Good environmental practice is a big part of our ethos at Obelisk Support. We actively promote sustainability in the office and are always looking for ways to reduce our waste and energy consumption. As many of our staff and consultants work remotely and flexibly, these sustainability guidelines apply to home offices too. Small actions go a long way, and we can all do a little more to ensure we only consume the energy and resources we need. As April is Earth Month, here are some of our top tips for simple sustainable practices at work, wherever that may be.
#1 Switch Off When You Are Done
In the office, it is easier to get into the habit of shutting down computers and laptops before we go home for the day. When working at home, it is more tempting to leave them running as we don’t actually leave them behind – besides, we might take a look at something later, right? Switching off when the work is done will also help you manage your time and separate work and home activity, so it’s worth doing for all round well-being.
#2 Make Use of Your Devices’ Energy Saving Settings
We don’t need all of our electrical devices to perform at top capacity all of the time, so eco modes, where they exist, should be set wherever possible. Most of us are probably guilty of not even checking what kind of power saving settings exists on our smartphones as we are so used to being constantly connected, so it’s worth spending a couple of minutes adjusting screen brightness and sleep/overnight modes to conserve a little more energy.
#3 Invest in Smart Outlets
Smart outlets are a good idea for those who often forget to switch off appliances (guilty as charged). Smart outlets allow you to control your plugs remotely, allowing you to switch them off, put on standby and monitor usage throughout your home or office. Best of all, they are relatively affordable per unit and are easy to incorporate into your existing outlets – just plug them in and away you go.
#4 Turn Out Those Lights
Unnecessary electronic lighting is a big problem in many offices, so try to pay a little more attention to ensure lights are not left on when they are not needed on bright days. You may need to reconsider the office layout if lights are having to be used during daylight hours due blinds being closed to combat screen glare. Use LED torch/desk lights for close document reading, rather than turning on multiple room-filling ceiling lights.
#5 Use Recycled Paper and Stationery
Don’t just use recyclable paper, that’s the minimum. Paper can be recycled up to 5 times, and the manufacturing of recycled paper uses less energy, water, and produces lower carbon emissions than non-recycled paper. Recycled paper quality has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and now matches the print performance of non-recycled paper. You can also ‘recycle’ paper yourself in the office – e.g. using shredded paper for package padding, relabelling reusing boxes/envelopes where possible. Take it a step further and switch to recycled toilet paper in the office bathrooms.
#6 Print Prudently
We are thankfully printing a lot less in our digital society, but we can still be more efficient when we are using office printers. Set your printer to print double-sided and in black and white by default to save on both paper and ink. Many printers also allow you to print in draft mode, printing text more lightly with less ink but still enough to be able to read. Reducing print margins will help you print using less paper. You can also purchase recycled toner and ink along with your recycled paper! And when you’re done with your ink cartridges, recycle them at your local recycling center.
#7 Use Wall Signs for Helpful Reminders
Add a few informative and engaging notes in key places in the office to prompt team members and remind yourself what recycling goes where, to turn off switches when not in use and employ good practice for sustainability in the office. Many companies offer specific training on good environmental practices in the workplace. Sustainability needs to be part of the office culture and encouraged daily. Even adding the ethos to email signatures can help cement it in people’s’ minds.
#8 Avoid Disposable Food and Drink Utensils
Meals and break times in the office can create a high volume of waste. If you are a caffeine fiend, take a reusable coffee cup to work or better yet, make it at home in a flask so you won’t have boil the kettle again for your second cup! Ordering food in can present a problem, so it is worth talking to the food supplier to see if they can reduce the amount of packaging that comes with your order. Keep plenty of forks, spoons and cups in the kitchen to avoid people having to use plastic disposable utensils. Provide free (and excellent) tap water instead of buying bottled water. It’s a scam anyway.
#9 Use Sustainability Apps
As well as smart outlets, there are plenty of mobile apps you can use to track your day to day sustainability in the office and for reminders and tips to reduce your consumption, such as Oroeco. Or you can even go a step further and tie your action to broader global goals: The SDGs in Action app has been developed to highlight the UN Sustainable Development Goals – the world’s to-do list to end poverty, reduce inequalities and tackle climate change. The app also enables you to find actions and events near you that you can join to support the goals. and create actions you’re planning in your area, and invite others to join.
#10 Take Part in Government and Community Green Schemes
In the office, as a freelance or remote worker, and as an individual, you can take part in green schemes such as the government’s Cycle to Work Scheme and plastic bottle deposit scheme. The Green Deal can also help you make energy saving improvements to your home or business premises. It is also worth finding out about environmental schemes being run by your local community and how you and your company can get involved.