Starting with the simple stuff, and working up to an office overhaul, we go through giving your office a green makeover. Whether you work from a home office, or in an office of 25 people or more, here are some ideas that you can put into practise to make your office a much more eco-friendly place.
Recycling is probably the easiest way to improve your office’s green credentials. To set up an office recycling scheme, you’ll need to set up the infrastructure for collection and storage of recyclables, and then arrange for a recycling collector to regularly collect materials for recycling.
- What to recycle – Offices tend to get through a fair bit of paper, so this is the number one recyclable item in most offices. Cardboard packaging, staff drinks bottles and cans, plastic bottles from cleaning supplies, computer equipment, toner and ink cartridges and CFL lightbulbs can also be recycled. It would be a good idea to provide clear notices for what is and isn’t recyclable to prevent contamination of your recyclables.
- Collection and storage of recyclables – This can be as simple or as complicated as you like. You could use the boxes that reams of paper come in to store paper for recycling (it’s the perfect size) and empty cardboard boxes for other materials. Or you could set yourself up with some nifty recycled cardboard or plastic recycling bins from somewhere like Paper Round, or these ultra-cool cardboard beauties from The Office Recycling Shop.
- Find a recycling collector – Waste Online provides a list of companies who collect recyclables in the Greater London area. If you are based elsewhere in the country, you could try your local council for recycling information.
If you, or you employer, has decided not to recycle because of the confidential nature of your documents, consider the services of a recycling company who handles confidential waste and security shredding.
Recycling is the first step on the ladder to greening your office. The second step is to buy recycled products to close the loop.
- Paper and envelopes – Paperback has a good selection of post-consumer waste graphic printing paper and a choice of over seventy recycled office and letterhead papers, general office papers and envelopes. You’re also quite likely to find the choice of a few types of recycled paper at your local stationery shop. If you don’t, ask them to start stocking recycled.
- Writing instruments – These days you can buy pens made from recycled paper or car parts, and pencils made from recycled plastic vending machine cups or CD cases. My favourite range is from Remarkable, who have a retail and office supplies department.
- Note pads – Again you can probably get these from your local stationery supplier, Pukka Pads does a selection of recycled paper note pads, and Remarkable does a range where the note pads are made of recycled paper and tyres, juice cartons or plastic boxes.
- Business cards, letterheads and marketing supplies – Procure the services of a green printer to make sure that your office stationery is eco-friendly. Mobius and ecoprintingco both offer printing on recycled paper with eco-friendly inks and printing processes.
- Files, folders, binders and storage – You can get recycled versions of most types of archiving and filing systems. A good place to start is The Green Stationery Company.
- Desk accessories – Mouse mats made from recycled car tyres, rulers made from polystyrene packaging or plastic cups, recycled post-its, recycled scissors and stapleless staples are all easily available.
- Printer cartridges – There’s no reason not to buy these recycled, it will save you almost half the price of new cartridges.
- Photocopiers – Ricoh offer completely recycled photocopiers that you can buy from Green Photocopiers (where else!).
- Printers – Brother has a large range of TCO compliant printers, that take into account ecology, emissions, energy and ergonomics.
- Computer equipment – Nigel’s Eco Store sells a very stylish bamboo computer monitor, keyboard and mouse that combine technology with sustainability.
Many conventional cleaning products contain ingredients that are harmful to the environment, and not very good for you either. For the sake of your health and that of the planet, it’s preferable to use natural, biodegradable, non-toxic, environmentally friendly products. You can buy green janitorial products from The Green Stationery Company for your cleaning staff to use. Alternatively, there are some eco-friendly cleaning services around, like Green Mop in Brighton.
Green electricity and energy efficiency
Power your office with green energy. – There is plenty of choice when it comes to green electricity, and you’ll probably find that if you ask your existing supplier, they will have a green tariff that you can switch to.
Be energy efficient around the office by following some simple tips:
- During winter, don’t set the thermostat at higher that 19’C, and make sure it’s on a timer, so the office is not being heated while there’s nobody there.
- Close doors and windows when the heating is on.
- Don’t put furniture in front of radiators.
- Switch off lights in empty rooms.
- Replace traditional light bulbs with low energy lightbulbs.
- Switch computers off when they’re not in use, even during lunch time.
Take it a step further by spending some money on saving energy:
- Install task lighting so that you’re not lighting an entire room when only the work area needs it.
- Install motion detectors to control lighting in infrequently used areas like toilets and storerooms.
- Rewire toilet extractor fans to operate with the lights.
- Paint dark walls in a light colour to make the most of existing lighting.
- Maximise natural lighting by installing skylights, if possible.
- Install weather stripping on exterior doors.
- Insulate exterior walls, either with cavity wall insulation or for solid masonry walls, an insulation layer to be installed either on the inner or outer face of the wall.
Are you redecorating?
- Paint – You can give your office a lick of paint without worrying about harmful vapours given off during application, or even harmful gases given off from the dried coat (as with regular paint). A natural paint such as Livos has both these advantages, as well as the added benefit of having an anti-static effect on the room, reducing dust levels. For more natural paint suppliers, see the EcoStreet directory.
- Floor coverings – For a busy office, a hardwearing eco-friendly floor covering is ideal. Try marmoleum, bamboo flooring or Renewal eco-friendly carpet tiles.
- Re-used/recycled office furniture – Green-Works supplies used and re-made office furniture at very reasonable prices. Why send perfectly good office furniture to landfill? If you are replacing furniture, they will collect any office furniture in any condition. Docklands Used Office Furniture and rbf are other options for good used furniture.
- New office furniture – Wood is a renewable resource, and so solid wood furniture is not a bad choice from an environmental point of view, just make sure that it’s from a managed forest, or made of reclaimed timber. For home offices, John Lewis do a range of eco-friendly rubberwood furniture.
- Office chairs – Steelcase produce stylish office chairs that have received Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which is where energy and resource inputs and outputs are quantified at all stages of a product’s lifecycle. They are continually working to make their furniture better for the environment, cheaper to maintain, and cleaner to recycle than otherwise similar products.
A nice cup of Fairtrade coffee
Last, but definitely not least, is one of the simplest things you can do to make your office practice a little more ethical or eco-friendly, buy Fairtrade and organic coffee and tea. You deserve a nice sit down and a cuppa after all that hard work!