Creating a Greener Office Environment
Almost every business has an impact on the environment in one way or another. For some businesses they have too much of an impact which is extremely detrimental to our environment. For small businesses it’s easier to be eco-friendly as new internal procedures and management structures can be changed a lot quicker than a larger business. But the benefits for larger businesses are arguably greater, and the impact of such changes are more noticeable. Today’s blog article was inspired by stumbling upon the Kickstarter project ‘Pedal Power – Human Scale Energy for Everyday Tasks’ by Andy Wekin, but we will get to this later.
If the positives of helping ‘save the planet’ isn’t enough of an incentive (which it should be) to take a greener approach to business conducted by your company, then you will be pleased to know there are a vast amount of direct benefits that will affect you, your employees and everything else associated with your business.
How much waste is costing a person’s business is widely underestimated, and one view that might change with the right knowledge and practical application. It is said that you could save between £400-£1000/year for every employee with systematic action. This saving per individual employee could whittle down waste costs (which can be as high as 4% turnover) to just 1% of turnover. Surprisingly this reduction can be obtained with little or no investment at all.
Image courtesy of Jenica via Flickr
Unsurprisingly, paper is one of the biggest contributors to office waste. Much of what an average office worker discards during the working day can actually be recycled, but many workers have a bin next to their desk offering convenience over waste management. By throwing away paper you are throwing away valuable resources. Although paper is a natural resource, the mass production of paper can have grave impacts on the environment due to the loss of natural habitats, water stress, high chemical and energy use in manufacture and the hugely detrimental effects from the landfilling and incineration of paper waste.
It is estimated that the average office worker uses up to 45 sheets of paper per day, of which over half is considered waste. Approximately 70% of office waste in the UK is recyclable (TheGuardian.com, 2008) but only a mere 7.5% of this waste actually reaches a recycling facility. This is astonishing considering that paper can be recycled up to five times which will substantially reduce the negative impacts on the environment that paper production causes.
To help with the process of buying paper, as a rule, you should buy paper with the highest percentage of post-consumer waste (preferably 100%).
Having a visual stimulus to help encourage you to reduce your paper waste might help. Try using the equation below to calculate the annual paper use and cost per person.
Total reams* of paper purchased per year ÷ Number of staff in your organisation = Total paper use (reams/person/year)
Total cost of paper purchased per year (£) ÷ Number of staff in organisation = Cost (£/person/year)
*500 sheets of paper per ream
Tips to reduce paper waste
· Set the office printer to print on both sides of the paper by default.
· Install many recycling bins around the office.
· Use electronic communication where possible to reduce printing and faxing.
· Don’t print out e-mails unless it is necessary.
· Add a “Think before you print” message to the bottom on your emails to encourage others to save on paper waste.
· Avoid over production of marketing materials. Updating distribution lists can significantly help this.
· Reuse envelopes, especially when sending information internally.
· Monitor printing levels by giving employees a personal access code.
· Use thinner paper – thinner paper means using less material for each page.
Energy costs can easily be one of your biggest costs, increasingly so with energy costs still rising while the consumption still remains relatively the same. However, energy can be one of the most easily managed resources within the workplace and can often lead to the greatest reduction in costs.
“Buildings in the developed world consume about 40% of the world’s energy, for heating, cooling, lighting and running equipment such as computers.” (WWP.com, 2013)
When faced with the challenge of reducing your businesses carbon footprint, it can be daunting. You may not know where to start and you could be concerned about the financial implications. But there are simple actions you can take that will cost you little, or nothing at all. Take the fact that leaving your work computer on 24/7 costs £45 per year on average. This cost can be reduced to just £10 if you turn off your computer at the end of a working day. Now multiply this saving by the amount of office computers you have, and you have already saved a sizeable sum.
Cheap tips to reduce energy costs
· Reduce office temperature by 1°C. It’s very unlikely someone would notice and it could save you as much as 10% on your heating bill.
· Set air conditioning to activate only when temperatures exceed 24°C.
· Turn off computers and lighting at the end of a working day.
· Install light sensors for infrequently used areas.
· Close all windows and doors when air-conditioning or heating is on.
· Use natural light wherever possible.
· Activate ‘power save’ feature on office computers
There are also other options to take alongside or instead of the ones mentioned above, but these can be pricier. Although they may be pricier they also could save you large amounts in the long run.
Pricier tips on reducing energy costs
· Solar PV for business. Not only is Solar PV a great money saver, but you could also be financially rewarded by selling off any excess energy you have created and put it back into the gird.
· Install new windows. Some rooms within your building could do with more windows which can not only save you money due to more natural lighting, but it could also boost the morale of your employees.
· Energy Efficient Lighting. Changing all of your lightning sounds like a big job and expensive, but it could save you 80% on your lighting bills.
· Replace appliances such as refrigerators so you only have items with an EU energy rating of A or higher.
Water is a hugely valuable resource that is often taken for granted. Since water in the UK is easily accessible, we tend not to think about how much we are actually using. This can add significant costs onto our monthly bills.
Reducing the amount of water your business uses will of course reduce your water and sewerage charges, but it will also have a positive impact on our environment.
If the trend of using more water keeps rising, water companies will have to develop costly new sources of water which will undoubtedly have a negative effect on your bills.
A quick breakdown of an average office-based businesses water usage
· Toilet flushing 43%
· Washing 27%
· Urinal flushing 20%
· Canteen 9%
· Cleaning 1%
Tips to reduce water usage
· Employee awareness. New and current employees may not consider how much water they use on a daily basis. Introduce water saving information in training and refresher courses.
· Fix dripping taps – 5,500 litres of water per year will be wasted by a dripping tap.
· Install infrared hand sensors on bathroom taps. This will reduce the amount of water used per wash, and prevent any taps accidentally being left turned on.
· Check pipes for leaks – Not only could this lead to significant damage to the building, but they can also rack up expensive bill. It’s advised to contact your water supplier to assist with locating any pipe leaks.
· Before using the dishwasher, make sure it is full to capacity.
· Use control devices on urinals to stop flushing when the building is not in use.
Calculate the baseline of annual water use and cost per person;
Annual water use (m3³) ÷ Number of staff = Water use (m³/person/year)
Water cost per year (£) ÷ Number of staff = Cost (£/person/year)
Pedal Power – Human Scale Energy for Everyday Tasks
Now I would like to go back to what originally inspired me to write this blog article. A few days ago I stumbled upon a Kickstarter project by Andy Wekin and Steve Blood, who were looking for support and funding for their new inventions, The Big Rig and The Pedal Genny.
“With an efficiency of 97%, bicycle technology is nearly perfect. So why do we use it only for transportation?” – Andy Wekin
These pedal powered machines were built to harness the power of a pedal function in order to produce our own power for the use of electronics, home use, and industrial use. Not only would these machines be able to be purchased, but Andy and Steve also plan to offer open source plans and tutorials for all their machines so anyone in world can build them.
These machines offer a huge amount of potential to help us cut down our carbon footprint. There are so many possibilities with this machine, it wouldn’t be surprising if this idea was implemented globally.
This project is very inspiring, and one that I wanted to share with you considering today’s article topic. Do you see these machines as a viable energy saving solution to an office environment? What other activities would you like to use these machines with?