How Green is Your Workspace?

As we get into the second half of the year and relax into summer, we thought we’d take a break from grammar and punctuation tips and focus on a different topic.


How green is your workspace? As climate change no longer looms as a future disaster (because, of course, it’s here right now with many countries feeling devastating effects already), we can no longer ignore our carbon footprint in the workplace.


Encouraging climate- and planet-friendly practices at work is a no-brainer.


How green your workspace is will depend to some extent on just where you work. ‘Greening’ a communal space in a large office building, or a small cubicle in an open-plan office, requires a different approach than is needed if you work from home.

One might hope that many corporations will already have climate-friendly practices in place. If so, familiarize yourself with them and follow them. If not, see if it’s possible to table a discussion on environmental issues in the workplace at the next departmental meeting – be prepared to lead the discussion, or even make a presentation….


Meanwhile, do what you can in your own small corner:

(If your workspace is actually your basement or guest room, you obviously have far more freedom in terms of making changes, so go for it – you can incorporate all the points below in spades!)


Add plants

Just as trees are the planet’s saviours, so smaller plants also have innumerable benefits. Obviously you can’t let a small cubicle or desk become an inpenetrable jungle but – working within the confines of your space – just as you personalize your space with family photos, similarly add at least one plant (maybe two or three if they don’t overwhelm). Why?


  • Plants create a restful atmosphere, workplaces can be very stressful – plants are a fantastic antidote.


  • Plants have been shown to actually increase productivity.


  • Plants clean the air – while some are better than others (here’s looking at you, spider plant!), all plants do this to some degree – so your space – and the surrounding area – becomes a healthier place to spend up to 40 hours a week or more.


  • Plants give you the feeling of being outside in nature, while likely working in a climate-controlled environment with artificial light.


Reduce your carbon footprint – if you can



About that climate-controlled environment and artificial light… The following points will be far easier for those working from home but office-bound workers can campaign for some of these changes, also.


If possible:


  • Open a window – it’s summer, let some fresh air in. Do you really need air conditioning? On very hot days, OK, but turn it off and use natural breezes when it’s a little cooler. You’ll save money on bills AND decrease your carbon footprint.


  • Position your desk near a window so that you’re working in natural, rather than artificial, light (far better for your eyesight also!)


  • For similar reasons, take regular breaks from your computer screen – at the very least try and look away – into the far distance – for maybe a minute every 20 minutes or so. (No help for the planet here, just for you!)


  • Think before you print! This one is huge. When I last worked in educational institutions (schools and universities) efforts to have a ‘paperless’ office were, frankly, a bit pathetic. We would turn up at meetings to be given piles of paper that likely made us responsible for killing a tree a day. Sometimes it’s essential to have hard copies (legal documents, for example) though it must be said that the legal profession is likely one of the worst offenders. But some people seem to prefer reading/holding/distributing a hard copy and persuading them – or yourself, if you’re one of them – to change can seem challenging. Nonetheless, do try!
  1. Need everyone to see a copy of your presentation? Don’t print it – project it on to a screen for all to see.
  2. Need someone to look over or edit a document? Share it with them online using Google Docs or similar, or email it to them
  3. Have to write to a client? Are you really going to use snail mail? Email the client instead and you’ve automatically got a saved copy.
  4. Worried about losing electronic documents? Invest in the cloud for storage, use memory sticks and carry them around with you, whatever it takes!


  • Use recycled paper. OK, so ideally you’re not printing at all, or rarely, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Always buy recycled paper, this is an easy one – and if you’re in shared space and your office doesn’t use recycled, then put in a request to your office manager.


‘Green up’ your coffee and lunch breaks


For home workers this is easy – their own kitchen with reusable crockery, silverware, etc. is right to hand. For those working away from home comforts, there is a lot you can do to reduce your use of plastic and enjoy coffee and meal breaks with a clean conscience.

  1. ‘Brown bag’ it. Bring your own lunch and have it wrapped in reusable wax cloths instead of plastic wrap. Healthier for you also! Normally eat lunch out? If possible find a cafe that offers environmentally friendly options: supports local producers, discourages disposable cups or plastic straws, wraps your take-out in paper/cardboard rather than plastic. etc.
  2. Is your office coffee maker a Nespresso, Keurig, or Tassimo? If so, avoid! Those individual little pods are super convenient but dreadful for the planet. Like to go out to your favourite coffee shop? Fine – but take your own reusable mug with you.


Think about your commute.


(No issue for those working from home – good for you, you’re already doing your bit for the planet!)

For the rest of you – do you drive to work? Are you the only person in the car? Is there a feasible alternative? (Sadly, there still isn’t for many – those who have long commutes, live in remote areas, or have poor public transit options.)

For those who have realistic options, however, try to use them. Taking the bus or train can enable you to unwind at the end of the day, or prepare for your day at the beginning, since you’re not having to focus on traffic. Is biking or walking, now that summer’s here, a possibility? Your health will thank you if you are able to do this. Absolutely have to drive? Is carpooling an option?


Turn off the lights!


Off home for the night? Remember to power down electronics and turn off thermostats (or at least turn them way up, or down, depending on the season). And, yes – TURN OFF THE ********* LIGHTS! It never fails to amaze me, if I’m ever downtown in the business area of a city at night, how many deserted office buildings are a total  blaze of light!


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