The idea of energy efficiency is nothing new.
For more than 30 years, it’s been talked about and discussed, has become a key priority in building design, a major consideration in workplace management, and part and parcel of any policies to promote a greener workplace. But despite all of the progress in research, acknowledgement and adoption, most workplaces still have room to improve.
The importance of achieving a green workplace is highlighted by the continuing drive that government bodies place behind the subject. The Australian government, for example, already has a dedicated energy ratings system for residential and commercial buildings, and runs a national energy efficiency program, the Commercial Building Disclosure, designed to improve the rating for workplaces and commercial premises in particular.
Support for working in a greener workplace is extremely high too. In fact, the 2013 Sustainability @ Work study gathered opinions on sustainability in the workplace from workers and professionals in Australia, India, China, the US, the UK and Germany. The study found that, In Australia, there was considerable support for a greener workplace through sustainable practices, with:
- 80% agreeing that employees should be actively involved in making working practices sustainable,
- 72% agreeing that companies should prioritise investment in lowering the environmental impact of working practices,
- 68% believing sustainability is everyone’s responsibility, and
- 39% stating the 3 most effective way of reducing carbon emissions from energy use are to:
- Rearrange the office space to make better use of natural light,
- Invest in low energy lighting and on-site renewable energy, and
- Only light a portion of the building in the evenings and on weekends so the whole building is not lit-up for only a handful of people.
Why A Greener Workplace Is Important
The workplace has a real impact on the environment, most specifically in carbon emissions through the use of energy (electricity) and the waste produced. Experts agree that lowering the carbon footprint, therefore, should be a priority.
In 2005, the ESD Design Guide from Australia’s Department of the Environment referred to a 2003 OECD study which revealed that commercial buildings (like offices, retail stores, schools, hospitals and services) were significant contributors to Australia’s carbon footprint, consuming up to 40% of energy and up to 50% of raw materials. Office buildings specifically accounted for 10% of Australia’s urban water demand.
According to a 2010 report from Climate Works Australia, office buildings (and workplaces in general) offer plenty of opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and improve the environment in general. It claims that by 2020, offices will represent about 20% of commercial building energy use (61TWh) and carbon emissions (36MtCO2e) in Australia. But there is an opportunity to reduce total emissions by 58%, with offices accounting for 23% of that reduction (or 3.8 MtCO2e).
So, what steps can you take to make your workplace that big greener? Well, as you’d expect there is no shortage of suggestions out there, but we recommend 6 in particular that will set your office or workplace on its way.
Tip 1 – Reduce, Recycle, Reuse
It is a popular and well-known concept at this stage, but remains one of the most effective ways to make your workplace greener. The principal is that by changing your everyday workplace habits, you can significantly lower the amount of waste that you produce.
The difference can be significant. In 2012, resource recycling company SITA Australia reported that, in 2007, some 5.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard was used in Australia, with 55% of it coming from industrial and commercial sources. Just 2.5 million tonnes were recycled.
It’s an improvement on figures from 2005, when Planet Ark revealed that just 11% of Australia’s office paper was recycled but did reveal that 9,000 businesses were providing over 1.5 million ink cartridges to the Close The Loop recycling specialists over 3 years. The 3Rs office recycling drive has 3 simple steps:
- Reduce the amount of waste you produce at work by using less paper, cardboard, plastic or any other materials that generally end up being thrown out.
- Recycle those products that might be thrown out, being careful to separate plastic types (for example, bottles and their caps, wrapping and packaging, and office machine waste, like ink cartridges), paper, Styrofoam cups, and glass.
- Reuse an item instead of throwing it out every time. For example, drink your coffee from a ceramic cup instead of a Styrofoam or paper cup, and bring a home-prepared lunch in a lunch-box rather than buying a pre-made and packaged sandwich from a deli.
- For idea to achieve this, check out the excellent Resource Smart report produced by the Victoria state government in their Sustainability Victoria website. You could also check out BusinessRecycling.com.au for information and advice on how to get started.
Tip 2 – Take The Paper Free Direction
This is not a new suggestion. In fact, it’s been championed by environment groups for decades, and was first mooted as a feature of the ‘office of the future’ by Business Week in 1975 but 40 years later, the popularity of paper is still high. According to the EPA, every office worker in the US creates about 2lbs of paper products every day, and 90% of office waste is paper. Add to that the carbon footprint created by paper manufacturing waste from ink cartridges, and you see how significant the problem remains.
On the upshot, paper is easy to recycle.
In Australia alone, almost half of the total paper used between 2006 and 2007 (2.5 million tonnes of 5.5 million tonnes used) was recycled. Other interesting benefits highlighted by the EPA is that every tonne of recycled paper (compared to virgin-made paper) reduces energy consumption by 60% in energy consumption, air pollution by 95%, 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water.
Of course, these days, technology has rendered paper far less important, email instead of mail, electronic files sent by email (internal and external) replacing paper memos, faxes and mailed documents. But using computers, tablets and Smartphones more often, and storing documents electronically, would see your office edge even closer to a completely paper free status. For management ideas, check out Taiga’s Slideshare presentation.
Tip 3 – Lower Office Energy Usage Rates
Between lights, printers powered up and ready, computer screens flickering and kitchen items, like fridges, microwaves and dishwashers, the amount of energy used in a typical workplace can be quite high.
According to figures revealed in the 2014 Australian Energy Update report, the commercial sector accounted for 7.6% of the national energy consumption 2013, an increase of over 3% on the previous year. It may seem small, but it translates to 308 PJ (petajoules) – and just 1 PJ is enough to power the city of Adelaide for about 3 weeks.
But it is surprisingly easy to reduce the energy consumed. All you need to do is turn your computer off at the end of the day, and switch it to sleep mode when not being used during the working day. Make sure all lights are off when not needed (like is store rooms) and have a ‘last out’ rule where the last to leave the office turns off the lights. Let as much natural light in as possible, and if lights do need to be on, choose eco-friendly light bulbs.
If you want to know how energy efficient your workplace is, you can have it assessed under the Commercial Building Disclosure Programme, get a rating and receive further advice on what steps to take.
Tip 4 – Eat Eco-Friendly
For many of us, lunch is a welcome break from the stress and frustration of office work. But even during this escape, you can enhance the eco-friendly rating of your workplace. How? By reducing the energy consumed in making your lunch and reducing the waste created by it.
This is a lot easier to do than you might have thought. For example:
- visiting a café or restaurant rather than buying a pre-made sandwich with wrapping to throw away
- ordering a delivery for several people saves on carbon emissions on several deliveries
- bringing your own lunch from home, packed in a reusable container, saves on both waste and carbon emissions
Tip 5 – Opt For A Greener Commute
This might seem like a loose connection to make, but let’s face it: getting to work is as significant a part of a working day as any boardroom gathering. Therefore, how you get to work, and the impact it makes on the environment, has a say in how green your workplace is. According to a survey carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 71% of Australians aged 18 and older, travelled to their place of work or study by private passenger vehicle (car) in 2012. Only 16% used public transport, 4% walked and 2% travelled by bike.
In 2014, social research company McCrindle revealed that those figures equate to almost 6.6 million car passengers, 388,000 travelled by train, 301,000 by bus and 377,000 walked.
Fair enough, you might say, but switching to a more environmentally-friendly mode of transport can have a major positive impact. According to The Garnaut Climate Change Review (2008) on the Benefits of Public Transport, if commuters travelled by train from Wyndham Vale to the CBD, it would mean a reduction of 4.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per person per year.
Other ‘green commuting’ options include car-pooling and taking the bus, but with walking and cycling, genuine health benefits are available too.
Tip 6 – Choose Your Floor Mats Carefully
It’s generally accepted that floor mats are essential for safety and hygiene reasons. Either you have a floor mat with a textile surface that can absorb moisture or have a rubber or plastic floor mat that rises you a few inches above the floor level, and therefore, above the risk of slipping, tripping and falling (STFs).
In the most recent research from Safe Work Australia, STFs accounted for just over 21% of all accidents at work. In terms of hygiene, research has shown that as much as 85% of dirt, debris and moisture that comes off footwear in a workplace is carried in from outside, with 0.58g of moisture brought in with each person and 10-times that on a rainy day. And their contribution to a greener workplace?
Well, with the right choice, a business can make a very serious contribution.
- use of common non-eco-friendly chemical floor cleaning detergent
- recycled materials, the carbon footprint is reduced greatly too
For example, Alsco’s own Evolution Eco Mats use recycled materials in their construction, like PET plastic, and uses special hydrophobic fibre that retain less moisture during the wash. This means a reduction in both the energy and water required to clean these mats.
Full Mat Management Services From Alsco
At Alsco, we understand how important keeping your workforce healthy and safe for everyone. Using natural light instead of electrical light, creating less waste paper and plastic, opting for a cleaner commute and re-usable cups and packaging, are all critical aspects of creating a green workplace, but an equally important component is keeping floors clear of bacteria-carrying dirt and moisture, and avoiding the slipping and tripping that can come with poorly attended surfaces.
This is where we can play a part in making a genuine difference, with an extensive range of mats as part of our dedicated ALSCO Floor Mat Management Service, a service that includes the supply, collection, cleaning and return – all in one.
- Dust Control Mats – captures 80% of dust and grit to help keep floors cleaner
- Wet Area Mats – with anti-microbial properties to reduce the growth of bacteria
- Anti-Fatigue Mats – lightweight, dense rubber that is soft under foot
- Personalised Mats – to help build your company brand
- Message Mats – communicate with your clients and personnel through icons and messages
For more on what a difference Alsco Evolution Mats can make, and the array of product options, simply visit the website link above. You can also fill our online enquiry form, or contact us at 1300-659-892.
A Greener Office Makes for a More Enjoyable Office Image Courtesy: Office Now
Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license