So we’ve all heard the expression ‘happiness starts at home’. However, for a lot of people most of their waking lives are actually spent outside the home and in the office. So why then, don’t we make as much effort to improve our lives, and environmental efforts at work?

I know many people who spend hours cooking delicious organic dishes for dinner, are oh so sustainable on the weekends – recycling almost everything, composting food waste and tea bags, re-using yoghurt pots for labeling pot plants, walking their kids to the park saving an unnecessary car journey, and many other fantastic ways to be green.

But then during the week they end up having a supermarket BLT for lunch (or at best a packaged salad which probably contains more salt than it’s equivalent in sea water), produce tonnes of administrative waste that ends up in landfills rather than being recycled, have the company spend money on expensive paper and packaging while the offices pay electricity bills for vending machines that are filled with chocolate and crisps. Remember, even if you are a carnivore with a sweet tooth with no interest in reducing your carbon footprint – the money alone that’s being wasted here could be coming straight out of your pay cheque!

So what can you do about the harm being done environmentally, to your health and to your pocket?

Here’s a list of things you as an individual can change:
Next to the printer have a pile of clean paper and scrap paper – print on the back of the scrap paper if it’s for internal use

Have a stationary box for stationary you get given free at events. Okay – so I accept this might not be enough to supply your whole office but it will certainly cut down annual spending and reduce waste

Re-use jiffy bags when you get sent a package. We keep ours in a filing cabinet drawer and have the right size bag for virtually anything we want to send out

Re-use the piece of paper in between business cards that the printers use to stop them smudging and don’t throw away out-of-date business cards – both can be used instead of post-it notes

Bring a homemade vegetarian lunch in – that extra vegetarian meal per day will make all the difference to your carbon footprint, be cheaper and hopefully improve your health [for some recipes see Munch Less Meat]

If you drive to work, take public transport once a week. Friday is often a good day to do this as it also means you can have a sneaky drink on the way home!

Don’t throw yesterdays water down the drain (kettle or bottled) – water the plants in the office instead when you go to refill
Walk rather than taking the lift which will also have positive health implications

Don’t overfill the kettle you only need to put in it what will be used when making everyone some tea

Bring in chocolates / biscuits you receive for everyone to share – so technically this isn’t any more environmentally friendly but it’s a nice gesture which will cheer everyone up around you, save your waistline and in turn cut down the nations health bills (I could go on about the importance healthy eating habits at work here but I won’t…)

And here are some things that you can suggest that your office changes:
• Ask them to buy stationery only from sustainable office suppliers [such as The Green Stationery Company] and always choose recycled paper

• Have recycling for paper, cardboard, bottles, cans, etc (label one pile as ‘to be shredded’ if you’re worried about confidential information being passed on)

• Suggest that staff bring in their own bottle to use for water rather than using polystyrene or plastic cups next to a water machine. For clients offer them a glass of water that you can wash up (this also looks smarter)

• If you have a canteen suggest they offer at least two nutritionally balanced vegetarian options

• Ask the offices to take out vending machines and replace them with better cooking facilities. If people want chocolate they can always bring it in rather than your offices paying for the electricity that a vending machine uses and adding to their carbon footprint

About the Author: Helen Chapman is part of the PASSION for the PLANET team.

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