Bringing a keep cup in from home for your daily morning coffee may be just the start of creating a green office.
But are there other ways both employees and offices can leave a positive environmental footprint in their day-to-day operations?
According to Integrate Sustainability Owner and Director Belinda Bastow, more employees are becoming aware of why going green in the office can have a positive impact on the environment around them.
“More people are concerned about the environment and the consequences of climate change, so having policies and initiatives that reduce a business’s impact on the environment does improve morale,” she said.
“Employees also like to contribute to things they see a real benefit from.
“These days, workers expect the companies they work for to be profitable – but not at the expense of the environment.”
Reducing your environmental footprint in the office
Ms Bastow said there were a few key aspects an office could put into place to save energy and reduce its environmental footprint.
“To save energy or reduce the environmental footprint in an office, you need to know how much energy is being used, how much waste is being generated, install energy-efficient lighting, make use of natural light and use light sensors,” she said.
As with everything in life, there are small and large-scale ways to get the desired effect, and Ms Bastow pointed out some ways an office could be greener on a larger scale.
“Install solar panels if you own your own building to offset emissions associated with energy use, transition to hybrid or electric vehicles and, if you do have solar panels, install batteries to enable longer renewable energy usage,” she said.
The small ways an employee could make a positive environmental change in the office are important too.
“Use recycled paper when printing is required, adopt electronic record-keeping, set up a recycling station to collect all recyclable waste generated by the workplace and use water bottles and keep cups.”
Support for sustainability initiatives
Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) Head of Projects Holly Taylor said CitySwitch Green Office was a great resource in helping offices implement initiatives to reduce their environmental footprint.
“CitySwitch helps office-based businesses improve their energy and waste efficiency,” she said.
“The free-to-join program helps commercial office tenants around Australia enhance energy efficiency and reduce costs, manage energy price increases and mitigate business risks, work towards a carbon-positive future, reduce waste and improve the health and productivity of employees.
“In addition, office-based businesses can read Navigating a dynamic energy landscape: A briefing for office-based businesses by CitySwitch and EEC, which helps offices understand the energy landscape for businesses, identify energy management opportunities, understand the most common opportunities, take action and find relevant support through CitySwitch and other avenues.”
Ms Taylor said the City of Perth also had a program manager who could offer environmental support to office-based businesses.
Reaching environmental targets
Environmental targets are in the paper daily, but they may be too focused on the greater outlook of the country and not on what an office can implement.
So, what are some achievable targets an office can put in place?
Ms Taylor said there were a few long-term plans an office could integrate into its day-to-day to help reach an environmental target.
“Science-based targets involve more than being certified carbon neutral by purchasing offsets – they require organisations to implement energy efficiency, procure renewable energy and reduce emissions,” she said.
“The easiest way for office-based businesses to reduce their energy consumption is by getting a National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) Energy rating.
“Once offices have a NABERS Energy rating, they should set targets for improvement, have an action plan to achieve those targets and have regular performance reviews and annual reporting to management and the organisation as a whole.”
Ms Bastow also identified a few different ways an office could implement environmental targets while promoting and staying green.
“Establishing a purchasing strategy and a carbon dioxide emission reduction strategy, as well as undertaking a waste minimisation and energy audit, can all help companies reach environmental targets,” she said.
“Another option is to implement a plan to transition out of high-energy usage equipment, move to renewable energy solutions and transition to low or non-carbon vehicles.”
Creating a healthy workplace
It is just not the environment that is healthy when you work in a green office, but the employees as well, with Ms Taylor saying there are a couple of factors in creating a healthy workplace.
“CitySwitch participants regularly report working in an office that cares about sustainability improves the workplace culture,” she said.
“There are two factors reported time and again – improved productivity from better lighting, temperature and ventilation and better staff engagement with management’s priorities mirroring those of their employees with regards to sustainability and climate change.
“These two factors support staff retention and productivity.”