Careers advice

How to make your office more environmentally friendly

You don’t need to be a senior member of staff to implement this kind of change.

An important part of career satisfaction is feeling that your organisation’s values and culture align with your own. For many of us, these days, this includes a commitment from your employer to making the workplace environmentally friendly.

If you feel your workplace could do better when it comes to sustainability, you might be wondering what you can do to make your office more eco-friendly.

The good news is that you don’t have to be in a senior position to initiate this type of change, so here are our tips.

How to promote sustainability in the office

1. Lead by example

We’ll get on to advocating for more sustainability in a minute, but first it’s important to be a model for the behaviour you want to see. This can include actions such as:

  • Going paperless: avoiding needless printouts when you can conduct business functions digitally.
  • Recycling: ensuring that different materials used in the running of the business are correctly disposed of so they can be reused.
  • Saving energy: doing little things like turning off lights in meeting rooms that aren’t in use, not leaving computers running overnight, ensuring heating systems are actually needed in the areas they’ve been installed.
  • Adding some greenery: not only can plants brighten up your surroundings, their carbon capturing capabilities mean they’ll be supporting your environmental efforts too.
  • Avoiding single-use items: whether it’s your morning coffee, a take-away lunch or your water bottle, there are sustainable alternatives to single-use coffee cups, takeaway containers and plastic bottles.

You may find that by simply adopting these behaviours, without preaching at colleagues, they start to follow suit. Many people just need to see how easy it is to be sustainable, without feeling pressured or guilt-tripped into doing it.

Little behaviour changes can make a huge difference.

2. Make suggestions

Many modern businesses have ways for employees to make suggestions on ways to improve the business in terms of efficiencies, processes and practices. Even if your company doesn’t have a formal way of doing this, you should feel confident making suggestions to your manager or people leader.

A few tips on how to do this:

  • Make your argument calmly: for many, the environment is a really important issue, and something they feel very passionately about. While this passion is great, you’re much more likely to get the result you want if you approach the topic in a calm manner and communicate effectively, rather than railing against what you see as irresponsible or outdated attitudes.
  • Talk about why it’s important: make sure whoever you’re talking to understands why you’re raising the issue. Why is it important to you? Creating a workplace that employees are proud of should matter to higher ups.
  • Mention benefits to the business: often, improving the eco credentials of your workplace will have other positive impacts for the organisation. This could be something as important as being able to position themselves as an eco-friendly company when recruiting to cost-cutting by eliminating wasteful practices.
  • Present a solution: managers and employers love it when staff present solutions, rather than problems. As well as improving the chances of action being taken, this shows that you’re invested in the future of the company and improving the way it runs.

3. Organise green activities with your colleagues

From tree planting to beach cleans to wildlife surveying, there are heaps of ways we can all get involved with protecting New Zealand’s beautiful natural environment. As well as doing your part for the planet, these activities can serve as great team bonding experiences, and are ways to get to know your colleagues better. What’s more, as the organiser, you get a chance to showcase your leadership and interpersonal skills.

Of course, if you’re hoping to coordinate this type of activity during office hours, you’ll need to first get permission from your manager. Hopefully, you’ll get their buy-in but, if not, there’s nothing to stop you and some dedicated coworkers doing the mahi on an evening or weekend.