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Green Office Ideas: 14 Ways to Make Your Office More Sustainable

July 11, 2022 | by
Reviewed by real estate expert Jonathan Tootell

Bright fluorescent lights, printers running nonstop, A/C on full blast — It’s no wonder the workplace has gotten a bad rap when it comes to eco-friendliness. But here’s the good news… more and more companies are actively taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints and become more sustainable. You can too!

Going green doesn’t have to be difficult or costly. There are a number of quick and easy ways to make a considerable difference. Here are 14 green office ideas to help jumpstart your journey towards sustainability.

1. Go digital

The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year, and 45% of this paper gets tossed in the trash at the end of the day.

Even though we are living in the digital age, paper continues to have a hold on our everyday work lives. Thanks to the abundance of digital storage options, companies can easily take steps to reduce their paper usage; this is not only good for the environment, but also for business operating efficiency. From paperless billing to digital filing systems, consider all the ways your business can replace paper with digital processes.

2. Purchase green office supplies

Businesses need a lot of stuff in order to run effectively – paper, coffee, ink, lightbulbs… and the list goes on. When purchasing supplies for your office, start by evaluating what you already have in order to avoid over-purchasing. Then, where applicable, consider high-quality products with a long service life to help limit waste and ultimately, save money. From refillable pens to reusable notebooks and staple-less staplers, the options are endless!

3. Start a recycling program

An office recycling program is a great way to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to local landfills. Start with an audit of the garbage that is accumulated in your office to determine how much of the waste is recyclable. This will help you identify the parameters for your recycling initiative and get a sense of how many recycling bins you’ll need.

Make it easy for employees by arranging recycling bins in prominent locations around your office, including near desks, printers, garbage cans, as well as in break rooms. Clearly communicate what items are recyclable, and what your recycling goals are as an organization. Incentive programs are a great way to motivate your employees to meet those goals and reward their efforts.

4. Boost natural light

Studies have shown that maximizing natural light in an office space can dramatically improve employee productivity and overall well-being. Not only does natural light provide many benefits to employees, it can also help save on energy consumption and electricity costs.

In addition to optimizing natural light, consider switching to LED lighting. Not only do LED lights require less energy, but the bulbs last up to six times longer than alternative lighting options.

Motion sensors and timers are a great way to prevent unnecessary energy from being used. Oftentimes, lights are left on in unoccupied conference rooms and offices. Motion-activated lights can detect when a space is occupied, which triggers the lights to turn on and automatically shuts the lights off when a space is unoccupied.

5. Explore renewable energy options

Some office buildings have undergone significant upgrades to increase their sustainability by installing onsite renewable energy systems. Solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, hydroelectricity, and biomass — these sustainable investments significantly lower an office building’s carbon footprint. SquareFoot can help you find office buildings in your city that have taken steps towards a more sustainable future by implementing renewable energy systems — just fill out the form at the bottom of this post!

Solar panels used by an office building to harvest energy

An office building using solar panels to harvest energy.

6. Practice sustainable printing habits

Despite the push to become more digital, companies will always need and use printers. So, if you’re going to be printing, here are a few best practices to follow:

  • Opt for recycled printing paper
  • Always use refillable ink cartridges
  • Print double-sided whenever possible
  • Only print pages you need
  • Reduce font size to consolidate pages
  • Print in black and white

With a little bit of thought and a few small adjustments, creating eco-friendly printing habits is an easy way to conserve energy and reduce waste.

7. Turn it off at night

Be intentional about turning off electronics, lighting, and even adjusting the HVAC at the end of each work day. There is no need to burn energy if you’re not burning the midnight oil. You can make it quick and easy to power down electronics by using power strips throughout your office space. Designate team members to inspect the office at the end of the day to ensure you’re not using unnecessary energy.

8. Monitor heating & cooling

All too often, offices are over-cooled during the summer or over-heated during the winter. Small changes in the set thermostat temperature can not only create a more comfortable workspace environment (nobody wants to sit in a furnace or a freezing office!) but can also reduce your overall energy use. The Department of Energy & Environment recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees during office hours and 85 degrees after office hours during the summer months. During the winter months, they recommend a temperature of 68 degrees when the office is occupied, and 60-65 degrees when the office is unoccupied.

In addition, it is important to perform regular maintenance to your HVAC system to ensure it runs efficiently. This improves your air quality, helps distribute air more evenly and steadily, and cut down your energy usage and your energy bill.

9. Encourage eco-friendly commuting

Transportation accounts for 27% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Carpooling, walking, biking, or taking public transportation to work are great ways to reduce commuting emissions. Encourage employees to explore alternative commuting options by making it easy and convenient for them. Try setting up a carpooling system where people can sign up to pick up coworkers on certain days or provide bike-friendly infrastructure at your office, such as bike racks or storage rooms. Implementing a commuter incentives program is a great way to reward your employees for leaving their cars at home!

10. Introduce office plants

Not only do plants help bring life to an office environment, but they also work to improve air quality within your office space by releasing oxygen and absorbing airborne pollutants. The benefits don’t stop there — studies have shown that office plants can help reduce stress, increase productivity, improve your mood, and more. Read about a few of our favorite office plants that require minimal upkeep, thrive indoors, and provide unmatched health benefits.

11. Opt for sustainable office furniture

Purchasing sustainable office furniture may seem like a large upfront expense. However, it may save you money in the long term. Sustainable furniture has a much longer lifespan than ‘fast furniture’ products that are used for a few years and end up in a landfill. Look for items made from recycled materials, repurposed pieces of furniture, and pieces that can be easily maintained to lengthen the lifecycle of the item. Steelcase, Herman Miller, and Knoll are just a few brands that provide quality-focused and sustainable office furniture options.

12. Upcycle old office furniture and equipment

At some point, it will be time to replace your old office furniture. With sustainability in mind, here are a few things you can do with any unwanted items.

  • Give them to employees: Allow employees to take home furniture and electronics that are no longer needed. This is a great way to give items a second life and help employees equip their home offices.
  • Donate: Give back by donating gently-used office furniture and equipment to non-profits, community centers, schools, and other organizations.
  • Repurpose: Consider how you can repurpose an old item to update a space in your office. Sometimes, finding a new use for an old piece of office furniture or equipment can zhuzh up your space and improve overall office functions. If you’re looking for a way to repurpose unused office desks, consider clustering them together to create a small collaboration area.

13. Use green cleaning products

Whether you clean your office or hire a company to do it for you, you have options! Virtually all standard cleaning products have a green version available for purchase. In addition, numerous eco-friendly office cleaning companies provide alternatives to traditional cleaning methods by using green cleaning products. Environmentally-friendly cleaning products and services prevent the release of harmful chemicals into the environment and help eliminate exposure of these chemicals to the cleaning staff and workers.

14. Get employees involved

Going green is not a one-person job. The key to success is finding ways to get all employees involved, and this starts at the top. Engaging employees and creating an environment that embraces eco-friendly change not only decreases your company’s environmental footprint, but also helps with hiring, morale, and productivity! Here are a few ways to get your team involved:

  • Set monthly green initiatives and employee challenges
  • Volunteer for clean-up or other green events in your local community
  • Host informational lunch-and-learns about sustainable habits
  • Monitor and track your office’s sustainability goals
  • Celebrate your wins

When it comes to office sustainability, small changes can make a huge impact! Over time, you will start to see the rewarding impact of your push towards a more sustainable workplace.

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