bins, this usage seems to slow – a simple visual reminder for everyone I assume. It also often encourages people to re-evaluate their habits at home, which can only be a good thing.

    I will also confess that whilst I read/use most things on-screen, I haven’t gone completely digital; if I’m reviewing a document, I find that I miss too many errors doing it on screen, so will tend to print it in order to be able to scribble corrections on it (usually in a different location from my desk, to give myself a screen break too). I always print double-sided though, and 2 or 4 pages to a side, depending on the font size, and limit this to just my final review. And in the future, if the document’s not confidential, I intend to dispose of it by feeding it to my new worm farm.

    On my second point, my preference is to cycle to work. However, a lot of work places have entirely inadequate facilities for cyclists to park & get changed – if there were better facilities in every office, I’m fairly sure more people would choose this healthier, more sustainable option. The bonus being less cars on the road in the way of those who need to drive! The JR office here in Melbourne has a couple of shower/change rooms, which is very useful, but a sad lack of undercover bike hoops, despite space for them in the car park.

    And as to why this should all be important to employers? Well, there’s the likely increased productivity that you’ve quoted above Sheryle, there’s also of course the ‘ethical investment’ that I mentioned in my email – where people choose to speak with their money and only invest in companies who share their values (e.g. views on the environment, nuclear power, weapons manufacture etc). And then there’s Gen Y, who you’ve mentioned on this blog as a much more demanding generation in terms of what their employers can provide to them – this generation is also often concerned about sustainable living & thus given the choice between two employers who are equal in all ways other than their environmental credentials, will likely choose the more ‘friendly’ one.

    As a final cheery point, check out http://www.guerrillagardening.org/ for a wonderful take on how to make the world just a little bit better, one plant at a time.


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