Developing a greener or more sustainable office isn’t just good for the environment. It’s also good for business.
In fact, going green helps:
What’s more, attitudes towards sustainability are shifting. Green building standards are becoming less of a personal preference and more of a corporate responsibility and market necessity.
Hold the phone. Before we begin, what exactly is a sustainable office? It’s actually hard to find a formal definition as search results vary considerably. Most tend to focus on building practices (think NABERs and Greenstar). But, believe it or not, a truly sustainable office does not have to be a brand-new build with all the bells and whistles. That’s because, ultimately, it’s what goes on inside the building that really counts.
So then, what do we mean by a sustainable office? We mean a workspace that promotes environmental balance by minimising the draining of natural resources.
The current climate has sparked debate around office space and commercial property sustainability, especially as people have started returning to work. So, for many companies, the pressure to become more environmentally sustainable is coming from all sides.
More and more companies realise the need to act now. If you’re one of them, here are some sustainable office ideas that you can follow to help reduce your environmental footprint, no matter the building you’re in.
For example, take advantage of natural light as much as you can to reduce your electricity needs, and (if possible) install a solar hot water system and a rainwater tank.
Think about what appliances need to remain on overnight. Although keeping devices in standby mode is better than leaving them entirely on, it still wastes electricity. If all your computers are connected to a server, there are ways you can schedule them to shut down at a specific time of night. This is a great way to combat staff just locking their screens and walking out at the end of the day. Otherwise, consider making it company policy staff have to turn off their equipment before they leave for the day.
You should also conduct a spot check of your office to ensure no leaky taps in your kitchen, toilet, or shower facilities. And invest in aerators to reduce excess water flow.
Encouraging your staff to recycle and compost whenever possible will significantly improve the sustainability of your office.
For instance, having recycling and green waste bins in your office is a simple and effective way to make your office more environmentally friendly. Be sure to place recycling and green waste bins in prominent positions (for example, near or next to your printers and in the kitchen). Many councils across Australia also allow food scraps to be included in green waste. This means they can be turned into compost and used as fertiliser for parks, gardens and farms, rather than a landfill.
Providing your staff with real crockery and cutlery in the lunchroom will also reduce the need for disposable items. And offering battery chargers and rechargeable batteries will help you reduce waste and save money in the long run.
You should also make sure that your office printer cartridges get recycled.
Paper is a classic example of a resource that is widely overused. The most up-to-date stats show Australians generated 76 million tonnes of waste in 2018-2019, a 10% increase since 2016-17. Circa 6 million tonnes of this is wasted paper and cardboard.
But, in today’s digital era, how much paper do we really need?
Most offices could cut back considerably on their paper use. Or, at the very least, ensure that they use recycled paper.
If printing is essential, encourage your staff to print double-sided and avoid printing emails. You could even roll out a “clean, green” message under your email signatures, which will prompt every staff member to think before printing. It’s also an idea to place a scrap paper bin next to the printer for failed print jobs (particularly single-sided jobs) and encourage your staff to reuse this stash for notetaking or brainstorming.
Another solution is to implement card readers on your printers, which will reduce your company’s printing pace by holding staff accountable and reducing unclaimed prints.
Providing whiteboards and laptops is another sustainable office idea that helps to reduce paper use. And hand dryers or tea towels negate the need for paper towels.
Energy-efficient equipment includes things like air conditioners, computers, lunchroom appliances and lighting options. As a rule, remember to look at the energy use ratings before making your purchase decision. And ensure that air conditioners, computers and lights are switched off when unused or unnecessary.
Depending on the types of lighting you currently have, you may also be able to upgrade to more energy-efficient light globes. These may set you back a little more initially, but they cost less to run and last a lot longer than standard globes.
Think about the resources you need to run your business. Are there green alternatives? Also, look at the green credentials of your suppliers. For example, are their products made from recycled materials and do they minimise their environmental impact? Are your cleaners using environmentally-friendly products?
What about your own packaging? If you also have a retail aspect to your business, provide your goods in recycled or reusable packaging. This will also appeal to customers who prefer to support eco-friendliness in the consumer world.
Plants help recycle the air, brighten up the office, and reduce stress and other workplace nasties (like low morale).
Choose low-maintenance plants that are not a burden to look after, are hard wearing and have a low pollen count. (And be sure to check with your employees before introducing plants into the office if they are prone to allergies.)
Consider what you can do about work-related activities outside your office. For example, can you hold a video conference call instead of requiring people who live interstate to fly in to attend a meeting? That’s one of the many benefits of modern technology – it allows people to complete work anytime and anywhere.
Research shows that most businesses expect to continue allowing employees to work at least part of the week from home once the pandemic ends. This is good news as most staff love having that little bit of extra flexibility. Plus, even just one day a week can reduce their footprint when it comes to their daily commute.
Setting up your office close to public transport options and installing end-of-trip facilities (like bike racks and showers) can also help reduce your staff’s environmental impact.
A great way to encourage change is to get everyone involved. Green Challenges (for example, daring staff to go plastic-free) are a great way to make sustainability visible, actionable, and fun! They can also promote team building.
You can also set up a ‘Sustainability team’ to brainstorm and implement new ideas and champion the changes around the office.
The great thing about striving for a more sustainable office is that your changes do not have to be big and expensive to generate results. If this exhaustive list seems too much to implement all at once, just choose one change to make and see how it goes. And, after a few weeks, think about implementing another.
Changes don’t even have to cost anything. Simply encouraging staff to turn off their lights and equipment or print less conserves resources and saves money.
The more environmentally friendly alternative to a standard lease, a ‘green lease,’ is a leasing agreement that considers building and office sustainability. This type of contract incentivises the landlord to reduce the building’s overall environmental impact and minimises your lease's carbon footprint.
Companies are becoming increasingly interested in ensuring they have defined targets and strategies to reduce the organisation’s overall environmental impact. And investing in a green lease is a powerful way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint and help contribute to a greener economy.
Skilled tenant representatives like Tenant CS can ensure that commercial lease terms minimise the environmental impact of your tenancy. We’re a commercial tenant advisory service that caters to companies across Australia (focusing on Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra), Singapore and the greater Asia-Pacific region.
Speak to one of us today to discuss your organisation’s sustainability initiatives and how we can help achieve them by negotiating a green lease for your business!