champion the green office "new normal"

champion the green office "new normal"

Tracey Banks

Businesses generate more than 31 million tonnes of waste every year in England and it's estimated that UK businesses could save up to ten’s of £ billion per year by improving the way they use resources. Is it time for businesses to view rubbish as a resource? Recycling is often cheaper than sending to landfill. Reducing or reusing can save even more money.

If you are interested in green issues and convinced that more could be done in your office to reduce environmental impacts then become a self-appointed Green Champion!

Green Champions are often people who are passionate about climate action and sustainability in their home lives and who see an opportunity to boost action in their work.

They help to promote sustainability initiatives in their workplace, engaging other members of staff and acting as a point of contact for those wanting to take green action. For some organisations, there is an established Green Champion role, but for others this can be less formal or is still to be initiated. Anyone can be a Green Champion, and an organisation can have lots of Green Champions. The most important thing is that you want to create change to improve your organisation’s environmental impact.

Get to action

1. form a Green Team

Pooling the experience of a group to form a Green Team can help spread the burden and bring new knowledge and energy to maintain progress with the environmental programme. Start with a simple email asking for Green Team volunteers, Try to have a diverse composition of your team – a range of people, experience and expertise.

2. focus on specific projects

Think big and start small: start with small and positive changes where you can recognise the impact you’re having, or where your scope is clearly defined.            

3. carve out dedicated time

Climate change is challenging, and the timescales of change (years, decades) can feel distant when we’re faced with daily or weekly pressures. Setting aside time for green work, you are more likely to be able to move things forward. Consider booking 2 hours in your diary on a Friday afternoon or making a regular ‘Green Monday of the Month’.

4. get support from your senior management

Work with your manager to get support for you spending time on greening your work. If it is part of your annual workplan or professional objectives, you’ll have a stronger mandate to spend time on it.

5. recognise the benefits

Embedding positive climate action in your work can also have knock-on positive impacts for you and your organisation as a whole, meaning it’s time well spent.  For example, in greening your supply chain, you might also identify new, more cost effective or more high quality suppliers; in trying to increase your energy efficiency, you might make your office environment a more pleasant and positive space.

thinking big, starting small

20 quick wins to reduce waste in your business

  • get your green team to brainstorm ideas, raise awareness and motivate staff
  • take a waste audit - supply clear bin bags for waste for a week and see what people are throwing away. Keep it light-hearted - no blaming!
  • start small - after you've done your waste audit, choose one more waste stream you could recycle
  • choose recycled products - such as paper - to close the loop and increase demand for recycled items
  • ask suppliers to take back bulk packaging for re-use
  • provide reusable cups and glasses for staff rather than disposable ones
  • reuse incoming packaging such as boxes for outgoing orders and envelopes for sending internal mail
  • use concentrated cleaning products
  • challenge staff to pack a zero waste lunch rather than going to a supermarket and buying packaged foods
  • ban plastic bottles
  • set all printers to print double sided and switch to draft quality where possible
  • get your business off mailing lists to avoid junk mail
  • use refillable printer cartridges and rechargeable batteries
  • set up a Terracycle brigade for disposable biros and other 'non-recyclable' products
  • start a community garden and compost heap for your tea bags, coffee grounds and fruit cores
  • donate old furniture to organisations such as Green Furniture
  • hold a stationery amnesty - a 'no questions asked' drop off point for staff to return excess stationery
  • recycle mobile phones, toner and printer cartridges and light bulbs for a charity
  • put recycling bins next to printers and photocopiers to serve as a friendly reminder
  • set up a carrier bag sharing point - it saves staff each coming back to the office with a new disposable bag!

going for bigger impact

If you’re looking for an in-depth guide to inform your action plan, take a look at WRAP’s Green Office Guide. The information in this guide covers the common environmental impacts of a typical office. It will help office workers and managers to quantify current practice, and take practical action to reduce environmental impact and costs by improving the use of office resources.

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