6 Ways to Encourage a Greener Workplace

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Every day should be Earth Day. Here are a few ways to encourage your employer to boost their focus on sustainability, conserve energy, and reduce their environmental footprint.

No individual change their lifestyle enough to stop climate change alone — no matter how many single-use plastic shopping bags, straws, or plane rides we opt out of. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

And if you’re inclined to try at all, also get together with your coworkers and talk to your employer about things your company can do to reduce its environmental footprint.

I say this because the built world is responsible for some 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and changes at a high level can make a big difference. Here are 6 things to propose to your employer that will help your workplace put the planet first.

1. Switch to sustainable web hosting

The environmental impact of a web hosting service might not make the list of ways you’re reducing the environmental footprint of your own household, but at a larger company, it makes a big difference.

Data centers have massive central processors and tons of drives that use tons of energy. On top of that, this infrastructure generates enormous amounts of heat, requiring energy-intensive cooling systems. It all adds up: According to calculations by Web Neutral Project founder Jack Amend, powering the average website produces 4,500 pounds of CO2 a year — about the same as driving the average new car for more than 10,000 miles. 

The good news, there are green web hosting companies that make it their mission to slash that footprint. For example, GreenGeeks out of California designed its platform for maximum energy efficiency, and for every amp it pulls from the grid, the company says they invest three times that in the form of renewable energy via Bonneville Environmental Foundation. That’s even better than carbon neutrality.

For some examples, check out TechRadar’s best of 2022 list. If your employer is looking for ways to be more sustainable, web hosting is one place to start.

2. Print fewer documents

If your company isn’t digitizing the majority of its documents, now’s the time to start. Cut back not only on the paper used, but on the energy and resources it takes to maintain and power printers. Good news — there are companies devoted to sustainable cloud storage, too.

3. Say no to single-use containers

We use an estimated 16 billion disposable coffee cups every year, and, often enough, these go straight to the landfill. According to Greematch, the toll of all this paper, plastic and styrofoam for these lids, sleeves and stir sticks usurps 6.5 million trees, four billion gallons of water, and enough energy to power 54,000 homes.

Remember the last time you worked at home, and you skipped out on all that single-use paper and plastic for your coffee and lunch breaks? Try bringing that habit to the workplace — and encourage your company to help make it company-wide.

If your office or shared flexible workspace doesn’t stock reusable kitchenware and mugs in their workspace kitchen, chat with the community manager there and see if some ceramic mugs by the coffee and tea stations are possible — they’ll cut back on what goes into the landfill. 

4. Turn off the lights

Here’s something you don’t see often: a skyscraper in the nighttime skyline with no lights on. Think of all the energy a building could save by turning off lights and cranking down heating / cooling systems when they’re not in use.

Talk to your employer about motion light sensors in the restrooms and other spaces that don’t need lights on all the time. Set policies that have employees turn off their desktop computers and monitors at the end of the day. If your company really wants to get greener in this department, and they’re saddled with an outdated building they plan to hold onto, they can look into Low-E glass for windows, update their HVAC system, and install modern, energy efficient appliances. 

Meanwhile, companies that use workplace management solutions (yes, like Upflex) to understand the actual workspace needs of the workforce and trim the real estate footprint in response to the need — or even cut the HQ altogether and opt for shared workspace — are going to see serious savings when it comes to their energy usage.

5. Cut commutes 

During lockdowns around the world in 2020, levels of pollutants from car exhaust were dramatically decreased. In London in May of 2020, levels of NOfrom car exhaust had dropped by as much as 40% decrease.

Companies whose workers all drive some distance to the office every single day have a huge carbon footprint compared to those whose workers have the flexibility to pick a workspace close to home. 

6. Use sustainable products

Printer paper, shipping supplies, cleaning products, even furniture — anything your company’s stocking to keep everyday business running, there’s likely a greener option. Ask your employer to look at ways to make its everyday shopping list more sustainable.

Make every day Earth Day

There are more, and bigger, ways to make the workplace greener — these are just a few ways to start. But if you’re making a case to your employer on any of these points, remind them that it benefits them too: Conserving energy cuts costs. And there are acquisition and retention benefits too. Studies show that younger talent, especially, wants to work for companies that prioritize sustainability. In one recent Fast Company survey, three quarters of millennials said they were even willing to take a smaller salary to work for an environmentally responsible firm.

There’s strength in numbers — get together with your like-minded coworkers and make a case for a more sustainable workplace.