Every year on April 22nd, millions of people in more than 190 countries around the world celebrate Earth Day. A movement that was first started in America by politician and environmentalist Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day aims to boost global community engagement in activities like litter picking, planting trees, and making positive promises to live in a more sustainable way.
For businesses, Earth Day presents an opportunity to reflect on the environmental changes that can be made in the workplace to help make the world a cleaner, better place for the generations to come. Whether you’ve been planning a new recycling initiative that hasn’t quite taken off yet, or there’s a spare patch in the staff car park that can be used to plant a community garden, Earth Day is the perfect occasion to kick-start your company’s green projects.
If you’re struggling with ideas to celebrate Earth Day at work, here are some easy-to-implement suggestions that won’t cost the Earth.
Ramp Up Your Recycling
Recycling at home in recent years has become part of domestic life, with councils providing most homes with free of charge recycling bins. However, the same services aren’t yet available for most workplaces. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of total waste produced in the office is recyclable, but around 67.5% ends up in landfill.
Therefore, it’s now vital that workplaces encourage and engage their workforce to recycle or reuse wherever possible. Try these simple ideas and see how much difference it makes to your regular business waste collection:
- Encourage the use of reusable coffee cups and refillable water bottles instead of employees buying plastic ones that are only used once or twice before they’re discarded. Ordering branded coffee cups and water bottles and making sure every member of staff has one, eliminates the need for plastic drinking vessels and also helps to create a sense of belonging and community in the workplace.
- Go paperless: did you know as much as 80% of the waste produced from an office environment is paper? It might not be wholly practical to implement a paperless solution across the entire business, but by discouraging unnecessary printing and recycling the paper that is used through a commercial recycling provider, you can drastically reduce your paper usage at work.
- Invest in recycling bins: adding recycling bins to high traffic areas around your workplace will encourage recycling. Although this may come at a small cost to the company, it will make a big impact on internal culture and the environment.
Implement ‘Green’ Challenges
A simple but effective way to encourage colleagues and staff to be greener is to offer an incentive; everyone loves a reward!
By implementing a green challenge across the company for a time-limited period, like a week or a month, can help to encourage an air of healthy competition, and be good for the environment.
For example, if your teams can go a whole month without using plastic cutlery to eat their lunch, or without buying plastic drinks bottles, they’ll receive a gift card for a free coffee.
Monthly green challenges are good for team morale and good for the environment!
Buy a Desk Plant
One of the easiest to implement ideas to celebrate Earth Day at work is to buy a desk plant.
If you’re office-based, it’s likely you’ll spend upwards of six hours a day at your desk. Desk plants have multiple benefits (not the plastic ones!) that stretch way beyond environmental impact.
For example, some office plants help improve air quality, which has a positive impact on productivity and absence rates. Others can act as a living screen to help reduce noise, whilst some succulents have been known to boost creativity and act as mood stabilisers.
One of the best office plants is the Zamioculcas, otherwise known as the ZZ plant or Zanzibar Gem. This is because it’s one of the easiest indoor plants to look after and only needs watering about once a month. Other plants to consider are the spider plant, aloe and of course, the trusty cactus.
Let the Natural Light In
According to a report by the World Green Building Council, employees who are seated near a window get approximately 46 minutes more sleep per night than those who don’t have access to natural daylight. Letting the natural daylight into your workplace has multiple health and productivity benefits for your people, as well as significant environmental gains.
For example, seating staff near large windows can substantially reduce your electricity usage and also help to keep offices warmer.
Here are a few tips to add more natural light to your workspace:
- Are shelves or filing cabinets blocking any windows? Move them so the light can freely flow into the room.
- Does your office get more sunlight in the morning or afternoon? Arrange your desk space to make the most of the natural light.
- Adding large mirrors to spare wall space can help reflect light into darker areas and also make smaller areas appear bigger.
- Deep clean your windows. Grimy windows can be a huge blocker of light. Invest in a professional window cleaner to regularly clean your windows both inside and out.
- Opt for white walls. Although in busy spaces, white can show the dirt quickly, it will also reflect light better than dark walls that absorb light. White or very light coloured walls will open up your office space and help it to appear bigger than it is.
- If you can’t get extra light into your office space, encourage staff to take an outside break, even if it’s just a five-minute stroll around the car park. It will help them to re-energise for the hours ahead.
Encourage Flexible Working
If COVID-19 has taught the working world anything, it’s that flexible working can be more of a benefit than many companies first thought. In a study of 3000 people, more than 78% said they’d prefer to work from the office for two days a week or less.
Of course, working from home or hybrid working is often job-dependent and many roles still require staff to be physically present. However, offering the option to work flexibly can have many significant mental health and productivity benefits, as well as a big impact on the environment.
A study from the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals in Spain, during the height of the pandemic in April 2020, suggests that working from home for four days a week would reduce nitrogen dioxide generated by traffic emissions, by around 10%.
Although these ideas to celebrate Earth Day at work are just the tip of the iceberg, even implementing just one of them could help your workplace to become greener and more environmentally sustainable.
With UK workers now demanding more transparency and climate action from their employers, making even the smallest of changes can significantly help employer branding and candidate attraction in an increasingly competitive market.