Going Green at Work: Your Guide to Sustainability in the Workplace

April 13, 2019

Coffee cup, plant and phone on a table
Kip Soteres

Sustainability in the workplace continues to trend as employees express interest in going green at work. Sustainability creates a common cause among people that can help instill a stronger sense of community, pride in your organization and increased engagement.

Here are some tips for programs or just simple behaviors that can raise awareness and help employees do more to help take care of the planet while they are at work:

Top Five Tips for Sustainability in the Workplace

  • Dress in layers — As building spaces get greener and organizations move to open floor plans, employees tend to get less control over the temperature in their work space. The eco-unfriendly response is to plug in a space heater or fan. Consider dressing in ways that give you flexibility to cope with fluctuating temperatures. If problems persist, work with coworkers to present the problem to your leadership and look for ways to solve for hot and cold spots in the building.
  • Create a "green team" — Speaking of working with coworkers, why not establish a "green team" to build a community committed to better sustainability in the workplace? Ideas that come from these grassroots efforts are more likely to spread and give employees a strong sense of being able to influence the organization. That can help build the kind of culture that you can tap when addressing issues like cost-reduction ideas or product/service innovation initiatives.
  • Monthly green challenges — Offering recognition to individuals or teams for going green at work can inspire friendly competition that is fun and engaging. Fun competition ideas include creating an in-office garden, turning off lights/computers, bring a mug to work, no plastic utensils month, carpool or mass transit challenges, recycling challenges and more. Sites like YouSustain have many ideas to keep your challenges fresh and fun for years to come.
  • Green your cleaning products — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a whole page dedicated to helping federal purchasers make greener decisions. Not only is greening that cleaning fluid healthier for the earth, it's healthier for employees and especially cleaning staff who have to work in close proximity to those fluids and other chemicals. Look for cleaners that incorporate renewable resources from citrus, seed, vegetable and pine oils. Even cleaners that can be used with cold water instead of hot goes a little way towards preserving energy. And remember to use cloth instead of disposable wipes whenever possible.
  • Embrace sustainability apps — There are hundreds of apps now available to help support people in sustainable practices. HuffPost has a great starter list of five that focus on everything from energy use to re-usability. PaperKarma is particularly useful in office environments that receive large volumes of junk mail — just wasted paper that goes straight to the scrap heap.

Speaking of paper, most employees would agree that their companies use too much paper and printer ink. Just changing a presentation template to be mostly white space, altering a logo, or using smaller font or tighter line spacing can save large organizations thousands of dollars while also helping to protect the planet.

Planting Seeds for Higher Engagement and Productivity

Engage employees in going green at work and you will reap a harvest of side benefits. Your organization will be more attractive to top talent and more likely to retain the good talent you already have. Gather a strong community of employees around a shared set of positive values and it will help you to create a work culture that is more positive, optimistic, collaborative, empowered, innovative and forward-thinking.

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