3 Things Employees Can do to Encourage Sustainability at Work
As an environmentally-conscious individual, there may be times you find yourself employed by companies where there is little to no effort to invest in green initiatives and priorities. As a result, you might feel helpless when it comes to implementing sustainable practices into your routine at the place where you spend the majority of your day: your workplace. However, even those who are not in positions of leadership can utilize education and positive attitudes to encourage change among their peers and supervisors in an effort to positively impact the company and environment.
As an employee, here are some of the things you can do to encourage sustainability at work:
1. Educate About Greener Transportation Options
The average American spends approximately 47 hours per year commuting through traffic. In total, this leads to about 3.7 billion hours and 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year. Choosing an alternative method of transport is a great way to reduce the major stress the environment faces as a result of commuting. You could consider carpooling to work and back, or even walk or bike to work if possible. If you have a vehicle that can handle it, use compressed natural gas (CNG) as opposed to gasoline. CNG helps reduce carbon monoxide emissions and is usually domestically produced — meaning a reduced dependence on foreign oil.
Finally, implement environmentally friendly practices while driving. One such practice is to idle less. Idling less is especially important for organizations that utilize big vehicles like trucks as part of their operations. In fact, research shows that reducing idling by just one hour every week per truck can save a thousand pounds of carbon dioxide per year! Similarly, idling in cars also wastes carbon dioxide and increases emissions, so it’s best to keep your idling to a minimum while driving.
An article on Rise cites telecommuting as another environmentally friendly option. If your company allows it, then choose to work from home during the week. In this way, you can avoid contributing to air and noise pollution as a result of everyday commuting. If you aren’t sure about your companies telecommuting policies, discuss it with your manager laying down the environmental benefits of being allowed to work from home, at least on certain occasions.
2. Promote Sustainable Surroundings
Considering that employees spend most of their days at work, promoting sustainable surroundings is a great way to get people excited about going green. One way to do so is to place plants around the office. As stated in the Rise article, “Indoor greenery can boost oxygen levels and remove harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide and formaldehyde. In fact, NASA research reveals that indoor plants reduce 87% of indoor air pollutants within 24 hours.” As an added benefit, plants can really spruce up a place and beautify empty corners of the office.
Secondly, when it’s time for upgrades, you as an employee can suggest work spaces and environments that serve to promote employee and planet well-being. For instance, you could encourage managers to consider biophilic office design. Biophilia is defined as “the passionate love of life and all that is alive.”
In essence, biophilia states that humans desire to connect with nature. Biophilia in the workplace can make for a healthier and more productive environment, and even help reduce employee stress.
Some elements of biophilic office design include using:
- reclaimed wood structures,
- integrating plant-based features,
- and using biodynamic lighting.
Another way to promote sustainable surroundings is through the cafeteria or kitchen area of your office.
Encourage those in charge to stock common areas with locally produced items as well as avoid single-use plastics. Send out emails to fellow employees asking them to bring their own reusable containers and cutlery to work, so as to eliminate the need for disposable coffee cups, plates, and plastic cutlery. As common areas in the office become greener, employees will be forced to become more environmentally aware, in turn instilling long-term sustainable habits among staff.
3. Champion a Sustainability Team
Championing a sustainability team can bring about increased awareness of sustainability, as well as be a platform for employees who wish for greener initiatives. Even if your managers aren’t directly involved, you can put together a team of like-minded employees who act as stewards of the environment. Additionally, your managers will appreciate your efforts in making the workplace eco-friendly.
In an article on TechRepublic, Andrew McCrea, account executive and green team community events chair at Weber Shandwick, states that a sustainability team made of employees if actually more useful in the long-run. According to him, “Employees engaging one another is more effective than memos from the top. This group can conduct monthly ‘inspections’ looking at the power/gas meters, amount of office supplies ordered, etc., and keep a record to gauge positive or negative movement.”
Your sustainability team can smart small with monthly events that educate staff about everyday sustainability practices. You could also consider inviting speakers from local universities, environmental NGO’s and more, to give talks about the importance of maintaining the environment. As the sustainability initiatives catch on with more staff members, you could start lobbying for company-wide change.
For instance, you could encourage top management to change how they operate so as to be more sustainable. It is a known fact that wise companies consider how their products and services make consumers feel, with an emphasis on user-centered design. In fact, a survey featured in this Inc. article polled 30,000 consumers across 60 countries to find about “what influences how people feel about brands, and how those feelings impact buying behavior.” The survey found that a whopping 66% of consumers were willing to pay extra for sustainable goods.
Given the fact that more and more people want to support sustainable companies, your sustainability team could suggest environmental operational and design-oriented product changes that in turn boost customer loyalty. These suggestions will be appreciated by management as they also help improve the company’s bottom line.
Even if your company isn’t currently implementing sustainability principles, there are many things you as an employee can do to make sure your everyday work practices are environmentally-friendly. Remember that no matter your position, you have the power to make a difference.