There are a variety of reasons why offices are (finally) prioritizing sustainability. Some are seeking to reduce emissions due to their corporate responsibility principles or ESG commitments; some consider it part of their recruitment strategy to attract top talent; others see it as core to their culture initiatives, to signal alignment with the values of existing employees; and still others see energy efficiency as a straight-forward means of reducing costs.
Whatever the motivation, office managers are increasingly asking: “Is there a way we can be more sustainable?” The answer is a resounding yes. A few simple, affordable changes can help create a greener office space for you and your employees.
Turn Off Unused Equipment
Offices are increasingly digital and paperless. As a result, the number one resource used in the office is electricity. On average, companies across the U.S. spend $1.64 per square foot per year on energy. In regions like New York City, according to BOMA’s 2020 Experience Exchange Report, this figure climbs to $2.44.
Lights and electronic equipment account for 31 percent of a commercial building’s electricity use. So, one of the easiest ways to use less energy and create a more sustainable environment in the office is to turn equipment off when it’s not being used.
If this equipment is able to be operated by office tenants, you and your employees could manually turn this equipment off, and save a large portion of this energy use. That said, monitoring devices in this way could easily become its own full-time job! Plus, HVAC equipment, which accounts for 33 percent of a building’s energy use, is rarely accessible by tenants. Mesa by Sidewalk Labs is an affordable technological solution that can take care of it — and adjust your office’s energy use based on real-time occupancy.
The Mesa kit comes with smart-plug devices that are easy for tenants or landlords to install. Once installed, the Mesa software gives you control of outlets from any computer or smartphone. Companies that use Mesa can save up to 20 percent on office energy by monitoring things like conference equipment, air conditioning, computers, printers, and copy machines. (Plus, Mesa’s app lets employees see their own impact on their office’s carbon footprint.)
If you’d like to learn more about Mesa and how it can help your workplace click here to learn more.
Reuse and Recycle
The average office employee disposes of 676 pounds of trash per year. Companies that wish to cut down on plastic and paper product waste can encourage all employees to bring their own reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and canvass bags.
For waste that can’t be avoided, set up recycling bins for plastic, paper, and aluminum in the breakroom to make it convenient for everyone to recycle. Putting these in a separate color, such as blue, helps to serve as a visual cue and gentle reminder to separate waste.
A study out of the U.K. estimated that 21 percent of office waste is food products. One way to cut down on this waste at your office is in a composting bin so food scraps can be recycled into nutrient-rich plant food that can then be used for your office’s plants. You can find tips from the EPA to get started here.
Create shared spaces
Shared spaces with “hotel” desks, where people rotate workspace based on availability, offer flexibility and reduce the number of natural resources harvested when building materials are created.
Does everyone in the office need a dedicated workstation or private office? If not, this solution could work for you. Disinfecting shared surfaces, and calling out that they have been cleaned, may help people to feel more comfortable as they readjust to shared spaces.
Open plans can also be built with privacy and Covid-19 protocols in mind. Some inspirational examples from Steelcase are above. Separate work areas can be created in a large, open office space with creative usage of seating and tables that cluster teams or groups together.
And there’s no need to buy new when you’re decorating — using an eclectic mix of upcycled furniture will create a unique and eco-friendly office environment that saves your budget.
Bring in the Plants!
Tall indoor plants serve double duty: they not only help make an office space greener by purifying indoor air, they can also be used to separate and define work spaces. Plants like the peace lily, Boston fern, and dwarf date palm are all great choices for attractive plants that clean your air.