Tips for Making Your Workplace More Sustainable

 

By Kylie Ora Lobell February 26, 2020
LIKE SAVE
recycling water bottle

​Employees at CareerPlug, a software company in Austin, Texas, loved their Keurig coffee. In fact, the 60 employees used around 300 of the brand's disposable K-Cups each month.

However, one employee on the company's sustainability committee was bothered by the amount of waste this practice was generating. Instead of trying to eliminate the coffee system, however, she proposed a solution: The company could save money and help the environment by investing in reusable K-Cups.

CareerPlug implemented her idea and, according to Natalie Morgan, director of HR, the company has reduced its monthly coffee budget from $126 to $42.

"Not only did we eliminate 300 K-Cups per month," she said, "we reduced costs by 67 percent."

At a time when climate change is dominating headlines, companies around the world are evaluating how they can put more sustainable practices into place.

"As hubs in our communities, workplaces represent a large footprint to create an impact within our broader society," said Anne Robinson, chief talent officer at VillageMD, a professional medical practice in Chicago. "Driving action against eliminating waste and reducing our carbon footprint are such critical elements to ensuring generations to come are able to enjoy and benefit from the environment that we know today."

To help make your office more environmentally friendly and do your part to protect the planet, here are some easy habits to put into practice.

Recycle, Reuse Paper or Go Paperless

Think about all the times you use paper in the office. You likely print out employee onboarding and performance review forms, the employee handbook, notes for distribution at meetings and notices to hang around the office. Recycle or try reusing paper, suggests Angelique J. Hamilton, founder of the HR Chique Group consulting firm in Jacksonville, Fla.

Also have employees view documents with their teams on shared drives instead of distributing paper copies. "Not everything needs printing out, especially not the documents handed out during meetings, which are glanced at for five minutes," said Nate Masterson, HR manager for Maple Holistics in Farmingdale, N.J. "Use online document-sharing platforms to collaborate and share work in the office."

Digital tools such as Google Drive, Slack, Dropbox, Basecamp and Asana can help employees make the leap from paper-based to digital communication.

Develop a Remote-Work Program

Most Americans—76.5 percent, to be precise—take a car to work every day, according to research by the World Wildlife Fund. Transportation is the second largest contributor to carbon emissions, behind the electricity sector.

One way to cut back on those commuting emissions is to allow employees to work from home at least some of the time, said Tony Bergida, HR director at Frosty Tech, an engineering firm in Overland Park, Kan. "Allow employees to work from home a couple of days a week, which, in addition to reducing the impact of commuting, [also] cuts down on in-office snack packaging, electricity use, trash creation and more."

 

Consider the Landscaping

When thinking about workplace sustainability, don't forget about your outdoor areas. Hamilton recommends xeriscaping—the practice of using plants that require less water and arranging them in ways that they need less water to thrive.

Many communities, especially those in areas plagued with water shortages, are rewarding companies that decrease water usage in this way through rebate and tax relief programs, such as those offered by the Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts.

Cut Back on Water Bottles  

Many cities are now charging retailers that give customers plastic bags, and restaurants are being encouraged to seek alternatives to plastic straws and utensils. But many companies are still providing single-use plastic water bottles to employees.

A more environmentally friendly approach is to buy or rent a water dispenser for the office.

Buy Snacks in Bulk

Providing snacks to employees is a great perk. However, if you want to reduce plastic use and waste, buy in bulk instead.

Morgan said the CareerPlug team "evaluated how we were ordering breakroom snacks and realized we were buying a lot of individually packaged items. We purchased some reusable containers instead and now buy most of our snack items in bulk."

Seek Buy-in

When implementing waste-reduction initiatives, said Robinson at VillageMD, organizational leaders should model the change they want to see. They should publicly invest in and support programs that make a difference, which demonstrates to employees the behaviors they should emulate.

Robinson said her company involved employees from the beginning by creating a task force to plan and implement sustainability goals. "Employees are passionate about this, and they're wanting to do this."

You'll also need to educate employees on waste reduction to ensure they know why changes are taking place. Robinson is creating communication that explains the company's plan for putting different types of trash and recycling bins around the office, what employees can dispose of in each, and how to properly operate new composting equipment.

Becoming a more eco-friendly workplace will not only show employees and job candidates that the company is Earth-friendly but also that it cares about offering a healthy work environment.  

"Workplaces are ultimately part of a larger community, and caring about your environmental impact is both healthy for your external reputation and your corporate connection to the individuals in your workplace," Morgan said. "It's also, plainly, the right thing to do to be engaged in this global conversation and take a stance for positive impact."

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

LIKE SAVE

Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Search Jobs

Discover what’s trending in HR

Search and download FREE white papers from industry experts.

Search and download FREE white papers from industry experts.

LEARN MORE

SPONSOR OFFERS

Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect

HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.
temp_image