Low-Hanging Fruit for a Greener Workplace

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Reducing the environmental impact of your workplace is good for the plant, and good for your employees. Employees appreciate management’s efforts to be community-minded, and they want to feel they are a valuable component in that effort. There seems to be a growing list of possible improvements for a greener workplace– some of them as intimidating a redesigning the building, and others as simple as adding a new recycling bin in the break room. This post tackles the latter, all that low-hanging fruit that you can easily check off your list to improve the sustainability of your workplace.

Recycle Everything

Your company should already be participating in local recycling programs for paper, glass, metal, and plastic, but you can set procedures in place to ensure batteries, electronic devices, and toner cartridges get into the recycling stream. You can hire contractors to take away the recyclables your municipality doesn’t handle.

Recycling also means composting, so give your employees a place to dispose of food leftovers, and use compostable or recyclable containers and cups in your break room.

People can be lazy (I don’t think I’m just speaking for myself), so make it easier for people to recycle and compost than for them to send their lunch waste to the landfill. Small nudges, such as rearranging the break room or contributing friendly reminders can make a big difference.

Encourage Environmentally Friendly Commuting

Businesses can help reduce traffic in their communities by making it easier for employees to leave their cars at home. Something as simple as a ride-share program that rewards the users (perhaps with free parking for the one car that brings two or more people to work) are not hard to implement. Larger businesses that have the resources can provide bike lockers and showers for their employees, who may happily switch to cycling to work when it’s made easy and convenient.

Another option is to make a game out of it.  Create a contest that rewards employees who most significantly reduce their carbon footprint, through public transportation or biking.

Manage Paper

Businesses are a long way from being entirely paperless, but they can still have an impact on the amount of paper used every day. You can make simple changes, like setting all printers to double-sided printing as the default, or slightly more involved changes, such as providing copiers that can both scan and email. And don’t forget to have procedures in place to ensure all that paper gets recycled once it is no longer needed!

To reduce reliance on paper even more, institute a company-wide policy mandating digital copies of everything: email, presentations, documentation, forms, and files. Remember the “lazy people rule”, so make it super easy for people to create and share these digital documents. Soon it will become the default.

If you run out of ideas, grab inspiration from others! The headquarters of National Geographic in Washington, D.C. is a great example to get you started. Or, let employees tell you what they need to reduce waste by send out a quick survey that asks everyone “What could we do to make our culture more environmentally conscious?”

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