Here’s how offices can increase sustainability and reduce waste…
Since the first World Environment Day in 1974, June 5th has been dedicated to spreading awareness and inspiring action to help protect the environment. It is an opportunity for individuals, groups and businesses worldwide to increase awareness and take action to protect the Earth. On this year’s World Environment Day, here at Billi, we wanted to take a moment to discuss green offices and the importance of creating sustainable commercial spaces.
Our planet provides us with the precious resources we need to survive – whether that be materials to build with, energy to power appliances or water to drink. But we are currently using these finite resources far too quickly, meaning we risk facing scarcity in the future. Being sustainable means meeting our demands without depleting the Earth’s limited supply of life-supporting materials. A green office prioritises sustainability through operating as efficiently as possible, using less fossil fuels, less water and less non-decomposable substances.
Reducing dependence on fossil fuels is one way of increasing sustainability. While the UK’s capacity for renewable energy is increasing, overtaking that of fossil fuels for the first time ever in the latter half of 2018, there is still a way to go. Much of the UK’s electricity still comes from natural gas and coal – fossil fuels which damage the environment through greenhouse gases and air pollution. As such, one of the best ways for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the environment is to switch to renewable energy sources by installing solar panels or wind turbines. While there are initial costs to consider, over the long run there are financial savings to be made.
As well as considering the greenest type of energy, sustainable businesses can also look to reduce the total amount of energy used. There are many ways to use energy more efficiently, including swapping incandescent light bulbs for more efficient fluorescent or LED lighting. Ensure lights and computers are switched off at the end of the day. You could also invest in newer, more efficient appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators.
Another way to be more energy efficient is by replacing kettles with boiling water taps. Billi’s heat exchange technology recycles waste heat energy to preheat boiling water, meaning our units provide significant energy savings. You can read more about them here.
The right appliances can also help save another vital resource under threat from unsustainable usage: fresh water. Low-flush toilets, water-efficient dishwashers and filtered drinking water taps all ensure water is used as economically as possible. Also, consider storing and using rainwater for any landscaping needs.
Our environment is not only affected by what we take from it, but also what we put back into it. Reducing the amount of waste produced is imperative for limiting the damage done to the environment by landfill. Of course, some forms of waste are more damaging than others. Plastic pollution, in particular, is having a devastating impact on the environment, something that is particularly pertinent in the run-up to World Ocean Day, which takes place on Saturday, June 8 this year. It’s common knowledge now that plastics are wreaking havoc in our oceans, killing wildlife and disrupting marine ecosystems.
With this in mind, how can offices go about reducing waste – in particular, that which is made up by plastics?
Although there is more awareness around the environmental impact of single-use plastics today, many companies and people still rely on them for their ease and convenience. The easiest way to curb this behaviour is to make alternatives readily available. Encourage the use of reusable bottles and coffee cups, either through incentivising their use or providing them to staff. Billi offer branded glass bottles which are great for conference rooms, as well as reusable glass water bottles for individual use. If used, replace plastic cutlery with wooden cutlery and plastic straws with paper or metal ones. Stop providing disposable plastic cups; if possible replace with glasses or reusable plastic and, if it is essential that they are disposable, use paper ones instead. Bottled water fountains also create unnecessary plastic waste so, if possible, consider replacing with a chilled water tap.
Where it is necessary to use plastics, there is still the option to reduce environmental impact by ensuring that the product in question can be repurposed or used multiple times. Most plastics can only be recycled once, therefore maximising possibilities is vital. Unfortunately, up until very recently the majority of plastic waste was not recycled. According to the WWF, in 2014 Britain produced 4.9 million tonnes of plastic, only 1.2 million tonnes of which was recycled. Make sure that recycling bins are available and obvious throughout building – and don’t forget outside spaces.
Plastic is not the only single-use material contributing to office waste. The average office worker in the UK gets through 10,000 sheets of paper per year and a shocking 6,800 sheets of this figure are wasted, largely thanks to emails being printed unnecessarily, duplicates and forgetting to collect printed documents from the printer.
Setting the default print settings to printing double-sided is one simple way of reducing paper waste. Encourage staff to think before they print; adding a reminder to email signatures is a good way of instilling a waste-conscious mentality. Evaluate office processes and identify inefficiencies. Ask whether you really need paper files: there may be opportunities for moving to digital filing instead. For whatever simply must be printed, save trees and switch to recycled paper where possible.
Remember, paper is not only used in workspaces, but also in bathrooms. Replace paper towels with hand dryers and switch to recycled toilet paper to make bathrooms greener!
Businesses are waking up to their responsibilities regarding the environment. As a result, green offices – commercial buildings that take sustainability seriously – are increasingly common. This does not just benefit the environment, but office-users and therefore businesses as a whole: there is evidence that green offices make staff happier, healthier and more productive.
Billi is proud to identify itself as a company that puts the environment first. Which is why we offer the most innovative and efficient products possible. To help professionals create spaces that do not destroy the environment. So if you’re looking to contribute to World Environment Day, take action and get in touch today. We’ll help you create a sustainable, greener commercial space.