Kudos to everyone who is making personal lifestyle changes for a more sustainable world. But is there more we can do in the workplace? Because when it comes to sustainability efforts, it all adds up – and collectively, we can achieve a lot more.
As some offices are returning, let’s use this reset as an opportunity to greener the footprints of our companies and teams at work. Here are some bite-sized initiatives and climate-conscious behaviours to help you get started.
Start a green team
A green team is a small group of internal advocates who can have a powerful impact on the organisation. This group will educate, create awareness and drive action. These groups are great for empowering employees, instiling a sense of ownership, and inculcates a sustainability-first mindset. (Don’t forget, this should be fun, not an additional burden.
Green teams are self-organized, cross-functional groups of workers who work together voluntarily to inform, encourage, and motivate employees about sustainability. They implement solutions to assist their organization work in a more environmentally friendly manner by choosing greener options. Often they start by concentrating on greening office operations, recycling electronics, using double-sided printing defaults, turn off computers at the end of the day, composting food waste, reducing the use of disposable takeout containers, and minimizing the use of plastic water bottles. They can also coordinate office carpooling by connecting employees who live in the same neighbourhood or encourage teams to take public transport instead of driving or taking taxis.
And those who take it further can host or sponsor sustainability events, like an eco marketplace for Earth Day, screenings of environmental movie screenings, getting experts in to do talks and so the list goes on.
Put recycling bins everywhere
If recycling bins are prominently placed, they tend to get used. Out of sight, out of mind, so visibility is key. When people see their impact, it tends to accelerate behaviour change, so consider measuring how much recycling you do every week. While people question the efficacy of recycling, it is a good way to encourage first steps for offices. Of course, reducing and refusing have an even bigger impact, and can be implemented in different ways (e.g. reducing in printing allowances etc.).
Place reusable bags at the front door and encourage the use of reusable lunch boxes and coffee mugs
Reusable bags aren’t always top of mind when you’re busy at work. But if they are available at the front door, it makes it easier to grab one whenever you step out for your lunch break. Get everyone to take one, return, and repeat – help make the habit stick.
Even if recycling is an option, we should also encourage the use of reusable lunch boxes and coffee mugs. The myth of ‘single-use’ needs to be dispelled, these items live on for a very long time, and both their production and disposal have negative environmental consequences.
For those in Singapore, BarePack is an excellent option to encourage your team to not only reduce their takeaway packaging but also support a local social enterprise. They offer zero-waste takeout (and delivery) options with their reusable containers and cups. And also have corporate programs where you can provide lunch boxes for your team. They have a growing list of partner restaurants (you can also help to nudge your favourite restaurant to get them to join), and their app is very simple to use. Containers can be returned to any participating partner.
Ban all single-use plastics in the pantry
When it’s not there, it will not be used, simple as that. Make plastic straws, cups, plates, cutlery, etc. a thing of the past. Nobody actually likes to eat from plastic, it’s just a routine we must change one office lunch at a time.
You can even apply a small fine on the use of single-use plastics, similar to a swear jar; for each piece of single-use plastic the team brings in to the office they have to donate $1 penalty to the plastic jar. At the end of the quarter (or the year) the money raised could be donated to a good cause (like Seven Clean Seas for keeping plastic out of our oceans) or used to fund a team lunch or another enjoyable team activity.
Establish a daily Earth Hour
Go beyond the annual event by dedicating an hour every day. Switch off the main office lights during the lunch hour, for example, as an overt daily reminder that every little action helps. You may at first get some pushback, but trust me this works. Small symbolic action – big impact in terms of awareness.
You could go further and event plan an Earth Day celebration for your colleagues. That could be a pop-up mini marketplace of local social enterprises or an office clothes swap or electronics recycling drive – there are so many options.
Grow something together
Purchase a hydroponics system, and do a little farming together. Getting closer to the food we grow and consume makes people appreciate it more. Growing your own also reduces food waste over time. You may even consider donating it and make someone in need happy.
Aside from the environmental benefits of plants, scientific research indicates a significant link between personal well-being and greenery: it decreases tension, makes people happy and less brooding, relieves attention fatigue, promotes a positive mood, and improves creativity. All of these benefits contribute to improved performance and more energy.
Turn virtual backgrounds into climate pledges
An intriguing climate pledge background are great conversation starters during Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings. It’s been proven that the simple act of talking about climate change can lead to greater awareness and concern. There are many ways we can mitigate it – yet, not nearly enough people discuss it. If individual action can make a difference, imagine how it can trigger a chain reaction when one person shares these solutions with a few others.
Over time, it can go on to motivate hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people around the world. So start a conversation today with any of these 30 virtual backgrounds. Besides, it will make you look good, and honestly, we’ve seen enough of each other’s living rooms after more than a year of working from home.
Photo by Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels
Help us keep our content free
It seems like you enjoyed our content and are on your way to better understanding how to be more conscious. As you’ll know, we’re on a mission to make sustainability accessible, mainstream and sexy. And we would not be able to do it with you. We would love you to support us even further in our GITNB movement by helping us create even more content to keep inspiring you and the rest of the world. Aside from being able to enjoy even better reads, you’ll also receive a GITNB t-shirt consciously made from upcycled fabrics in partnership with a Cambodian social enterprise supporting women. For a small donation you will make a huge difference.SUPPORT US HERE