How to make your office more sustainable: 22 steps for positive change

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We are on the cusp of a breaking point.  The actions we take today could define the future of our planet and the future of mankind.  It is incumbent on us all to make the positive changes on the issues over which we have control – and that includes working to make our working life and our offices more sustainable.

72% of office workers say it’s important to work in a sustainable environment, according to a study by UK office refurbishment company Morgan Lovell.

We’re all familiar with the three R’s of sustainability: Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.  But how can we implement them in our working lives?  The Business Optimizer team considers twenty-two ways you can easily make your office more sustainable.

#1. Ensure recycling is made easy for everyone

Make sure there are enough recycling bins around the entire office space, so you make it easy for everyone to do the right thing with their waste.

#2. Switch to LED lightbulbs

You can replace almost any lightbulb with an LED alternative which will use a lot less power to illuminate your office space.  Not only will this reduce your energy use, it’ll reduce your energy bills too.

#3. Install motion-detection switches

No matter how low-power your bulbs are, you can reduce your energy use – and bills – still further by installing motion-detection sensors and linking this to your lighting system to ensure lights are switched off when rooms aren’t being used.

#4. Make the most of natural light

If you do have natural light, make the most of it.  Don’t cover windows, paint walls in light, bright colours and add finishes that can reflect the light, so you need to rely less on artificial light sources.

#5. Get into the habit of turning things off!

It isn’t just lights that need to be switched off.  Ask all staff to ensure their computer standby settings are configured so that the system goes into standby when not in use.  Plus, make sure that all devices and appliances are switched off at the end of the day.  Even leaving devices on standby, uses unnecessary energy.

#6. Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products

The chemicals in cleaning products can be nasty – polluting our waterways and putting an unnecessary burden on water treatment services.  Switch to eco-friendly products – or to a cleaning contractor that specialises in eco-friendly cleaning services – and you’ll help to cut down on both the nasty processes involved in manufacturing cleaning chemicals as well as reducing the amount that goes down the drain.

#7. Switch to recycled paper products

Supporting recycling isn’t only about ensuring our waste products are recycled most efficiently.  It’s also about creating demand for products that use recycled materials.  Switch to recycled paper for paper kitchen towels and toilet tissue and you are helping to ensure recycling is commercially viable.

#8. Switch to eco-conscious office paper

The same applies to your printer paper.  Most leading printer paper brands offer paper ranges that promotes responsible printing with premium quality.

#9. Go green!

Indoor plants help to clean the air and have also been shown to be mood enhancers that can boost productivity.  Whether it’s adding a green living wall or a few pot plants, you can reap the benefits of bringing nature inside.

#10. Commit to extend the lifecycle of products

It may be simpler and faster to simply replace a broken chair or printer, but the best way to reduce waste is opt for a repair wherever possible.  Not all products are made to enable repairs, so its important to think about this during buying decisions too.

#11. When you’re buying new, choose energy-efficient devices

Is assessing energy efficiency part of your purchase process?  If it isn’t already, make it a key consideration when buying new appliances and devices.

#12. Encourage positive action with a sustainability team

Positive change should be encouraged throughout your business – don’t just rely on a top-down approach.  Choosing people from across the organization to collaborate on sustainability initiatives can help to raise awareness, identify new ideas and achieve more.

#13. Reward good sustainability practices

Your sustainability team could lead on weekly or monthly green challenges, with sustainable prizes going to the best performing people or teams.

#14. Rethink the packaging of your own products

Opting for recycled and compostable materials will help to reduce the impact of your own packaging.  If this can stretch to product design as well, even better!

#15. Switch to renewable energy

Switching to an energy supplier which is committed to using renewable energy sources and also investing in new renewable energy installations is a great way to build demand for renewables.

#16. Consider the options for green energy sources locally

If you are a building or landowner, examine the possibilities for installing green energy sources on your own property – solar panels, green boilers and even wind turbines may be possibilities.

#17. Turn down the thermostat

It might surprise you how much you can shave off your energy bills by simply turning down the thermostat by a few degrees.  Set timers or automation systems that turn off heating and ventilation services when the office space is not in use.

#18. Reduce travel

If it’s possible to host a meeting remotely using web conferencing tools, do so.  Cutting down on travel helps with employees’ work-life balance as well as significantly reducing carbon emissions.

#19. Make it easy to cycle to work

Installing secure bike storage as well as changing rooms, lockers and showers at work helps to make cycling to work a more realistic option for workers.

#20. Encourage staff to use the stairs instead of the lift

You can save energy by climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator.  Encourage staff to make the healthy and more sustainable choice!

#21. Order in bulk

We rely so much on next-day delivery these days, it’s sometimes easy to forget the damage to air quality and carbon emissions all those delivery journeys make.  By cutting down the number of small, inefficient orders you place, you can significantly reduce the carbon impact of your purchasing decisions.

#22. Offer filtered tap water

Instead of relying on bottled water and packaged drinks, offer staff alternatives that don’t create so much waste – starting with filtered tap water in recycled, reusable cups.


Many sustainability initiatives have positive benefits in terms of cost savings too.  Not only that, they help you meet your CSR agendas – creating a company for which staff want to work and of which customers are proud.

Sustainability can no longer be an afterthought to your business decisions.  Long-term planning requires a sustainable approach today.

The warning signs are already upon us: a sea full of plastic; terrible air quality in China; bleaching coral reefs and climbing temperatures throughout the world’s oceans; unparalleled bush fires in Australia, and flooding in parts of Africa and South Asia.

When confronted with these global issues, it can be tempting to feel powerless to make the positive changes needed.  The desire to push the responsibility for change onto others is almost irresistible.

Yet there is no need to shift responsibility: we can all make positive changes that, together, add up to the change we – and the world – need.  Action needs to be taken now.  The world can’t afford for us to delay acting any longer.