Climate change is here. What was once something we thought of as a possibility in the distant future is now right in front of our faces. The World Meteorological Organization says there’s a 50-50 chance that the average global temperature will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level in the next five years, at least temporarily. We’re already seeing warmer temperatures, more extreme weather events and climate migrants leaving the areas most impacted by droughts and other extreme weather events.
What can we as individuals do, though? As just one person in a world where almost 8 billion people live, how can an individual make a difference? We can focus on living green at home, and trying to promote an eco-friendly lifestyle at work.
Below, we include some ways all of us can make a difference in our workplaces. Here are some ways you can promote a green lifestyle at your workplace.
Bike to work or use public transit
If you can avoid driving to work, this will positively impact the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that a typical passenger vehicle puts out roughly 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, and automobiles also produce methane, nitrous oxide and other gasses. If you can ride your bike to work, this will reduce emissions while also promoting health and well-being through exercise.
Take advantage of carpooling or public transit if your work is too far away and it’s not feasible to bike. This can make a big impact if done on a mass scale.
Avoid takeout containers for breakfast and lunch
The Geneva Environment Network reports that of the 8.3 billion (yes, billion!) tons of plastics humans have produced over the last 70 or so years, roughly 80% of them have ended up in landfills or in the environment. Our oceans are filled with too much plastic, and these containers don’t break down easily.
If you can avoid purchasing plastic takeout containers for breakfast and lunch each workday (and ask your co-workers to do the same), this can make a tremendous difference.
Pack a lunch with reusable food and drink containers
If you’re going to use plastic containers, the worst thing you can do is throw away your plastic container after only one use. Reusable food and drink containers allow you to use two containers over the course of a year instead of 200. When you think about that on a mass scale, this means 10 million people are using 20 million containers instead of 2 billion.
Take advantage of natural light and energy-saving tech
If you have rooms in your office that get ample sunlight, use that natural light during the bright hours of the day instead of using electricity. This can save the office money on energy bills, while also helping the environment.
Tech gadgets like LED bulbs, motion sensors, smart blinds, tankless water heaters and solar panels can also make a difference in energy consumption and may even lead to tax savings in some cases. According to Energy.gov, businesses may be eligible for a business ITC (solar investment tax credit) of between 10% and 30%, depending on the project, when construction started, and the panels began working.
Avoid printing whenever possible
A paperless environment is so easy to achieve in this day and age. If you want to invite your co-workers to a meeting or event, you can quickly and easily do so over email.
In spite of the widespread availability of paperless methods, people still send paper greeting cards, invitations and flyers. The EPA reports that we generated 67.4 million tons of paper and paperboard products in 2018–that’s more than double what we generated in 1960. Sure, we are doing a bit better at recycling paper products, but it’s so easy to just send an email, Zoom link, Evite or social media message. Printing on paper has pretty much become obsolete, and it’s often completely unnecessary.
Buy green food, cleaning, and office products
The availability of green products has skyrocketed in recent years. A press release by Prophecy Marketing Insights indicates that green cleaning was a $3.9 billion global industry as of 2019, and they project an increase to $11.6 billion by 2029.
From green sponges to compostable dishes and flatware, you can easily find and take advantage of green food, drink, cleaning and office products.
Hold earth-friendly gatherings instead of business gatherings
Instead of meeting with a new client for lunch or at the office, ask your company about having business gatherings at litter pickup events or other eco-friendly gatherings. This will show your stakeholders your company’s commitment to the environment while helping make a difference.
Propose environmental volunteering as a team-building activity
Along the same lines, asking your company to have everyone attend events like Arbor Day celebrations, Earth Day celebrations and Ocean’s Day events can promote team building. This also gives your workplace a common goal (outside of work) to achieve, which can improve workplace culture.
Have a reusable water and coffee cup system
If your business uses disposable cups for water and coffee daily, this can add up to thousands of cups each year. On a wide scale, all of these disposable cups by these businesses mean way too much waste.
According to Earthday.org, the world has tripled its single-use plastic use since the pandemic's beginning. In the US alone, we throw away in excess of 50 billion coffee cups yearly, most of which are coated with plastic.
Having a reusable system where everyone has their own cup that they rinse out and use again saves thousands of cups each year when just a single office building implements the system.
Propose an environmental protection team at your workplace
Ask your employer to start a green team, where you implement recycling, upcycling and energy-saving programs throughout the office. In addition to helping your office become more eco-friendly, it can also be a fun change from day-to-day work tasks.
Bring plants to work
Having live plants in the office will serve a few purposes. Plants can make the space look more attractive and relaxing while also cleaning the air and making it feel fresher. When an office has live plants, it can also make workers think more about nature and maybe even promote a desire to protect the Earth.
A research study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that plants in the office can even improve productivity.
Propose green work projects and initiatives
When you’re working on new ideas or concepts at work, remain mindful of their environmental impact. Propose eco-friendly ideas in favor of concepts that take a heavy toll on the environment. Consider how each of your proposed solutions to work problems will affect the climate over the short- and long-term.