Ways to create sustainable work environments at the office and at home

April 08, 2021

As we celebrate Earth Day this month, here are some ideas for creating a more sustainable work environment, for both onsite and remote employees.

Earth Day — celebrated this year on April 22 — reminds us to take positive actions for our planet. As an employer, you can establish eco-friendly measures in the workplace. Even with many employees now working remotely, there are several things you can do for both onsite and remote workspaces to boost your sustainability efforts and reduce your organization’s carbon footprint.

Not sure where to start? Try these tips and celebrate Earth Day year-round.

Solutions for onsite workspaces

Go paperless. Online bill paying, direct deposit payroll, internal and external e-newsletters, online document distribution, and hand dryers in kitchens and bathrooms reduce paper use. When printing is necessary, buy recycled paper, maximize your margins, and print double-sided.

Green the office. In addition to recycling or composting, add plants for better air quality — and reduce waste by feeding them used coffee grounds. You can also donate outgoing furniture, appliances, and materials to local charities or recycling centers and buy Energy Star-approved replacements.

Favor green energy. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, replace frequently used light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs, ensure HVAC systems are efficient, replace heating and cooking systems with all-electric systems, and consider renewable energy sources.

Redefine convenience. During the pandemic, single-use everything has been deemed necessary for health reasons. Eventually, though, you’ll want to remove the single-cup coffee makers and disposable lunch-ware in favor of personal refillable water bottles/cups and washable plates, utensils, and straws. You can also encourage employees to hand wash their own lunch-ware.

Solutions for remote workers

Unplug. Turning off always-on devices like printers when not in use reduces electricity and resulting carbon dioxide pollution. For convenience, remote workers can plug multiple electrical devices into a power strip and switch off the strip when not in use.

Manage supplies. Source locally to reduce the environmental impact of frequent or distant shipping. Avoid unnecessary duplication of electronic devices, which eventually adds waste that’s harder and more costly to process. Provide remote workers with recycled items such as paper and pens.

Encourage data efficiency. Because data storage centers consume huge amounts of energy, it’s important to urge all remote and onsite workers to purge unneeded data regularly, minimize the number of individual and reply-all emails sent, and permanently delete old emails and stored files.

Help them save while they work. A growing number of energy companies and mobile phone providers offer discounts for going green in the home. Research options in your area and share them with your remote workers.

Explore further

For more ways to make a difference, check out the resources box. Just remember that for substantive, lasting change to occur, we all must dedicate ourselves to the effort — even if that means dealing with short-term pain to achieve long-term gains for our planet.