For most businesses, “office sustainability” is an ambiguous and puzzling goal that appears to conflict with efficiency, consistency, and even profits. In most cases, management and employees struggle to identify simple, yet impactful strategies that aid in the health of the planet and the overall integrity of the office. Environmentally friendly endeavors are often reduced to half-hearted efforts to recycle paper, turn out the lights in unoccupied rooms, and avoid the newest ecological enemy: the plastic straw. While each step is practical and helpful, individuals can do more. Small businesses can do more. Corporate America can do more.
To get concerned business owners started on the unceasing, yet rewarding journey toward creating a sustainable workplace, here are a few simple ideas to give back to the planet from nine to five:
- Paper: While it is undoubtedly better for the planet than plastic, the paper should continue to be used in moderation. Thanks to the powerful developments of modern technology, avoiding paper has never been easier; however, several functions within the office space still require good old-fashioned hard copies. In these cases, always strive to print documents and notes on double-sided sheets and strive to use a recycled product from recycled content. When stapled notes or a list of clients’ addresses have served their time, be sure to recycle them in a paper bin.
- Trash cans: While recycling efforts are often encouraged, most businesses fail to implement them successfully. Personal trash cans located at employees’ desks are rarely sorted and their contents properly disposed of. Businesses should consider placing larger receptacles in common spaces. These trash cans allow for employees to place waste in the proper container for recycling or a landfill.
- Reusable items: In the break room, reusable items are a way to save money and the environment. To avoid the extra waste and expense produced by paper and foam plates, plastic utensils, straws, and hot cups, businesses should encourage employees to bring in reusable versions of these products and provide a proper area to store them. Encouraging ceramic mugs or stainless-steel hot cups alone could save tons of waste from landfills and unnecessary spending on disposable alternatives. Well-stocked supplies of reusable flatware and plates will accomplish a similar goal.
- Ditch the Keurig: K-cups are one of the least-sustainable items found in the modern American office. According to estimates published by the Atlantic, Americans brewed enough k-cups to stretch around the world roughly 10.5 times in 2014 alone. Worst of all, the small plastic cylinders are made of non-recyclable plastic, meaning every single one ends up in a landfill or the ocean. Drip coffee is easy to make, more affordable to purchase, and, typically brews a far better cup.
- Office-wide initiatives: The formation of a team of individuals dedicated to improving the sustainability of the office is a great way for business owners to encourage the formation of an environmentally minded workplace. These groups might encourage office-wide initiatives like discouraging the use of plastic utensils at lunchtime or petitioning for an office compost bin to be installed and properly utilized. The influence of a small, yet dedicated team of employees greatly impacts both the sustainability and general environment of an office or larger company.
The journey toward a sustainable workplace is never complete; it is an unending process that rests on the shoulders of both business owners and employees. As evidenced by some of the examples provided, benefiting the planet within the business model is not unaffordable. In some instances, sustainable practices save companies a considerable amount of money once implemented. But, regardless of expense, the obligation of every person to live a lifestyle that encourages the health of our home cannot be understated. It is the first priority of our lifetime of business on planet earth.