I know what you’re thinking: did I just open an article about sustainability to be told to recycle? I get it, this one seems like an obvious one, and yet! Many companies love the ornamental value of recycling bins, but come night time the cleaning team might not be instructed to actually separate the bags, or the building might not even be equipped with proper disposal bins. Talking with the landlord to first establish exactly what can be recycled and implementing certain directives such as different colored trash bags for different recyclables is sure to help.
Turn off the lights!
Another seemingly obvious suggestion, but hear me out. Many office buildings leave the majority of their lights on during the night. Some have to be left on for security reasons, sure. And of course, late-night cleaning shifts can take place, and they too necessitate light. That doesn’t mean all the lights need to be on all night long. Depending on where you work, start some conversations. Talk with the security team, the cleaning, and maintenance personnel, and find out if they are turning off the lights once they finish working. If you work in a relatively small office, the last one to leave might not be aware they are the last to go, and won’t even think of switching the lights off. Talk to them too! Lights being left on might not be the most riveting conversation topic. But it’s an eye-opener as most people would never leave their homes without turning the lights off, and don’t apply that same habit to their place of work without realizing it. Another option: suggest installing motion-sensor lighting in your office or building.
While you may be hugging trees in your spare time, not everyone will be motivated to help transform your working culture to help said trees. Some gentle nudging in the form of games or challenges can inspire your colleagues to participate. Maybe you’ve noticed it’s a particularly carnivorous office. Maybe you’re concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe the management can sponsor a vegetarian month, with the person having consumed the most vegetarian meals winning a gift card to the local steakhouse. This may seem ironic, but it shows there is no judgment for people’s chosen diets, and, well, it incentivizes. In any case, you can get creative with this one.
Partner with allies
If you’re working for one of those hip startups with catered lunches, you can request vegetarian meals. If that same startup offers some fancy snacks, make sure the produce is local and the chocolate sustainably produced. Consider changing the company's default search engine to Ecosia and voila! Each search results in trees being planted. If the office kitchen is equipped with disposable cutlery, ensure it’s made out of biodegradable material and not plastic. The options here are endless, so have fun.
Share the love
And by love, I mean knowledge. If your company isn't already equipped with a Sustainability or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) department, allowing and encouraging employees to share information on the causes they’re passionate about heightens a sense of community and builds company culture. No one likes being told what to do, but sharing some facts and tips never hurt anyone. In fact, if I may, I highly recommend watching Joe Smith’s Ted Talk entitled “How to Use a Paper Towel”. It’s only 4 minutes long and shares fun facts such as the number of pounds of paper towels Americans use in a year. Spoiler alert, the answer is 13 billion pounds. Taking the last few minutes of your next team meeting to share a short video is a fast way to get people thinking.
Perhaps you’re not the decision-maker but you would still like to see your employer make some changes. The best arguments to bring to management?
Money will be saved
Opportunities for PR will be born
Talent will be attracted
These are all pretty straightforward and hard to argue with. If you’re cutting back on energy, then you’re cutting back on the bill too. Not to mention certain governments offer tax cuts to businesses going green. If initiatives are being implemented and followed, people will notice. In 2018, the coworking space WeWork announced the company was going vegetarian and the media just about lost it. Now it wasn’t all good press, but it was the talk of the town. Lastly, attracting talent. Nowadays workers are more conscious of who they work for and what values they represent.