As the saying goes, change starts from home, and there is no better time than now to introduce an eco-friendly office environment.
However, many business owners and investors hesitate to go green. They believe in a misconception that environmentally-friendly business practices can cost more money. The truth is, you can easily bring green revolution into the workplace to create a healthy, sustainable, and highly productive office environment.
Innovative efforts to go green can protect the planet and trim operating expenses in the long run. Not to mention, in a world aiming for sustainability, going green means staying competitive.
Green offices create a more mindful environment for the people, unlike the conventional ones. That’s why more offices are opting for accommodating biophilic practices in their workspace. Today, there are many LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) offices, which means they meet a global set of sustainability criteria. Creating a green office may add costly upgrades at the beginning with energy-efficient walls, heat-efficient flooring, energy-saving lighting, etc. Still, it’s also cost-effective in the long run.
In this article, we’ll discuss in length the benefits of opting for an eco-friendly office environment. Also, we’ll explore several green business practices and how to achieve them economically.
Why should you make your office more eco-friendly?
Before going to how, let’s talk about why a bit.
Here’s the short answer:
- To save this planet (slowly).
- To retain young, talented staff at a comparatively less expensive cost.
- To increase customer loyalty.
- To save huge on the energy bill and get the tax credit.
Saving the planet should be the top reason to adopt eco-friendly practices in the workspace, but that’s not enough to make such a business decision. We know!
Different research data from the last two decades proved that sustainability could benefit employees and the company’s bottom line. As corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a hot trend among companies, the younger generation prefers working in more socially responsible and environmentally-conscious companies.
Furthermore, green offices are economically beneficial for businesses too. From a financial standpoint, up-front investment for an eco-friendly office can be hefty, but long-term upkeep maintenance is surprisingly low. Not to mention the huge savings on utility bills, thanks to energy-efficient walls and flooring, and annual tax credit. Similarly, energy-efficient lighting is excellent for long-term cost efficiency, as they consume less electricity than the traditional ones.
Eco-friendly offices make employees happier
Creating an energy-efficient office can mean more windows, increased natural light with better airflow, and a more pleasant working environment.
Studies have shown that green offices encourage productivity and happiness in employees. Office workers with windows tend to get 173% more exposure to white light  during the workday, resulting in an average of 46 extra minutes of sleep at night.
Numerous studies are linking better night sleep to higher office productivity the next day. While doing so, employees tend to get less tired, less bored, and focus on work more intently. The overall experience is a happier work hour and less disgust about the office environment.
Excel at engaging your employees
Environmentally responsible companies usually tend to have happier, more satisfied, and more engaged employees. You cannot deny that there is a significant positive relationship between perceived environmental performance and employee satisfaction. Modern employees not just want to make money: they also want to make a difference. Business leaders inspire, engage, and unite all of their employees through a common cause when they commit to environmental sustainability.
In addition to that, CSR has become quite a significant factor to many job seekers, especially talented and creative millennials with sharp mindsets. One recent survey noted that 75% of the millennials are willing to take a pay cut if it means working for an environmentally and socially responsible company. 
Restructuring an office to implement sustainable business practices is a great way to boost positive brand perception. It also helps generate a positive ROI for years to come as more hard-working and creative people stay in the company and contribute total productivity.
Increase customer loyalty
A huge chunk of modern customers supports environmentally conscious brands (at least their causes). More than two-thirds of modern consumers consider sustainability while making a purchase . Over one-third of consumers also say they will pay more for sustainable products. Many customers also identify sustainable and ethical business practices as an important reason they remain loyal to a brand.
While making your office eco-friendly isn’t quite the same as producing eco-friendly products, it will nevertheless build customer loyalty who prioritize sustainability and environment-friendly policies.
Social media can play a vital role in advertising that. As we’ve mentioned earlier, your happy employees can play a crucial role in boosting the brand image (a “sustainable and green company”) on social media. A couple of targeted promotional campaigns can solidify that to your existing and potential customers.
14 tips to create your office more eco-friendly
From small changes to big decisions, you can do it in many ways.
Depending on your budget, your company goals, your organization structure, and future plan, you can introduce any of the following green business practices in your office. The more you can integrate into your system, the more benefits you’ll start to see in the next years.
1. Shift to renewable energy sources
The excuse for not using solar power: it’s too expensive, is no longer acceptable.
The price of purchasing and installing solar panels has significantly dropped in the last few years. Plus, investing in renewable energy emanates a positive financial return in the long run. Here are some major benefits of adopting solar energy:
- First and foremost, opting for solar energy will drastically reduce your energy bills. Further, if you manage your energy in the right way, you may entirely eliminate the energy bills!
- Adopting solar energy will boost your property value.
- Solar panels are sustainable, future-proof solutions that last for a long time.
- Solar providers often offer fixed electricity costs, enabling you to accurately budget and plan for the future.
- With the installation of solar plants, you are helping your country with energy independence.
If installing solar panels is not feasible in your building, you can also contemplate looking into green plans off-site. In other words, you can utilize renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, or biofuels to generate your office’s energy. The cost of these plans is often the same, and in some cases, lower than traditional energy solutions. They can also offer a great alternative to on-site solar installation.
2. Reduce the number of printers in the office
If printing is made more inconvenient, people are less likely to do it.
However, this can be complicated for an office department that relies heavily on paperwork and printing. In that case, you can slowly transition the employees over to a digital document management system. You can also equip them with access to pdf editors and proper tools before taking away printers.
Encourage your employees to avoid printing documents whenever possible. Cut down on printout amount, save paper. You can also conveniently go digital to make the requirement announcements and send emails. Switch to cloud storage.
3. Use green office supplies
You can upgrade to eco-friendly alternatives rather than stock your supply closet with traditional office staples. Opt for recycled paper products, from your sticky notes and printer paper to paper towels and tissues. Consider choosing compostable cups for coffee and water, and go for 100% recyclable binders that lack hazardous plastic.
You can additionally make your office supplies greener by reusing what you have. You can encourage employees to return used file folders to the supply closet. Others can change the label of the file folders and adapt them for their projects. You don’t necessarily need your wardrobe to feature exclusively brand-new items, as you can conserve the environment and reserve costs by stretching things further.
4. Recycle/reuse your office waste
When we are at the office, we often forget all the good recycling habits we have at home. Therefore, a simple step to becoming a more sustainable employee is to take action against this absence of this work habit. As an employer, you can make sure you have recycling bins well spread and identified throughout the office. Ensure your employees are aware of the recycling rules as well.
Furthermore, you are probably aware of the “three big Rs” of eco-friendliness: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. From document cases and binders to pens and rubber bands, you don’t need to throw away the items you can use again. You can monitor (or assign someone to monitor) the monthly supplies and stop buying new items you don’t need in terms of reducing.
Finally, all the items you have no use for, you can recycle. You should accurately dispose of waste like paper and printer toners or even donate or sell furniture you no longer need.
5. Properly recycle e-waste
This happens a lot in any office.
Suppose you’ve decided to replace your old monitors with brand new ones. These are energy-saving lots, and you’re feeling great about it. But what about the old ones? Do you have a plan for those? Suddenly you realize you don’t know what to do with them! If you don’t see any other option, you’d simply throw them in the dumpster, wouldn’t you?
While it’s the easiest solution, it most certainly is not the eco-friendly one. Electronics that end up in landfills often ooze out harmful chemicals into the soil, like mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, and chromium. These toxins often leak into water supplies, causing significant damage to the environment. They can also impact drinking water if the toxins manage to seep into the soil deep enough. As stated by the United Nations, nearly 90% of electric waste is dumped illegally .
Instead of throwing out old computers, why not jump online and search for your nearest e-Steward? The e-Steward initiative originated from concerns about the e-waste of wealthy nations being thrown away into poorer countries. An e-Steward will withdraw your old electronics, disassemble them, and then recycle the materials safely and in an ethical way.
6. Replace plastic cups cutleries with reusable ones
Using a plastic or even a plastic-cardboard cup may seem like a small gesture, but it can have a significant environmental impact.
There are about 220 working days in a year. Imagine you drink 2 cups of coffee per day: that represents almost 500 cups and 500 stirrers unnecessarily discarded each year. Imagine how much degeneration could be avoided if every employee switched to a reusable cup.
If you’re thinking about the initial cost of such a transition, don’t worry – the investment quickly pays for itself. The same goes for cutlery and disposable crockery.
7. Make the most out of natural light
If you have the opportunity to choose office rooms, opt for space with plenty of natural light. This move will narrow down your energy usage, thus saving you electricity money.
If you don’t have access to ample amounts of natural light, you can still use light wall colors and strategically place mirrors around the room to increase the light you do get. Additionally, natural light has many health benefits, such as boosting your immunity and improving your mood.
However, if the home office is situated in the basement or some other part of the building that gets no natural light, you can always switch to LED lighting.
8. Bring a desk plant
If possible, bring in a desk plant to improve indoor air quality.
Plants also bring some nature into the rather chromatic office environment. Many research has revealed that plants significantly lower workplace stress . Beautiful plants and pothos also enhance productivity. Plants like Spider Plants, Peace Lilies, English Ivy, or Bamboo Palms are good for the eco-friendly office environment. However, any plant that you love will do!
Plants produce enough oxygen to offset any chemicals released into the air by new office furniture as well. A NASA study found that houseplants can remove up to 87% of air pollution in an office over 24 hours . Similarly, much like natural light, indoor plants also improve the wellbeing and productivity of employees.
9. Follow the green practices for office washrooms
You can use cloth towels or hand dryers instead of paper towels in the office washroom.
On top of that, replace old-style toilets that use up to 7 gallons of water per flush  with new ultra-low flush models. Always turn off water taps completely, ensuring they don’t drip. The leak of a tap at a rate of one drop per second can lead to more than 5.7 gallons of water wasted a day. That is 2,083 gallons a year (does 7885 liter/year sound small to you?).
Also, make sure to use non-chemical eco-friendly cleaning products in the washroom.
Check it out: The water drip calculator
10. Opt for sustainable materials
It would be best if you made it a habit to use natural products whenever possible.
There are so many environmentally safe options at your disposal nowadays. You can easily search on the web for renewable and sustainable materials for your office space or home offices, such as cork, bamboo, or reclaimed wood. If nothing else, you can make sure the materials are at least locally sourced.
What’s more, you can find some fantastic previously-owned furniture when looking for storage pieces. Sure, you might desire a brand new ergonomic desk chair to sit on, but you can have your filing cabinet(s) and desks from second-hand stores whenever possible.
11. Install motion-activated light switches
In an office environment, installing automatic motion-activated light switches will save a significant amount of energy in the long run.
In a busy office space, the last person often forgets to turn off the lights and can be an extra burden for the employees. Motion-sensing light switches can be a good solution. You can use these for your conference rooms, eating areas, storage space, and other less frequently used areas.
12. Support eco-friendly commute options
Carpooling, cycling, electric bicycles, scooters, even walking— there are numbers of alternative mobility methods that you can replace cars with. Not only are they save energy and helps the environment, but they also are good for your health, especially if you’re cycling or walking to your office from home.
As a business owner, you should encourage your employees to take these alternate and eco-friendly commute options and arrange specific parking spaces for their bikes.
13. Introduce monthly green challenges
Monthly green challenges are an amusing process of combining competition and going green. For example, you can challenge the office to go a month with no plastic cutleries and reward those who stick to it by offering small prizes, such as coffee gift cards or snacks.
14. Start a sustainability team in your office
A sustainability team in the office can both circulate the news and accomplish more. Team projects could include starting or enabling a more successful recycling program. They can also help in making purchasing decisions for energy-efficient appliances and green cleaning supplies.
A team like this can also educate staff through informational lunch-and-learn sessions. They can team up with local departments of water and power or waste authority to create educational workshops within the office. After all, employees engaging one another is more effective than memos from the top. This group can also conduct monthly ‘inspections’ looking at the power/gas meters, amount of office supplies ordered, etc.
There are numerous ways you can make your office more sustainable. However, the more important thing is that you understand that going green benefits everyone: your business, your employees, and of course, the entire planet. No matter how small, any initiative you take to make your office more energy-efficient and less wasteful are the steps in the right direction.
Do you agree with our suggestions? Maybe you have more innovative ideas to share? Please let us know in the comment section below and start a constructive conversation.
If you like this article, please share it on your social media channels and encourage your friends or coworkers to take the first step towards a more eco-friendly office environment.
- Daylight exposure has ‘remarkable’ effect on office workers’ health, Workplace Insight
- Most millennials would take a pay cut to work at a environmentally responsible company, Fast Company
- The Role of Sustainability in Customer Loyalty, Customer Think
- Electronic waste being dumped in Asia, United Nations
- How office plants lower stress and improve concentration, Bloomscape
- Plants Clean Air and Water for Indoor Environments, NASA Spinoff
- Old toilets vs. new, SF Gate
This article was written in collaboration with Direct Office. For the past three decades, they have been one of Australia’s most trusted office furniture suppliers. Since its inception, Direct Office has been making the office furniture buying process easier and more reasonable all over Australia. Check out their website and contact them for any related queries.