We spend a large percentage of our lives at work, so if we want to be more sustainable, it makes sense that we introduce sustainable behavior into the work place. Below is a list of things we can all do to increase sustainability in the workplace making us look good and feel good.
Manage Paper Consumption Responsibly
Paper can be an expensive office resource. It is an essential part of our scope of work and as a result has a high percentage of the waste in the office. There are plenty of ways to maximize paper resources in the office and dispose of paper responsibly. These include:
Print out test pages
Sometimes projects call for large printing jobs. Before you print out 50 copies, print out 1 test page to make sure the document is exactly how you want it. That way you don't risk printing 50 versions of a document you are not going to use.
This is the simplest most overlooked way to conserve paper resources in the office. We can use 50% less paper if everyone prints on both sides of a page (unless the document is only 1 page of course).
GOOS (Good On Other Side) paper
Use waste paper as note pads. This can completely replace the need for sticky note pads or notepaper. It is a good office practice to have a pile next the printer where people can place their GOOS paper. These can then be cut into 4ths and staple them together and distribute as note pads, or however you want to make use of it.
Know what you can and can't recycle
Not all paper can be recycled. All paper that has been compromised by food, biological waste or been shredded CAN'T be recycled. All other paper is fine. Throw the recyclable paper into the recycling bin.
Know what paper you should be composting
Shredded paper cannot be recycled because the fibers have been torn and recycling it becomes too labor intensive to be profitable. However it can and should be composted. The same goes for paper towels people use to wash their hands or cardboard pizza boxes /that have been compromised by food waste. Since we don't have composting in the office, throw it in the trash so it does not compromise the recycling bin.
Buy recycled paper
You can reduce the overall impact of paper manufacturing by purchasing recycled paper. Many office supply stores offer recycled paper options which allows you to showcase your commitment to sustainability and also helps to promote green paper companies.
Every employee these days has a computer and it is up to each of us to manage their computer's energy consumption. Office computers can be a costly monthly expense in terms of energy consumption and there are many ways to reduce these costs. Although many IT consultants install computers in the office and set default, energy saving settings on computers, ultimately it is up to the employee to ensure computers are being managed as efficiently as possible. Here are some ways you can reduce energy costs.
Computer Energy Saving Settings
Set your computers settings to save energy, below are the different settings you can manage taken from Energy Star's website:
- Drops monitor and computer power use down to 1 - 3 watts each
- Wakes up in seconds
- Saves $25–75 per PC annually
- Drops monitor and computer power use down to 1–3 watts each
- Wakes up in 20+ seconds
- Saves work in the event of power loss
- Saves $25–75 per PC annually
"Turn off monitor"
- Drops monitor power use down to 1 - 3 W
- Wakes in seconds or less
- Saves half as much as system standby or hibernate: about $10 - 40
"Turn off hard disks"
- Saves very little energy
In general it is a good idea to hibernate your computer every time you leave on your lunch break and when you leave at night. Also, if you need help activating your power settings, there are articles that can help you activate your power savings settings on a Mac and power saving settings using Windows. Or ask your IT consultant.
You can also adjust the brightness of your screen. Often times our screens are too bright and can hurt our eyes. By decreasing the brightness on our screen we can create a more pleasant work environment while consuming less energy.
Lighting consumes 25% of the energy consumed in commercial buildings and is a large line item in the energy bill. However there are ways to reduce this cost through the adoption of behavior and technology that is energy efficient.
Swap out your old lights
Old lighting technology, like T12 fluorescent lamps or incandescent light bulbs, can eat up lots of energy. Swapping them out with T8 fluorescent lamps or CFL lights can save you 50% off the energy costs associated with lighting your office, however, swapping those old technologies out with LED lighting can save you up to 85% on your lighting energy cost.
Turning lights off
When lights are not needed, they should be turned off. This includes when an office is getting plenty of sunlight, or when a room within the office is unoccupied and especially when everyone goes home at night.
Sun light and windows
The sun provides the cheapest and most pleasant form of light. Our office has windows and it is most cost effective to use the sunlight and decrease the amount of artificial light when possible. If your workplace area is well lit from the sun from the hours 1pm-4pm, turn off some lights during this time.
Temperature controls in an office are designed to create a comfortable environment for everyone. For optimum efficiency, the rule of thumb is to set the thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer. The problem is, because everyone is wired differently, most people feel comfortable at different temperatures. The trick is to find a temperature that the majority of people are comfortable with and set it accordingly.
Agreeing on a temperature
Try out the preferred thermostat settings for the season and have employees rate their comfort level on a scale of 1-10 (1 being too hot, 10 being too cold, 5 being just right) then find out where people stand and adjust accordingly. If you get equal results on both sides of hot and cold spectrum, then you are in the right place and other measures will have to be taken to ensure employees' comfort levels, which will be discussed below. If the results point to a warmer or colder thermostat setting, then adjust accordingly.
Opening windows or doors
Who needs to use central HVAC systems when the weather outside is great and there are windows and doors where you can let that great weather in? So open up the doors and windows and let the outside come in.
Blinds for windows
Some areas in the office have lots of windows and it gets hot in the summer because of direct sunlight, have sunshades installed on your windows if not yet done. This will decrease the amount of heat from the sun that enters your office so you don't have to crank up the AC. Plus, there are blinds that still let light in, so you don't have to compensate by turning on more lights.
If you get cold easily, bring more layers to work. Just because you are wired colder than most, does not mean the office will crank up the heat just for you. Layering up is a great solution.
Water is a valuable resource and should be used responsibly. It can also be costly to consume. There are a few tricks to help offices conserve water resources.
Don't turn the water on full blast
When washing dishes or our hands it is often the case that we turn the water on full blast even though we don't need that much water pressure to do the job. Try turning the water on just a little bit. You will find that you can still wash that dish and your hands with just a little bit of water.
Lunchtime, breakfast meetings, coffee drinking… We must fuel our bodies while we are at work. There are best practices we can try and adhere to in order to create healthy environments in our bodies, in our office and in our wallets. Below are a few tips that can help.
On average, going out to lunch can cost AED 15 - 30 a day on the low end. Plus, it is harder to control the ingredients that you put in your body when you go out to eat. By bringing your lunch to work you can save a ton of money and have complete control over your diet. You can help promote organic local farms by shopping local and organic too.
If you do bring your lunch remember to
Bring lunch in a reusable microwavable container: Heating up leftovers is great, but if we heat it up in plastic that is not microwaveable, the plastic melts a little into our food. Make sure the container is microwave save so you are not eating plastic.
Bring reusable utensils
By bringing re-usable utensils you don't have to throw away plastic utensils every day, which costs money and creates unnecessary waste.
Don't let things go bad in the fridge
The fridge at work can get nasty if it does not get cleaned out. Make sure to eat the things you put in the fridge so they don't get wasted and start smelling bad. Plus, when food goes bad, you have to replace it by bringing in more food or going out to eat, which can cost you.
Buying food with less packaging
When you are buying food to bring into the office, try to buy food that has less packaging. For instance, rather than buy individually packaged salads, buy the produce and make a salad at home. More packaging means more resources being unnecessarily wasted.
Getting to work can take a lot of energy, in the form of consuming fossil fuel, in the form of mental energy and in the form of spending money. There are ways to help reduce the energy spent commuting to and from work, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions, keeping more money in your wallet and promoting happiness.
If you must drive to work, see if you can carpool with a friend who works nearby or a coworker. Your new travel companion can help split the cost of gas and tolls. Plus you get a new buddy to chat with. Everyone wins.
Biking or Walking
If you live close-by, biking or walking to work makes your commute free without emitting any carbon into the atmosphere. You can feel good about your commitment to reduce the effects of climate change and about being physically active and getting in shape. Plus you save a ton of money on commuting costs.
If you have access to public transportation, this is cheaper than driving and you can sit back and relax while someone else gets you to work. Enjoy a book, the people watching and the scenery as you ride through the landscape.
Manage Waste Consumption Responsibly
Waste generated in the office is relatively high due to poor consumption habits. The general rule of thumb is that it is always best to prevent waste then opt for other options of reusing and recycling. We can all achieve this by
Printing only when needed
Before deciding to send a job to print, determine whether it is necessary to have a hard copy or if the document can be reviewed on screen instead.
Replacing disposables with recyclable/reusable products: Instead of grabbing a foam or plastic cup from the kitchen, have your own sets of glasses, cups and mugs. Replace the use of plastic utensils with your own set of utensils or use those provided by the office.
Dispose of your waste in its appropriate waste stream bin: The office will be introducing a new waste bin system to include recycling of paper, plastics and tin cans. Dispose of your waste smartly and correctly. All contaminated waste as described in previous sections are to be disposed of into the general waste bins.