In recent years there’s been an increased realisation that more needs to be done to lessen our impact on the environment.
While at home, you’re likely to avoid leaving lights or heating on to keep your energy bill down, in the workplace this discipline can slip.
Office work relies heavily on computer access and the assistance of electronic devices, so it may seem impossible to cut down your carbon footprint here, but this isn’t the case.
If you’re considering making a few steps that can have huge results, you may be shocked at how easy this can be.
Whether it’s by utilising sleep mode on your computer, or staying in line with the aim of Earth Day 2018 by cutting down on plastic pollution, we’ve shared some small changes to show how every little helps.
How many offices are there in the UK?
Our research shows that in 2017, there were 5.7 million businesses in the UK, which, when considering a typical SME uses up to 50,000kWh per year, has a large impact on the environment.
Kilowatt hour (kWh) is the unit of measurement of an appliance’s usage, so 1kwh means 1,000 watts are used in one hour, with the current average national business cost of this, 17.5 pence.
Over five million of these businesses were microbusinesses, which may initially seem less damaging due to their size.
However, these businesses still use between 5,000-15,000kWh a year, meaning that they are causing considerable damage to the environment.
How do these offices cause environmental damage?
Most of the damage caused by businesses is simply down to unnecessary energy usage, and this can easily be minimised.
We discovered that you can make a huge difference by switching from 2×2 fluorescent lamps, which use 278kWh to power over the year to CFL lighting which only uses 69kWh over the same period. These are equally powerful but will see a 75% decrease in energy used for lighting.
Turning off devices when they are not needed or having them set to a timer is a great way to cut down on wasted energy.
A photocopier left on standby all day will use 2628kWh. If it’s just on the power setting during office hours, only 780kWh is used, which is a huge 70% decrease.
On a smaller scale, a WiFi router left on all year will use 53kWh, but if only turned on during office hours, would use 19kWh – a staggering 64% decrease.
Current regulations businesses need to comply with regarding environment policy
New regulations out this month (April 18) have been put in place to help businesses to keep their energy usage down.
This means that it will no longer be legal for non-domestic landlords in England and Wales to sign a new tenancy if the property that they are renting has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of band F or G. The exception to this is if they have registered an exemption.
This rule also applies to public sector landlords, and from April 1, 2023, these new regulations will apply to non-domestic properties that are already let on a long-term lease.
According to recently published data by the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government approximately 16.6% of the 751,000 non-domestic EPCs lodged in England and Wales were in the F and G category. This data is based between 2008 and 2017.
These energy-efficiency regulations were settled in 2015, meaning that around 24,000 EPCs for non-domestic buildings have been given an F or G-rating.
The government’s Clean Growth Strategy aims to reduce energy inefficiency within the non-domestic property sector. This is part of the overall aim to achieve a 20% improvement in UK energy productivity by 2030.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Recycling is a widely known method of cutting down on how much waste is produced, however you may not know that it is the last stage of an item’s lifecycle.
Before an item has the chance to be recycled, you should consider whether there’s a way you can avoid creating waste.
A great way to reduce the amount of resources you use in the first place, is by choosing items with less packaging or buying items in bulk.
Steering away from single-use items such as plastic water bottles or wet wipes, can cut down on landfill.
Reusing items rather than throwing them out, will mean that less energy is consumed by breaking down a material during the recycling process.
This can be done by repairing a broken item rather than replacing it, or donating used items to charity to reduce the amount of waste produced.
Items that can be broken down into a material, which can be turned into something new, should be recycled for this purpose rather than sent to a landfill. Businesses can recycle lots of items from the office including drinks cans, milk bottles and paper.
What can employees do to reduce individual carbon footprint at work?
The average number of employees in an office is 16.
If 16 desktop computers run for eight hours a day, 260 days a year they will use 3,328kWh. While this may be unavoidable, there are steps you can take to save energy elsewhere.
Putting your monitor into sleep mode but leaving your computer on when you are not at work, uses a huge 9,955kWh over the course of a year. However, you can easily cut down this amount by also putting your computer into sleep mode. This will mean that only 3,702kWh is used over the year – an impressive 63% decrease.
While nobody wants to work in blazing hot heat or type with frozen fingers, there are better ways to control the temperature than with the thermostat only.
Turning down the heating in summer rather than just opening the windows can cut energy usage massively. A flat panel wall heater uses around 1,560kWh per annum, while a portable fan heater uses 2,080kWh.
Using these devices as little as possible can help to reduce these numbers. If possible, avoid extra electric heaters altogether, as these are one of the most energy-consuming heat sources.
On the other hand, to keep the office nice and warm, close window blinds in the early evening to help reduce night-time heat loss. This means that less energy is needed to heat the workplace the next day.
Think about your commute
Instead of driving, cut down on harmful carbon dioxide emissions by walking or cycling to work.
If you work too far away to do this, carpooling or taking public transport to work, reduces the number of cars on the road releasing harmful gases.
Reduce unnecessary energy usage
Unnecessary energy usage is a huge cost to businesses and can cause your carbon footprint to grow.
Cut down on this by enabling power-save mode on all devices which have this option, as this is designed to use less energy.
As previously mentioned, turning off devices when not in use can save an incredible amount of energy. A laptop put into sleep mode when not used, spends 2,747kWh over the course of a year, while if turned off will only use 1,678kWh, which is a 39% decrease.
In addition, aim to unplug all devices when not in use. Whether they are big or small, they will have an impact on the environment. This includes phone and laptop chargers.
Rather than filling landfills with harmful materials, recycle any waste possible, including metal.
Another great energy-saving option is to switch to rechargeable batteries rather than disposables, as these produce significantly fewer resources.
Using metal cutlery and washable plates or cups rather than plastic items, will mean that less waste is created after a meal.
While it is best to use reusable tea towels, if napkins and paper towels are necessary in your office, then ensure to purchase compostable versions of these products.
What can business owners do to Influence change company-wide?
As the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, and 65% of these pages are thrown away or recycled on the same day they’re printed, better printing habits are needed.
Ensuring that you choose printing devices that have double-sided printing capabilities is a great initial step to cut down on consumables used.
Reviewing all documents before they’re printed will help prevent them needing to be re-printed, saving you valuable costs on resources, as well as reducing the amount of paper you use.
However, as not everything can be done perfectly the first time around, misprints are sure to happen. Rather than throwing these away, hand them out as note paper.
Cutting down on the amount of paper you need to use by storing files digitally and switching to electronic newsletters and e-payments for office bills mean paper will also help to lessen your carbon footprint.
Encourage less energy waste
Reducing energy waste is a company-wide process.
You can help to set this into motion by discouraging staff from wasting energy by suggesting that they switch lights off when they leave the room.
As well as this, encourage individuals to turn down the thermostat radiators in their rooms when not needed.
Install helpful features
Try installing self-adhesive thermal strips around doors and windows to reduce draughts and the need for heating.
Fitting automatic closers on external doors, such as fire doors, can reduce the risk of these being left open and heat escaping. Alongside this, improve roof insulation to help retain up to 25% more heat in your building and reduce the need for heating.
Switch to LED lighting which converts less energy to heat than normal lighting and is therefore less harmful. You can also swap desktop computers for laptops, which are designed to use less energy.
Use ceiling fans rather than air conditioning as these produce less carbon dioxide, while still keeping your team cool. You can also put a microwave in the staff canteen as these take less time and energy to heat food.
In terms of water waste, you can purchase low-flusher toilets to reduce how much your office contributes to this.
Encourage healthy changes in employee lifestyle
A great move towards promoting a healthier, and greener lifestyle is to advocate meat-free days in the office – a great way to reduce carbon emissions.
If possible, you should also promote working from home to reduce the emissions created on the commute to work. Another way to cut down on business travel is to opt for video conferencing.
You should also clearly label recycling stations, which not only promotes awareness of your company’s scheme but ensures that waste items are recycled correctly.
Provide organic, Fair Trade coffee, tea, and cocoa which prioritises proper stewardship of natural resources and waste management practices for their farmers.
Cleaning products, while often overlooked, can also have an impact on the environment. Purchasing reusable or recycled cleaning tools rather than single-use wipes can cut down on waste.
To go the extra mile, check that the products you are using come from natural sources, which can keep harmful toxins out of the office and reduce environmental impact.
A great way to ensure that these practises are put into place is to consider an awards policy for those who do the best job recycling waste and turning off devices.
You can also constantly identify areas to save energy with an energy consumption audit.
Finding out your own energy usage
One of the best ways to take a handle on your own energy usage is to find out how much you are actually using.
This can be done with the following formula:
Wattage of appliance you are using ÷ 1000 = KW
KW x number of hours you have used the appliance – kWh
New regulations aim to make business premises more energy efficient