How To Reduce Carbon Footprint In The Office

July 2021

What do the experts think...

You might be a committed green warrior at home by mastering up-cycling, sorting your recycling bins religiously, switching to energy-saving light bulbs, cooking more vegetarian dishes and buying your food locally. Meanwhile, at the office, things might be a different story. We’ve all been there, computers and air-con running all night, paper and plastic being tossed in the same bin together with plastic takeaway cutlery and coffee cup lids...

To help you ‘go green’ at work as well and get your team involved on your eco-friendly journey, we’ve compiled a mighty list of no less than 71 things you can do in your office to reduce your carbon footprint. Some of the tips are so easy they might surprise you.

🔄 Quick and sustainable swaps in no time

By quick, we mean right here and right now! If you’re ready to ‘go green’, here are some quick swaps for you and your colleagues to get started today.

1/ Swap plastic bottles for reusable eco-friendly bottles

Reduce the use of plastic bottles by giving everyone access to glass or eco-bottles made from recycled bamboo. They are usually better in both design and quality. 

2/ Check for plastic straw alternatives

Self-growing bamboo and steel straws are becoming increasingly popular which is great news for our environment. They also make an excellent addition to an employee’s welcome gift pack.

3/ Swap paper cups for kitchen mugs

Paper is biodegradable, right? Yes, however, most take-away cups are not because they also contain plastic and so just add to landfill. Even those which claim to be biodegradable will usually only break down if deposited in a special bin for industrial composting. If you don’t use paper cups to sip coffee at home, why develop a non-environment-friendly culture at work?

4/ Swap single-use plastic lunch wrapping to reusable containers

Food packaging is, in general, not easily recyclable and can end up in rivers and drains clogging free-flowing water. If you bring your own lunch to work try using eco-friendly food containers. If lots of your colleagues regularly pick up a takeaway lunch, consider keeping reusable takeaway containers in the office kitchen that they can take with them.

5/ Swap all of your single-use kitchen items for reusable ones, such as plastic boxes, spoons, forks and knives

A hard-to-digest fact is that your plastic cutlery can’t be recycled at a regular recycling facility. Once they end up in landfills, waterways, and oceans, they release harmful chemicals that negatively affect humans and other sea creatures. Use eco-friendly cutlery such as the classic metal cutlery that is easy to wash and reuse even when you are on the go.

6/ Swap single-use coffee pods

Unfortunately, recycling plants cannot organically separate the materials used to create a coffee pod unless they get handpicked for recycling. So instead of using single-use coffee pods, use biodegradable ones or move to classic brewed coffee.

7/ Use biodegradable landfill bags

Disposable gloves, dog poo bags, garbage bags, and bin liners that end up in a landfill can only compost if they are made of biodegradable materials. Instead of using standard plastic bin bags at the office, simply swap them for biodegradable landfill bags.

8/ Order the office fruit baskets from a local greengrocer

Support your local greengrocer or farmers markets by getting the office fruit baskets locally. This also means you can enjoy organic and seasonal produce!

🧳 Business travel with a sustainable difference

Business travel can be great for building new relationships and opportunities across borders. However, to make sure your business travel is sustainable follow these practical steps.

9/ Avoid travelling by Business Class

Business Class has a much larger carbon footprint than Economy Class because each ticket occupies a lot more space on the plane. You are therefore responsible for a higher proportion of the aircraft’s emissions. Travelling Economy Class is more fuel-efficient (if you have to fly!).

10/ Stay at an eco-friendly hotel

When you travel for work try to look for sustainable or eco-friendly hotels. Check out their website and see if they mention their impact on the planet!     

11/ Reduce meat consumption when on the move

Travelling for work usually involves a busy schedule and you might be tempted to grab fast food like a burger or fries. But if you have more greens and less meat it will help reduce pollution and decrease your carbon footprint.

12/ Measure your employee’s travel carbon footprint

If you are travelling for work, companies like Trace will help you calculate how much of your carbon footprint you leave behind and also help you to net off CO2.

13/ Purchase carbon offset for frequent traveller employees

Trace can help environmentally-conscious travellers to reduce the impact of their travel by offsetting their carbon footprint. To calculate the emissions created by your air travel, head to our calculator here and we will let you know the estimated cost to offset your flights.

14/ Reduce travel luggage

Carrying less or travelling light reduces the load on the aircraft and helps reduce fuel consumption.

15/ Use public transportation

Instead of driving to and from work, employees should be encouraged to use public transport to save energy and fuel.

16/ Use office carpooling

Carpooling is when you share a vehicle with another person. Carpooling therefore spreads the emissions created by a car trip between the passengers in the car and reduces the total number of cars on the road. Ask your team to opt-in to a 'carpooling club' and get together to coordinate trips between colleagues that live in nearby suburbs.

17/ Move to online meetings

Is it essential to travel? If not, then conduct meetings online. As a result, you can save on fuel costs and reduce pollution.

♻️ Reduce, reuse and recycle at the office

Several items in your office can easily be recycled and reused. Check out our list below for inspiration and incorporate the same at your workplace.

18/  Get a recycling paper tray

Wrong printouts usually make it straight to the bin. However, keeping a recycling tray near the printer can allow employees to reuse the other side of the paper.

19/  Print on both sides of your paper

There is an option to print on both sides of the paper which reduces paper consumption and waste. Before you hit print on the screen ensure the setting ‘print on both sides’ is selected. 

20/ Don’t throw away small batteries into bins

The use of a wireless mouse in the office has increased over the last decade, and so has the demand for batteries. Unfortunately, batteries contain chemicals that cause harm to the environment if not disposed of carefully. Use a wired/rechargeable mouse or collectively send used batteries to a recyclable plant.

21/ Recycle aluminium

Recycle used food cans and wrappers by sending them collectively to a recycling plant.

22/ Recycle old and used electronics

Recycle used electronics by sending them collectively to a recycling plant to avoid them ending up in a landfill. E-waste comprises 2% to 4% of landfill waste but equals 70% of overall toxic waste.

23/ Create a compost

Several cleaning companies pick up organic waste like food from office premises so that it can be turned into compost at a location away from the office.

24/ Donate electronics

Another way to sustainably get rid of electronics is by donating them. For example, having a garage sale by the office or a marketplace where employees can purchase used electronics for themselves or people they know.

💚 Getting your team involved in eco-friendly activities

The driving force behind sustainability will ultimately be your team. So follow the below tips to get your colleagues involved in your eco-friendly journey.

25/  Get a large plant in your office

Indoor plants keep the air inside the office clean and naturally add to the beautification of the interiors.

26/  Use eco-friendly stationery items

Green office stationery items play a small but significant role in reducing the carbon footprint. Metal pins and plastic pens make up a large part of an office's contribution to landfill. Therefore, use biodegradable pens and staple pins.

27/  Reduce the use of non-recyclable materials

Rubber bands are not harmful to humans, but when they end up in the ocean, they can cause a marine catastrophe as small fish and sea creatures can ingest them, leading to their death or poisoning.

28/ Skip printing altogether

Use a tablet to make notes during a meeting and share e-copies of any announcement that you wish to convey in your office. Avoid printing and sticking paper posters around the office.

29/ Use electronics on eco-mode

A printer on 'eco-mode' reduces the consumption of toner and paper usage. Ensure employees keep printers and other imaging devices at a default eco-mode.

30/  Re-fill toners and avoid single-use cartridges

Re-filling ink in cartridges reduces the cost by 50% and reduces plastic and other material waste. Avoid single-use cartridges, but if they are used, make sure they are recycled appropriately.

 31/ Start an ethical pantry 

Ethical pantry items ensure that you are not harming the environment while consuming the food. For example, chocolate spread uses a lot of palm oil that drives the destruction of forests and endangers the lives of orangutans, bringing them to the brink of extinction. 

32/  Avoid print marketing

Avoid placing ads in print magazines or producing printed collateral; you can encourage readers to find you online and in e-copy books and magazines.

33/ Get sustainable office furniture

Reduce plastic furniture by using more eco-friendly furniture, for example, sustainable wood. Find suppliers that are transparent about their sustainability practices.

34/  Get small-size desk plants

Employees who like to keep a plant buddy at the desk can be given small indoor plants. It not only keeps the air clean but also soothes the mind of the people around it.

35/  Turn off the taps

Dripping taps cause wastage of water, hence ensure you close the taps once you have used them or install motion-sensitive faucets that only switch on when you move your hand in front of it.

36/  Cut down meeting times

Meetings that run for more extended hours are a waste of energy. Therefore, preparing the meeting schedule in advance and sticking to the stipulated time is the best way to reduce the strain on energy resources.

37/  Get low-flow water aerators

The creative designs of these faucets reduce the amount of water released whilst maintaining a high-pressure of water flow. Over time, you should notice the difference in your water usage.

38/  Use cloth napkins, towels or hand dryers

Reduce the use of paper towels by getting cloth napkins or towels. For frequent use, you can use a hand dryer to dry off your hands.

39/  Use eco-friendly toiletries

Using recyclable tissues, hand wash without harmful chemicals and parabens are a great way to reduce water pollution.

40/  Eco-friendly procurement policy

Procurement managers are responsible for ordering the correct quantity at the right time. They can also look for suppliers who follow sustainable ways of manufacturing and supplying goods.

41/ Create a ‘green team’

Setting up a small team of dedicated individuals that are passionate about caring for the planet can help drive green-initiatives across your business. The 'green team' can be responsible for measuring your progress, and arranging green initiatives for the entire office.

42/  Kick off a campaign like ‘Meat Free Mondays’

To reduce meat consumption, you can ask employees to skip meat on Mondays.

43/  Select a car-free day

A car-free day doesn’t have to be a bad day. You can cycle to work, use an electric scooter or public transport.

44/ Create ‘green competitions’ between teams or other company branches

Once you have a 'green team’, you can compete within departments or other offices. You can also spread awareness by arranging events for offices on the entire floor, including neighbouring offices.

45/ Conduct an energy audit

The facilities management team in your office can conduct an energy audit every month and share a report with you about electricity use.

46/ Encourage staff to measure their carbon footprint

Measuring individual carbon footprint is an autonomous way to be aware of your daily life decisions that increase CO2 in the environment. Trace can help you check your carbon footprint. Click here to get started. As a business it is important to measure and manage your carbon emissions, to learn more about carbon management read more here.

47/ Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters

Each email contributes 0.3grams of CO2. Hence it’s a good idea to unsubscribe from newsletters and emailing lists you do not read.

48/ Walk to work

A ‘walk to work’ campaign is an excellent initiative for people who live closer to the office. You can even get off a stop earlier from public transport or park your vehicle a bit farther than usual and walk a few extra meters to reach your office.

49/ Educate your office guests

The easiest way you can educate people who visit your office on your climate positive approach is to include it in your welcome materials or process. You could even keep a few books on climate change at the reception waiting area.

50/ Xeriscape your gardens

If your office has a small garden, you can renovate it into a xeric garden by introducing drought-tolerant plants, and implementing smart irrigation systems. A xeric garden is a sustainable way of gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation, so is perfect for office spaces.

💡Creating an energy-efficient workspace

Creating a sustainable office also means you need to keep a tab on the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting use and electrical maintenance. Below are a few tips on how you can make your office more energy-efficient.

51/ Turn off the lights

You can save on energy when you turn off lights that are not in use. For example, turning off an 80-watt bulb for an hour can save you 0.08 kilowatt-hours.

52/ Replace incandescent lights with LEDs

Incandescent lights are used in places you might ignore during your office's green initiative. 90% of incandescent and halogen bulb energy is heating, and 10% is light. Light Emitting Diodes (LED) emits less heat and provide more light.  And yes, you can even replace 'Exit’, 'No Entry’ and ‘No parking’ etc. signs with LED lighting.

53/ Occupancy sensors for lights

Motion sensor lighting can quickly turn on and off when they sense a motion along the path. Only then are the lights lit up. These lights can also be set to a dim light mode with no natural light entering the corridor or office.

54/ Work in natural light

Go natural and illuminate your office with large window panels that allow you to work in natural daylight.

55/  Automate outdoor lighting

Many offices have motion sensors and timers that switch off lights at a fixed time during working days. Unnecessary time lags before the automatic switching off of outdoor lighting can lead to a waste of energy and an unnecessary rise in the utility bill.

56/ Clean air ducts

Regular HVAC maintenance can reduce particulate matter circulating in the ducts, providing clean air for the entire office and improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems.

57/ Regular coil maintenance

Heat exchanging surfaces like AC and refrigerators accumulate dirt over time that directly impacts product performance. For example, dirt-filled coils consume higher electricity and age more quickly.

58/  Install a self-adjustable thermostat

Programmable thermostats help in adjusting the temperature based on the cooling and heating capacity inside the office.

59/ Manage the load on your thermostat

A thermostat capacity differs in a crowded office and when the office is left empty on weekends and holidays. Programmable thermostats are an efficient way to resolve this problem.

60/  Lock your office thermostat

To avoid every person who’s feeling cold or hot in the office to keep regulating the temperature on and off, simply lock the settings. This will reduce the waste of energy, and your utility bills.

61/ Reduce heat emitted by electronics

The office temperature can be significantly lowered by using LED bulbs, turning off computers, printers, and meeting screens or projectors. 

62/ Use simple screen savers

Graphic-intensive screen savers use twice the energy required to perform and don’t allow the monitor to change to sleep mode, causing wastage of electricity.

63/ Go for a laptop instead of a desktop

When considering the conversion of kilowatt-hours to metric tons of CO2 pollution, a desktop uses a lot more energy compared to a laptop.

64/ Purchase office equipment based on an energy star rating

Look for energy star rated equipment when shopping for your office such as computers, monitors, printers etc. This enables them to operate efficiently on standby and sleep mode. 

65/ Get a plug load controller

A plug load controller has multiple connections like laptops, printers, lighting, and even desk cooling. Sometimes two or three employees use the same plug load. The user can quickly shut down the systems in one go when the area is unoccupied.

🌎 More ways to make your office more sustainable

66/ Use a low-carbon fleet or offset your emissions

If your company manages a fleet of vehicles or even a single car, you can choose to drive hybrid or electric vehicles that have a lower carbon footprint, and you can offset any remaining carbon emissions.

67/ Offer and encourage an ethical super fund

Consider making your 'default' superannuation fund one that's ethical and environmentally conscious. Ethical super funds prioritise investing in more environmentally conscious companies and don't invest in activities that fuel the climate crisis, reducing their carbon footprint (and that of their members!).

68/ Get creative with procurement of stationery items

Eco-friendly supplies like sprout pens are readily biodegradable. If they lie in a landfill under proper conditions, the sprout at the end of the pen grows into a plant. Therefore, it is a much better option than plastic pens lying waste in landfills, oceans, and other waterways. Similarly, you can use eco-friendly ring binders, bamboo pens, eco-friendly mousepads, etc.

69/ A day for veggies 

If your office provides food services for employees, you can always look for eco-friendly caterers who have a sustainable way of running their catering business.

70/ Find an eco-friendly supplier for your office party

For an office party, you might end up with several suppliers, from food, decor and music. Try to use suppliers who are eco-friendly in their conduct to encourage and support their sustainable business. 

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