How To Green Your Office

Are you doing everything in your capacity to transform your office into one that strives to protect the planet? Do you even know where to start?

Willing to put in the effort? Well we’ve got the guide!

Take a look at our step by step approach to help you on the journey to be a more sustainable office.

Get the ball rolling

Read and share this guide

Do you talk about sustainability with those in your office? You should! Talk to them about the importance of becoming sustainable and why your office is going this route. Share this guide with them so they can start to get an understanding.

Conduct an audit

Once you’ve read this guide, you’ll have an idea of areas where you can make changes. Assess your own office and make a checklist of the things you are already doing right and the areas where improvement and change is needed.

Brainstorm

Get together with your team and get everyone on board. Brainstorm ideas and give everyone the chance to put their ideas on the table. Discuss potential ways you could go about implementing your plan to become more sustainable. It’s not always possible to do it all at once, so coming up with a gradual plan and checklist can help you achieve success over time.

Track and measure

This is not an absolute must – but we highly recommend it. Measuring and tracking your progress really helps in the long run to see if the things you do to be more sustainable are actually working. The great things is, it is easily doable to track your progress by measuring your water and energy consumption and even your waste.

We track our water usage by taking a water meter reading and have installed meters to monitor our electricity. We also weigh our waste weekly using a small scale.

Start saving water

Install low-flow fittings

Install affordable water-saving devices to decrease consumption, such as flow reduction valves and faucet aerators.

Use less water when you flush

By placing a toilet stop, brick or filled bottle in toilet cisterns, you will displace the amount of water used after every flush. (Being in an office of sustainability professionals living in Cape Town, we are also comfortable to let it mellow if it’s yellow – try it if you haven’t already 😉

Wash up efficiently

We recommend purchasing a sink-sized bucket/container to place in your kitchen sink to collect water. This water can then be used first when washing dishes before needing to run fresh water. Once the bucket is full, it can even be used to flush toilets.

Fix leaks

Incentivise your team to report leaks and try ensure that they are fixed immediately. Leaky / dripping faucets can waste thousands of litres a year.

Get creative

Depending on your own unique situation, there may be ways that you can find water-saving solutions by thinking a little out of the box. We, for example, have detached our basin pipes in order to collect any water that is used to wash hands to flush the toilet with. This water is collected in buckets under the sinks:

Address your procurement

Buy earth and human friendly cleaning products

The majority of cleaning products on the market have nasty chemicals and ingredients that are bad for both humans and our water sources. Look to buying biodegradable and natural alternatives.

Buy in bulk

Buy your earth and human friendly products in large dispensers that can get refilled. This will save on packaging and money. In our office we also offer our employees the ability to pay and stock up on cleaning products for their own personal use by bringing their own jars.

Look for sustainable alternatives

Whether it be when buying staff or client gifts, new computers, printers or kitchen appliances, always look for the most sustainable alternative. Consider energy saving credentials and do a bit of research before buying something new.

Get your waste in order

Do your Research!

We recommend selecting a recycler and then engaging with them and asking questions. Why? Because it is important to understand what they do and do not take and what tips they have for you and your team to recycle better. Especially when it comes to different kinds of plastics. (sadly they’re not all recyclable)

Postwink has an extensive list of who to contact to manage your recycling and food waste if you live in South Africa and Namibia. This is a great place to start.

Already have a recycler? Give them a call or send them an email and get informed.

Separate!

Implementing split bins is an essential part of managing your waste. It is incredibly important to, at the very least, separate wet waste (food etc) and dry waste so that recyclables such as paper do not become contaminated.

There are many ways to separate waste and there really is no silver bullet approach. We’ve outlined a few approaches below. We recommend selecting one that fits with your business or contacting us to help you select the right approach for you.

Here is what we do:

We have separate bins for

  • White paper
  • Mixed recyclables (glass, metal, cardboard/other paper, recyclable plastic)
  • Food waste
  • Ecobricking (we’ll get to this later)

Here’s what some of our clients do:

For our smaller clients we recommend that they separate their waste in the same manner as we do. For our bigger clients, who have space and capacity, we recommend increasing separation to be more specific. Why? Because the more you separate at source the higher the recycling rate will be.

Some of our clients have separate bins for the different recycling streams such as glass, metal, paper and plastic. One of our greenest clients, has a waste area so big they have their own sorting area where all recyclables are separated into their different streams and even different types of plastics are sorted into different bins.

Reduce plastic and packaging

Think about making your workplace a “Big-four-free zone.” That means: no plastic packets, no plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups or straws.

In our office we also have a small station at the exit which has reusable company-use shopping bags and produce bags that can be taken to the store when people want to buy lunches.

Utilise signage and other communications to encourage your team to address their plastic-use and use reusables whenever possible. If you have an on-site cafe or canteen, encourage employees to bring their own containers as opposed to using disposables.

 

Manage your organics

We collect our organic waste in the kitchen to feed our beloved worms in our worm farm, as well as decompose our organic waste in bokashi bins to create a nutrient rich compost.

If you find yourself in an office block or workspace that is not conducive to creating your own compost, get in touch with a company like ZTL Organics who can provide bins and collect it for you and help you do it the right way.

Ecobrick

Ecobricks are “plastic bottles packed with plastic to a set density to create a reusable building block.” These have been used to build schools and homes around the world. Consider giving each person an ecobrick at their desk or workstation to contain any non-recyclable soft plastics and little nasty bits like pen lids.

Once you have a number together, find a nearby drop off station or initiate your own building project as part of your community outreach.

Reduce your energy use

LED’s

Swapping out traditional incandescent lights with LED light bulbs can save a significant amount of energy.

Skip the heating and cooling

Is it getting hot in your office? For those whose jobs don’t require the suited-up attire, encourage your team to go the eco route and opt for 100% cotton garments, or wear summer wear and loose-fitted clothing to work in the warmer months that allow for more airflow.

Feeling chilly? Rather than switch on the heater, encourage your team to use a blanket. Plus, the energy used to warm up things like hot water bottles and microwaved happy huggers will still use less energy (and water) than an entire heating system being switched on.

Optimise kettle usage

If you need to purchase a new kettle, purchase one that has temperature control. This way you can reduce the amount of energy used per use. Encourage everyone to only boil as much as is needed and place a small flask next to the kettle to keep any extra water warm for the next user to check before boiling again.

 Use Plug timers and switch off when not in use

Plug timers can be fitted to plugs to ensure that they are switched off after a certain time. You can also use signage to remind your employees to switch off their screens, their computers or the lights if they are the last to leave.  

Encourage Carpooling

Not quite energy – but you get to save on fuel, and make friends!

Carpooling is a fun and fuel-efficient way to save on carbon emissions as an office. By encouraging employees to simply group lifts to work based on where they live, fuel consumption can be easily minimised, plus colleagues will bank in on some out-of-office time with one another and potentially get to know each other on a different level!

Engage Employees

Put together a team of eco-champions

Put together a small team of people to run with the environmental programme. It doesn’t mean that everyone else can sit back and relax, but having a small team of passionate individuals to drive the change will help things move smoother and more swiftly. One or more person can take charge of a certain area of sustainability, be it water, energy, waste, procurement etc, in order to streamline the process and ensure all areas are addressed.  If possible, empower your team to propose a budget to finance for changes that need to be made in each quarter.

Communicate

Use strategically placed signs to help your team remember to help on your sustainable journey. This could range from posters on how to recycle to remembering to switch lights off, save water or each time a new intervention has been put into place.

Give eco-champions the ability to organise eco-team meetings to plan and the space to address the rest of the workforce through meetings, email communications and a notice board/TV screen.

Engage your team by taking part / communicating about environmental days and initiatives such as Plastic Free July, Meatless Monday, World Ocean Day etc.

Incorporate Sustainability into Training

When organising any kind of training for employees, don’t forget to include sustainability on the agenda. At transparenCI we offer training and workshop programmes to help employees understand sustainability and to assist in implementing the process.

Are you ready to go green?  

Never forget that sustainability is a journey, not a destination! Take it step by step and you will be sure to see positive change over time! If you are interested in taking the next step and implementing greener practices but think you may need some help – get in touch. Our door is always open.  If you have any further questions on how you can go green as an office space, or would like to organise a workshop or training session feel free to get in touch with us at: hello@transparenci.co.za