Everyday sustainable tips for the office

Most people think about the environment at home – even if it’s just to keep the general waste bin from overflowing before collection day – but at work it’s easy to overlook those same concerns, and can sometimes seem hard to change our behaviour to benefit the environment.

Here are five very simple everyday sustainable tips for the office that shouldn’t need a change in company policy (although that might help to make sure everybody joins in).

1. Think, don’t print!

It’s almost a cliche to see the words “please think before printing this email” in somebody’s email signature, but it’s still good advice in terms of sustainability.

Many offices have a policy to print on both sides of paper before throwing it away, or to use old print-outs as scrap for handwritten notes.

But it’s even better to avoid printing at all – and a further related tip is to use draft print quality on documents that don’t need to be high-quality, as this will save on ink or toner too.

2. Switch it off

Too many offices run on an ‘always on’ basis for everything from the ceiling lights, to the air conditioning, to the IT equipment.

If you can – and management don’t object – switch things off when they are not in use, and if you are at management-level, you might want to look into motion detectors to activate lights, and so on.

3. Dress for the best

Smartly dressed man waiting for the train

Another tip for management is to consider a more relaxed dress code, so employees can throw on extra layers in winter and cooler clothes in summer, and avoid using the heating or air conditioning so much.

This makes it more likely that individuals will feel comfortable – rather than relying on everyone liking the same air temperature, which can be hard to maintain in an open-plan space anyway.

On an individual level, just do your best within the limits of your company dress code, rather than being tempted to crank up the heating or air conditioning and use energy that could be avoided.

4. Work from home

Many – if not most – office jobs can be done remotely, and in the UK employees have a legal right to ask their employer to consider flexible working conditions.

If you can work from home, you’ll save on the carbon emissions of your commute, and your employer may save on some of their overheads too – they might even be able to downsize their premises if the entire workforce can eventually be based remotely.

5. Make your own coffee

We’re not suggesting you grow your own beans in a corner of the office or anything, but if you can bear to drink instant and there’s somewhere to plug in a kettle, do it.

The absolute best instant coffee costs a fraction of buying it from a coffee shop every day, you’ll have it there whenever you want it, rather than only in the mornings or at lunch, and you’ll save time on going out to buy it too.

Most importantly, the sheer scale of disposable coffee cups – which generally cannot be recycled – is one of the biggest concerns right now, so if you can have yours in your favourite mug at work instead, you’ll be doing your bit to tackle the cardboard cup mountain.

Cups being made in the office