How Green is my Office?

By at home

PEOPLE all over the UK are increasingly thinking ‘green’ when it comes to running the home and disposing of household waste and there’s no reason why that environmentally friendly attitude shouldn’t continue into the workplace.

With many of us spending more time at work than we do in our homes it’s vital that we ensure our businesses contribute to conserving valuable energy resources and protecting the environment. And, of course, there’s the bonus that going green can also become an effective cost-saving exercise. Trials have shown companies that go green can reduce energy and waste costs by 10 per cent without any capital investment. Overall, this saves UK businesses £2.6 billion a year.

Green programmes are suitable for large or small businesses. Running any business uses energy, especially electricity for heating, air conditioning, lighting, computers, printers, photocopiers, fax machines, lifts and escalators, automatic doors and much more. For companies engaged in manufacturing processes the energy demands are even greater.

Environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth says running a ‘green’ company or being a ‘green’ worker begins the moment you walk into your business premises at the start of the day.

Duncan McLaren, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth says: ‘More and more businesses, large and small, are realising the benefits of greening their offices.

 

‘Not only does cutting waste and saving energy help the environment, it can also cut costs and improve your reputation with customers. Very simple steps can make a real difference. For instance, if every office worker in the UK used one less staple a day, it would save 72 tonnes of steel a year.

‘A plan to green your office might include steps like recycling and reusing paper and office equipment, turning off electrical appliances and lights that aren’t in use, and looking at your office’s transport.’

You should ask yourself if it is really necessary to switch on the lightswhile it’s daylight outside – simply opening the blinds may let in sufficient light. Switching off lights and equipment that are not in use and turning down thermostats a few degrees to avoid overheating rooms can make a huge difference to electricity consumption. Lighting an unoccupied office overnight can waste enough energy to make 1,000 cups of coffee, according to the Environment Agency.

Photocopiers consume around 10 per cent of the electricity used in an office environment. Many are left switched on for 10 hours a day but stand idle for most of that time. Investing in an environmentally friendly photocopier with an ‘energy save’ mode that powers down when it’s not in use can produce considerable savings.

It’s estimated that the average office worker uses a tree’s worth of paper every year. Using both sides of the paper for printing or photocopying could halve your company’s paper consumption. It’s also worth bearing in mind that using less paper saves energy because it takes 10 times more energy to manufacture a piece of paper than it does to copy an image on to it.

The dawning of the computer age created the notion that modern offices would become paperless environments. The reality is that computers, fax machines and photocopiers make it easier for us to produce more and more paper. If we paused for a moment to consider whether our request for a print copy of a document was really necessary we would probably concede that in many cases it isn’t.

Rather than printing out an entire 100-page report, why not print the executive summary and read the rest from your computer screen? If you have no alternative but to print out a document, recycle the paper once you have finished with it.

One idea to raise awareness in your business about the importance of going green includes staging a stationery amnesty under which employees are invited to clear out their desks of spare pens, notebooks, post-its and other items and deposit them to be recirculated around the building for future use.

Even the Queen has joined the green lobby by converting part of Windsor Castle to hydropower. Whilst this is not feasible for every company, some may wish to consider installing a micro wind turbine or solar panels to produce some of their energy needs. There are now a host of organisations that give advice on running a green office, including:Friends of the Earth – www.foe.co.ukCarbon Trust – www.thecarbontrust.co.ukEnvirowise – www.envirowise.gov.uk

Recycling Recycling costs nothing and is simple to do. We’re all familiar with the recycling of paper, bottles, cans and plastics, but almost any unwanted office item can now be recycled, including mobile phones that have been replaced by newer models.

Until recently there was no easy and safe way to dispose of mobile phones and many were sent to landfill sites. Now there is a host of companies and charities that offer free recycling schemes and some will even pay cash for old phones.

Just about every part of a mobile phone can be reused. Mobiles contain several valuable materials and components such as silver which can be extracted. Some also contain highly toxic substances like cadmium which needs to be disposed of safely. The outer plastic body from mobile phones may be granulated and reformulated for use in mouldings.

When recycling a mobile include the batteries and charger if possible as these add to its value. Ensure the phone is free from any contractual agreement.

Other business equipment that can be recycled includes office furniture, computers, printers, photocopiers, fax machines, inkjet and toner cartridges, catalogues and brochures and telephone directories.

Steps to a greener office Here are some steps you can take to help turn your business green: Reuse envelopes for internal circulation and buy envelope reuse labels Invest in solar-powered calculators rather than battery operated Introduce reuseable items rather than disposable, such as china cups, metal cutlery, propelling pencils and refillable pens Use products with a longer life, such as low energy light bulbs, which last up to eight times longer than ordinary light bulbs and also reduce energy costs Turn scrap paper into notepads Use both sides of paper when photocopying or producing reports Purchase products with a recycled or reconditioned content. For wooden furniture and other timber products this may include purchasing goods from certified, sustainable sources Avoid buying disposable products and aerosols Use solvent-free correction fluids and paints * Choose local products and materials to reduce energy and pollution implications of transporting goods Avoid overpackaged goods Specify upgradeable PCs Use refillable pens and highlighters Share items in occasional use, such as highlighters, staplers and hole punchers Consider teleworking and home-working schemes Position desks and workstations to make best use of natural light Check for and quickly repair leaks and dripping taps Only boil the required amount of water in a kettle Service heating systems regularly Improve insulation and draughtproofing Only heat work areas that are being used Fit controls to radiators to regulate individual room temperatures Use low energy lighting and appliances Switch off lights and machines when not in use Reduce lighting levels in areas such as corridors where bright lighting is not required Consider other energy saving measures such as timers and sensors

{CASE STUDY} Green light for creative company The people at design consultants Creativezones think and act ‘green’ in just about everything they do in their desire to be environmentally friendly. The directors even cycle to see their business clients and the company uses couriers on bicycles wherever possible instead of motorbikes.

The London-based company is involved in a range of design work, including corporate identity, multimedia and websites, advertising and promotion, marketing and communications strategy and product design and signage.

Director Bharat Lad says: ‘Design work can be quite wasteful with the materials it creates, but we felt there was a better way of doing things that could help protect the environment.’

The company recycles a range of materials, including paper, glass, metal and CDs and uses scrap paper for internal printing and design concepts. It mostly uses rechargeable batteries and recycles disposable batteries. Its offices are illuminated by energy-efficient light bulbs and where possible recycled furniture is purchased. Otherwise furniture manufactured using materials from sustainable sources is used. Redundant items of furniture are given to recycling companies.

Computers and other equipment are switched off at the end of each day to save energy and minimum detergent levels are used in cleaning solutions. Where possible the company purchases locally made, natural materials or fair trade products and avoids products with excessive packaging.

‘As well as helping to protect the environment it saves time and money,which we can pass on to customers – our fees are generally lower than the industry average,’ says Bharat.

Creativezones’ environmental policy has earned the company a Green Mark Award and a Liveable City Award given by the City of London.

{Art: this breakout is included at request of Anita but I would SO like to lose it …} {crosshead} via3 gets Anita’s green vote’At last it’s arrived, a company whose mission is very simple – to break down the barriers of cost, when it comes to businesses being able to buy goods and services ethically. via3office.com for me represents an elegant solution that enables small and large businesses alike to purchase ethically to make a positive contribution in building an ecologically sustainableeconomy here in the UK. There can be no more excuses – here we have a cost-effective and efficient solution to ethical business purchasing.'{Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop}

For many of the 83,000 small to medium-sized businesses in the UK, ensuring the supply of environmentally friendly office products and services can often be too complex to handle cost-effectively. via3office.com provides a straightforward solution, meeting the needs of businesses that are seeking a price-competitive and quality-assured ethical office supply service.

From stationery to office cleaning, everything they sell is socially and environmentally responsible, and is offered at some of the most competitive prices available in the UK for ethical products.

In its short history the company has already attracted many prestigious customers, ranging from Amnesty International to the Big Issue. via3 pools the buying power of all its customers to achieve price reductions for ethical purchasing, and founding partners John Theaker and Karl Harder say their business is committed to using profits to lower prices and reinvest in the service.

It is easy for companies to purchase ethically because via3 provides a centralised ordering process based around a convenient one-stop shop. They also take the trouble out of finding quality sources of ethical supply because their whole supply chain approach means all their products and services combine the highest standards of ecological sustainability and social justice.

Apart from having one of the lowest list prices for recycled paper in the country, via3 also runs its own London-wide ethical office cleaning service. This is a high quality, socially responsible service combining the use of ecologically sustainable cleaning materials and excellent employment standards for staff. In addition, via3 operates a London-wide taxi service using cars mostly equipped with hybrid or gas-powered engines and advanced navigational and communications equipment.

John, who is also managing director, says the via3 service is designed to help organisations become more ecologically and socially efficient. ‘We are putting a lot of emphasis, particularly in our cleaning service, on monitoring waste within an organisation to help them reduce that waste and therefore further cut costs and become more efficient.’

Full details of all products and services can be found at www.via3office.com or contact customer services on 0845 456 4540. Please note that via3’s facilities services, including its ethical office cleaning and recycling services, are currently limited to the London area.

"Business is an art and the secret is to use a wide palette and know which colour to use and which brush to apply it with. (Sir John Harvey Jones)"

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