Let’s take a moment to visualize a typical workday in a New Green World… It’s Monday morning, and you wake up to your alarm sounding off at 7am. After making breakfast and walking the kids to school, you bike to work and take a quick shower in your workplace gym. You button up your suit jacket and head to the company café, where you pull out your laptop and connect to the Wi-Fi to check your email.
After spending some time emailing, writing and thinking of innovative business ideas, you’re nudged by your coworker who reminds you of the 10am strategic planning meeting. Your colleagues are already waiting for you in the library lounge. Once your meeting is over at noon, you all head upstairs to have lunch on the green roof patio, where you pick fresh veggies to add to your salad from the company’s urban garden.
The weather outside is beautiful, so you spend the rest of your workday on the patio under a solar pergola checking your email, video conferencing with clients, and spending more time thinking of innovative business ideas.
Before you know it, the day is over, and it’s time to bike back home. After such a productive day, you even have the energy to stop by the farmer’s market to pick up ingredients for your family’s favorite dinner!
Doesn’t that sound like the perfect workday?
If you were to share this scenario back in the 90s, though, you would probably get laughed right out of the boardroom. But today is an entirely different story, as companies across the globe are implementing green initiatives which not only offer healthier and happier places to work, but positively add to their bottom lines.
So, what exactly is a sustainable workplace?
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “sustainable organizations strive to balance the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit to achieve long-term success and viability. This means that organizations cannot be sustainable without protecting the safety, health, and welfare of their most vital resource: workers.” This type of sustainabiliyt approach includes protecting workers from the negative effects of climate change and other environmental risks.
A sustainable work environment has the added benefit of making a long workday less stressful and more enjoyable for workers. Companies have crucial roles to play in this regard, not because they are the major contributors to climate change or environmental pollution, but because they have the capability in the form of incentives and workplace opportunities to design innovative ideas that may help to reverse damages to our ecosystem.
Apart from producing and maintaining happy, healthy and motivated workers, there are a number of other benefits to a sustainable workplace. Some of these benefits include long-term profitability from energy-reducing measures like the installation of solar panels or skylights; talent recruitment and retention of Millenial and Gen-Z workers who value positive environmental and social impact; and greater consumer confidence.
Is it any wonder businesses of all sizes across the world have embraced this mindset as a way to showcase their values, measure impacts and outcomes, and increase their competitive advantage?
Here are some ways that organizations can adapt to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly work environment:
Energy savings and electronics management: There are many ways to reduce energy consumption and its related cost, including the installation of solar panels, lighting with automatic timers or motion sensors, and substituting old machinery with energy-efficient alternatives.
Workplace waste reduction: Starting a recycling program at work is a great way to ease employees into thinking about the type of waste they produce. Educating them on proper recycling methods and placing an emphasis on overall waste reduction is key. Start with the 3 Rs of Recycling.
Sustainable dining options: If you have an Employee Dining Room or Café, consider offering reusable dishware as an alternative to disposable plates and styrofoam containers. If you’re feeling extra motivated, begin a rooftop or hydroponics vegetable garden.
Remote work and virtual meetings: Consider offering employees the flexibility of working remotely a few times a week, and replace out of town meetings with virtual ones! This will reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions, as well as create a sense of trust among your team.
Eco-friendly purchasing practices: Where suitable, rent or lease machinery instead of purchasing it. This will result in less consumption of natural resources and a reduction in production. If renting is not an option, purchase second-hand equipment that is still energy efficient and in good condition. Also remember to purchase eco-friendly office supplies made from post-consumer recycled materials.
Biking, carpooling or public transport incentives: Post a carpooling board for employees to coordinate daily rides to work, or partner with a local bike shop to offer them a discount. Better yet, provide your employees with free bus passes or a discounted annual public transit pass! Many bus stations offer these to companies at a reduced rate.
Establishment of a Green Committee: Coordinate regular meetings with a designated group of employees who are dedicated and actively engaged in advancing sustainability within the company. This will create a sense of ownership and belonging, as well as hold your organization accountable to any sustainability goals that have been set for the future.
If you’re an employee at a company that hasn't yet transitioned to a sustainable work environment, remember this isn’t just wishful thinking. Many successful businesses around the world have implemented sustainable practices such as those listed above and found great benefits to the wellbeing of not only their workers, but the planet as well. Arm yourself with this knowledge and help spread the word of a New Green World.
By Adriana Bachmann, as seen in Green Living Magazine.