10 simple sustainability actions every office can take

sustainability marketing

Last week, our sustainability program manager Trevor Bennett laid out a comprehensive set of sustainability initiatives to help make the Redbird office a greener place to work. 

We will be working to put these actions into practice over the next few weeks and so we thought we’d share 10 simple sustainability actions any office can take.

Trevor works with our BC Hydro account and has been helping post-secondary universities across BC to reduce their campus energy consumption. 

Trevor is our sustainability expert and has a Masters in Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria. If you are looking for a more advanced sustainability audit or program for your company or organization, you can get in contact with Trevor here http://www.redbirdonline.com/contact.

Personal action at work

We have chosen to highlight simple actions that most offices and employees can easily implement. This means more complex changes such as energy saving upgrades to buildings are not covered.

Trevor began his presentation by outlining eight basic activity categories that comprise the bulk of an office’s environmental impact:

  • Recycling and waste
  • Travel                      
  • Printing
  • Kitchen
  • Commute
  • Electricity conservation
  • Clothing
  • Food
#1 Set up the five bin recycling system

Your office should have five bins for recycling waste.

  • Bin #1 is for paper.
  • Bin #2 is for hard plastics and metal.
  • Bin #3 is for soft plastics (Styrofoam, milk cartons, tetra packs, and so on).
  • Bin #4 is for compost.
  • Bin #5 is for garbage--the stuff that ends up in the landfill.

Redbird uses ReFuse, a private recycling company that comes and picks up all of our office recycling and waste that the city ignores. It is very affordable. If your office is in Victoria BC, we really recommend checking out and using ReFuse.

#2 Offset business travel

Trevor gave three simple tips for reducing the impact of office related travel:

First, offset flights. The Pacific Carbon Trust will plant trees to offset your carbon caused by commercial flights. You can also identify airline vendors that make it easy to offset your flights during the purchase of tickets.

Second, offset vehicle travel. It’s quite affordable to offset vehicle travel. A year of vehicle travel carbon offsets only costs about $100. You can offer this as a perk to employees, helping them reduce the impact of their daily commute.

If your business uses delivery vans or trucks, offsetting your delivery is a great way to show sustainability leadership--and something to promote in your PR, product descriptions, and ads. 

#3 Greening the kitchen

Keep your team caffeinated with certified organic free trade coffee. Non organic coffee companies have terrible environmental records. Look for “shade grown coffee.” Also, keeping coffee at work helps to prevent your employees from needing to purchase it to go. That’s less paper cups--and it is a nice tax-deductible employee perk.

Finally, use a metal coffee filter or French Press.

Try to eliminate any paper or plastic cups, paper towel, and use non-toxic hand and dish soap.

Put your small appliances (such as the coffee maker), TV’s and printers on a powerbar so that you can shut off after the workday to avoid phantom power.

#4 Choose the right paper and supplier

The best paper to buy is FSC Certified Paper. This paper protects old growth forests, waterways, Indigenous groups, and animal habitats.

When sourcing printer suppliers for tradeshow materials, brochures, and business cards, try to use green printers.We audited our printer suppliers and identified a few vendors that do not offer green printing. We won’t be working with them anymore.

Also, put a double-sided printing policy in place. If you don’t own a double-sided printer, at least reuse the second side of old paper for internal documents.

#5 The commute

If you are planning to have a short day, try to work from home. This leads to a more productive work day (commuting to work only to leave at 1:00 PM for a dentist appointment is a waste of time) and saves a car ride.

Of course, riding a bike or taking the bus should always be encouraged and perhaps even rewarded.

#6 Save energy by changing computer back-ups

An easy way to save electricity is to reduce the time computers are left on.

First, use powerbars to make it convenient for employees to turn off printers and other machines often left on during the evenings and weekends.

Consider also changing your computer back-up schedule. Most offices have their computers back up overnight. But it is much more efficient to have them occur at 6:00 PM (or whenever your office generally empties). Or even during the day unless you are rendering video or using massive computational power. For most users, back-ups will not slow down Word or Excel.

You can set a timer on your powerbars or program your machine to shut down after your scheduled back-ups.

#7 Audit workstation energy settings 

Most employees know that monitors consume most of your computer’s energy. But, after auditing Redbird’s computers we discovered a few work-stations that had been overlooked. We recommend doing an audit of your computers to ensure energy-saving settings are used.  Try to not use screensavers. 

#8 Dress to save the planet

Two tips about clothing:

  • Dress for the weather to reduce need for AC or heat blasting in the winter.
  • Encourage organic clothes (consider offering an employee incentive).
#9 Source local foods for company events

It is estimated that the average meal has travelled over 15,000 kilometers to reach your plate. Ships, trucks, trains, and planes--it all takes a toll on the planet.

The good news is that there are plenty of great local foods to eat. While Trevor gave his workplace sustainability presentation, we enjoyed a great meal catered from a local-only restaurant. There was a local Kale salad, fresh butternut squash soup, and a local quiche.

For your next company event, consider using a catering company that offers locally sourced dishes. Little acts like this support local green businesses and encourage mindfulness about where food comes from.

#10 Go seriously green

Redbird’s goal is to become a carbon neutral company. This means that for all of the negative carbon outputs, we will offset with positives.

That’s next. Right now, we are working through the above list and trying to be more mindful of the impact we have at work and at home.

Build your corporate sustainability program

Our agency Redbird Communications can assist with developing and implementing a corporate sustainability program. We offer behavioural change workshops, and marketing services to help create healthy people and healthy places.

We are a full-service agency—so we can help you develop your program and then make sure that sustainability becomes part of your brand’s DNA through PR, product marketing, and online channels.

Get in touch here.