Take a second to picture what resources you use in a typical workday. For most of us, this includes things like paper, pens, water and electricity. The amount you use in one day may seem small, but it adds up over time.
The average American office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper and 500 coffee cups in a year.
Not to mention all the pens, sticky notes and rolls of tape! Reducing waste in the office is one way you can help care for the environment. And it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.
Whether you work from home or in an office, you can create a sustainable office space you love. To help you get started, here are five hacks to make your office more eco-friendly.
1. Bring Fun Into the Process
The need for sustainability is serious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while working toward a more sustainable office space. Finding ways to make sustainability enjoyable helps you make progress and avoid getting discouraged.
Connect With Others
Working towards goals with others gives you a support system. And it can help you keep each other accountable, so you’re more likely to stick to your goals.
If you work in an office setting, chat with coworkers about your plans and see if you can form a sustainability team. If you work from home, try setting goals with friends, family or telecommuting coworkers. Whoever you have on your team, you can share ideas, keep each other motivated and review your progress together.
Link Your Goals to Your “Why”
As you decide on your goals, try to link them back to your “why.” This helps you keep the big picture in mind and stay inspired.
Some examples of value-linked goals are:
- Switch to reusable utensils to keep plastic waste out of landfills
- Use recycled paper to help fight deforestation
- Conserve electricity to lower our carbon footprint and protect the environment
Once you have your support system in place, you’re ready to start giving your office a green makeover.
2. Apply the 5 Rs of Zero-Waste for a Sustainable Office
The five Rs of zero-waste are basic principles for living more sustainably. You can apply them in every area of your life, including your office space!
Here are some examples of how you could apply them:
- Refuse wasteful extras you don’t need, like single-use plastic water bottles and bags
- Reduce your consumption by choosing products with more than one use, simplifying your routine and using resources efficiently
- Reuse items whenever you can, like using the back of printouts as scrap paper
- Recycle by learning what materials your recycling facility accepts and creating a dedicated recycling bin
- Rot by composting fruit and vegetable scraps from meals or biodegradable supplies like pencil shavings
As you start adding these principles into your daily choices, they’ll feel more natural. And you’ll discover new ways to strive for sustainability.
3. Optimize Your Electricity Use
In most commercial buildings, the average electricity use is 22.5 kilowatt-hours per square foot. And in 2021, 60% of the electricity used in the United States came from fossil fuels. Making your office’s electricity use more efficient helps you lower your carbon footprint and save on energy bills.
Switch to LED Bulbs
LED lights cost slightly more up front but help you save money over time. They last 25 times longer and use up to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
You can find LED lights in a variety of colors and wattages. They’re safe to use both indoors and outdoors, even in harsh weather. When you’re shopping for new lighting, look for ENERGY STAR certified fixtures and bulbs.
Use Greener Climate Control
If you live or work in an area with extreme temperatures, climate control can be a major source of energy use. Luckily, there are some simple changes you can make to keep your office space comfortable without using extra electricity.
One key way to conserve energy is to use window coverings. According to the United States Department of Energy, cellular blinds are the most energy-efficient option when installed correctly. Cellular (or honeycomb) blinds are lightweight, easy to use and budget-friendly. They can block up to 80% of heat in summer. In the winter, they can prevent 40% of heat loss when the sun is off your windows.
Two other ways to save energy are air seal your office space to keep hot or cold air from escaping and using a programmable thermostat to conserve power when you’re not in the office.
Conserve With Your Equipment
Equipment is often one of the biggest energy consumers in the office. When buying new equipment, look for products with an ENERGY STAR certification.
Plug equipment into surge protectors and, if possible, shut them down at night. Surge protectors help keep your equipment safe from electrical damage. And turning them off at night prevents wasted energy when your equipment isn’t in use.
4. Choose More Sustainable Office Supplies
From pens to paper clips, waste from office supplies adds up quickly. You can lower your impact by choosing eco-friendly options like:
- Recycled paper made with 100% post-consumer waste
- Refillable fountain pens to help you reduce plastic waste
- Tree-free pencils made from upcycled newspaper
- Refillable whiteboard markers that can be reused again and again
Another way to think green is reusing or recycling paper products like handouts, printer paper or notes. Up to 70% of office waste comes from mixed paper products, so this can make a big difference!
5. Make Your Mealtimes Greener
For many of us, lunchtime is one of the highlights of the day. It’s a chance to take a break, decompress and enjoy some tasty food. With a few quick swaps, you can make your lunch break good for the planet too!
Ditch Single-Use Items
Disposables can be convenient, but they come at a cost to the environment. Most of them are used for only a few seconds before being thrown away. And since many single-use products are made with plastic, they can take hundreds of years to break down.
The good news is that sustainability can still be convenient. Choosing reusable options means you’ll have the products you need on hand. And you don’t have to keep buying replacements!
Get Outside For Breaks When Possible
Sometimes it’s tempting to spend your whole lunch break at your desk. But whenever you can, take a chance to step outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
This helps you reconnect with nature and remember why you want to make your office space better for the environment. And it can make the workday more sustainable for you. Studies show that spending even a short time outside during the day lowers stress and helps you feel a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.
Working Toward a Sustainable Office
When you first start working to make your office more sustainable, it can feel like you’ll never make a meaningful difference. But over time, you’ll be amazed at how simple changes add up. So choose a starting place that works for you and celebrate your small victories.
What are your biggest challenges in making your office greener? Have you already had some “wins” along the way? Share your experiences in the comments!