The smallest of improvements can have a substantial impact on carbon footprint, but for many businesses, the challenge for big change is underway. With many now steadfast in their pledge to significantly reduce waste and achieve a more sustainable workplace overall, what impact will this have?
It’s not only a positive for the planet, but can be noticeably beneficial to businesses, too. The best organisations are leaders; they look towards the future; and they prove influential through positive change making. Being globally aware and doing actionable good should become an industry standard as we move towards a more sustainable future.
An example of someone setting this standard is leading global investment company Goldman Sachs, who have committed to cutting CO2 emissions by 25% and reducing water use by 40% by moving their headquarters to an eco-friendly office building in London.
So, with our landfills full, our resources depleting and our oceans suffering, how can businesses be instrumental in making the workplace more sustainable? With insights from craft and design writer Katie Treggiden and interior stylist Tiffany Grant-Riley, here’s how you can improve your organisation through eco-friendlier offices.
- Integrated spaces
One thing that Tiffany suggests will become a more regular feature is pushing back on how many products we buy for the office: “I think our society needs to change its relationship with the way in which we consume.” She goes on to say that workplaces may move toward “integrated, multi-purpose spaces favouring precisely engineered modular furniture over single-use, large scale pieces”. In a time of mass-production, over-consumption and waste, businesses can make better use of the space they have or invest in furniture that is fit for purpose and easily adaptable for new uses and needs.
- Green gardens
Another way that businesses can inexpensively invest in green living is through the purchase of plants. Tiffany tells us that “botanical motifs currently seen in the houseplant trend will evolve into an integrated part of living”, highlighting the importance of human connection to nature. Tiffany further suggests that indoor garden spaces might become a regular feature, and “particularly where green areas are rare” such as inner-city corporations. Bringing in plants such as Peace Lilies and Spider Plants can also increase the quality of air inside your office and bring environmentally friendly décor into the office.
- Sustainable furniture
It’s important to invest in sustainable furniture. Kate says, “As we return to basics, natural fibres are enjoying popularity right now (think cork, bamboo, plywood and linen) and these will continue to play a part”, particularly in our homes and workplaces. By choosing furniture and fixtures that are ethically produced with a low impact on the environment, we can improve our carbon footprint consumption dramatically. One way you can tell is by looking out for furniture with the Cradle-to-Cradle certification, which is becoming globally recognised as the gold standard certificate.
- Recyclable and compostable floor materials
If it can be recycled, grown from nature or continuously reused, we should be bringing it into our interiors. Tiffany says, “Innovative composite and repurposed materials will also make their way into our daily lives.” She provides some examples of this, like Robin Grasby’s Altrock, which uses waste bi-products and sets them within resin to look like wall and tile surfaces such as terrazzo.
- Slow design
Slow design is making a comeback and the sooner that businesses embrace it, the better. As Tiffany suggests, “a return to traditional craft and artisanal skills – as is evident in the rise of sites such as Etsy.com” marks “a ‘new craft’ revival”. This can help us to investing steadily as and when we need, rather than bulk-buying cheaper, wasteful products that form the overflowing landfills of today. Tiffany continues, “Transparency and honest are hugely important and the brands that survive will be the ones who can adapt to this new way of operating.”
- Invest in renewable energy
Green power is becoming more accessible than ever, and at competitive prices which mean businesses have no reason not to consider it. From solar energy to wind energy, there are many options for your business whether it’s a small organisation or a large-scale corporation. In fact, most electricity suppliers are now selling a green package – so business can now look to move away from traditional plans that are not only depleting resources, but polluting the planet, too.
- Go paperless
This is something that all businesses should be making a move toward with many digital solutions at our fingertips. The NHS (The British National Health Service) have set out their ‘Paperless 2020’ plan, which could make possible savings on up to £4.4 billion. And according to DiliTrust, the price of office paper waste in the UK costs British business at least £15 billion pounds per year, and though 70% is recyclable, only 7.5% reaches a recycling facility.[i]
- Sustainable commutes
Sometimes it’s not just what you do within the workplace walls, but the support you give your staff. Initiatives like benefits for cycling and car pooling can really encourage greener commuting within your organisation and can ensure that your team are doing their bit to lower carbon emissions where possible. As well as this, offering flexibility for the likes of working from home (even just once per week) can significantly make a different to your company’s carbon footprint.
- Consider moving offices
If you want to take a giant leap into eco-friendly working, why not choose your next building to be made from fast-growing, mouldable and entirely compostable, fungal mycelium? Kate tells us it’s “a really exciting material to watch for its use in cladding, temporary structures and insulation”, which could possibly even reduce heating consumption.
On top of this, Kate tells us, Green & Blue’s bees bricks are another interesting innovation – they provide habitats for solitary bees – currently in decline due to loss of habitat and yet responsible for a third of what we eat due to their pollination activities.
- Make it a part of company culture
Finally, engage your employees with your efforts and let them take on the challenge, too. Most will be proud to be part of something that pushes for positive change, and it’s a way to get people bonding while doing good at the same time. This may include putting together a sustainability team, or it may simply include keeping them up to date with the steps you’re taking as an organisation towards greener living.
Whether you’re taking small steps to a more sustainable workforce, or aiming to transform your company completely, encouraging eco-friendly practices in your workplace can have lasting benefits for the environment and your business.