The corporate office can be a cluttered, single-use plastic, paper filled black hole. Stacked up piles of admin in plastic trays, printed emails and presentations, single-use free pens from countless conferences, plastic wallets to hold paper documents we read once two years ago. The waste goes on and on.
With home working, you are now in charge of your working environment so start with a green workspace to keep a clear mind and conscience.
It is possible to achieve a low waste office with a bit more research and bit more searching. Here’s a few tips to help:
1. use existing second-hand items
Second-hand shops can be a goldmine of useful materials. By extending the life of existing products like used ring binders or plastic folders, we can at least save them from landfill and give them a second life. Try giving a second life to old desks from second-hand shops.
Approximately 1.4 million desks and 1.9 million office chairs are thrown away in the UK alone. Some end up in landfill and others end up here.
Recycled Business Furniture in High Wycombe, Bucks has over 3,700 chairs and 3,200 desks in stock, as well as meeting room furniture, storage and other items.
2. eliminate paper sources
Sign up for paperless billing and statements where possible. Stop using sticky notes. There are a range of virtual note-taking apps and programmes you can use. Try Google Keep, Bear, Simplenote or Milanote and Paper for more visual thoughts. Evernote and OneNote are good for more comprehensive note-taking. Or if you can’t let go of the physical article – try a mini whiteboard notebook from GreenBook.
3. buy reusable stationery
Hundreds of different types of trees can go into making just one single piece of paper.
According to the WWF, illegal logging around the world means that wood for paper manufacturing can come from precious forests in the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Indonesia.
We also rely heavily on single-use items like plastic sellotape, pens and staples that don’t easily rot down in a landfill. Use these existing items to the end of their life, then recycle, but replace with sustainable and reusable items.
Try stainless steel pens and lead pencil holders. You can readily find binders which are made from recycled paper in many high street stationers. Or try Remarkables for recycled pens or Undercover for long lasting recycled leather binders
4. buy compostable stationery
We are talking about recycled notebooks that are not wrapped in plastic, or pencils without rubbers. There are even recycled notebooks, like the Decomposition Notebook which is manufactured using captured methane gas and printed with soy ink. You can even get highlighter pencils instead of plastic highlighter pens. Or Sukie notebooks from rescued paper.
Look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper goods. This ensures that it is sourced from sustainable and legal forests. Or try bamboo products – bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet and highly sustainable.
5. stop printing
Some of us will still print documents in order to proof-read or share in meetings, but is that really necessary? Presentations can be shared virtually, and even via Google Meet or Adobe. If you do receive paper documents that need to be shared – scan them and email them. Even note taking no longer needs to be on expensive paper notepads. There are loads of electronic note apps that sync across Mac, PC, iPad, Android and iPhone. Try Evernote, Simple Note or Google Keep. Your to-dos can also be electronic using Wunderlist, Google Tasks, Microsoft To Do, Ike, Todoist, Habitica, or a project management tool like Click-Up or Trello.
If you really have to print, set to automatically print on both sides of the paper when printing documents and buy recycled or refillable ink. There are a number of companies that provide this service inkfactory and inkexpress.
Also, try typing your documents in ryman eco font – “an environmentally sustainable typeface that uses 33% less ink than standard fonts.”
6. buy refurbished computers not new
We live in a culture where were are constantly required to buy the latest and newest model - made to believe that if we don’t we risk becoming obsolete and missing out on must-have features of the latest technology.
In reality, computers can last up to 12 years, with a bit of love and attention. Companies like SecondLife-IT take ex-lease business computers and fully refurbish them, often replacing and upgrading components, re-spraying and thoroughly testing to make them as good as new. By buying refurbished you avoid the purchase of a new computer, which in turn reduces carbon production and the use of toxic and over-resourced materials.
7. stop buying new books
The library is an incredible source for books and magazines – but is often underused by adults. Even if you can’t find the book you are looking for you can often request it and many libraries now operate an e-lending service for you to download and read the latest ebooks. eBay and Amazon Marketplace also have a plethora of second-hand books, often in great quality.
8. change your tea and coffee habits
There's no place for takeaway cups in your home office – avoid the temptation of shoe horning this old routine into the new (if you do take a reusable cup!). But now that home consumption of daytime hot drinks is sure to be on the rise, look to buy better. Try buying loose leaf tea, or plastic-free tea bags, without the plastic packaging and get into the habit of brewing in a reusable teapot. For coffee drinkers, buy ethical brands with certifications to feed the caffiene habit.
9. buy plants
Plants not only look attractive, but they can help purify the air – removing bacteria, dust particles and mould. Even a cactus or succulent will produce tiny amounts of oxygen to help balance your office. Or why not get free plants? Spider plants can produce several babies a year. Simply cut them off and put them into a glass of water. Once you see some healthy roots appearing, pot them up and water with rainwater. Share with friends and family to spread your newfound eco enthusiasm.
10. go for greener paints
If you are looking to repaint your home office, look for “greener” paints that emit less chemicals into your space and don’t contain harmful pigments, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds. Water and latex-based paints are generally better for your health and the environment.
11. reduce e-waste
Take any electronic equipment to a registered recycler. You can find your nearest recycling centre on your local council’s website and lots of supermarkets and large stores have boxes you can drop your used batteries into.
12. eco light bulbs
Switching to LED light bulbs can be a massive energy saver. Although they cost more than normal bulbs, there is a long-term cost and environmental benefit plus the new generation of smart bulbs mean you can turn lights on with an app or even your voice!
13. go on standby
You can even buy a computer standby button that puts your computer to sleep instantaneously – saving electricity.
14. use renewable energy
Look at your home energy supplier and if not already, switch to green energy to power your home & home office.
15. remove the bin
This is a fiendish tip – but it is one that will really help change your outlook and force you to look at what you are throwing away. Rubbish doesn’t just disappear when you throw it out. By removing the bin from your office you can assess what waste you are still creating and whether it can be eliminated.
Afraid we can't help out with clearing your inbox or in-tray! Just remember, you're the boss of your home office environment, so when you are next stocking up on office supplies make sure you consider the 5+1Rs. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot and REFURBISH!