The OB Care mantra for sustainability in the workplace

Sustainability and sustainable living are increasingly becoming topics of discussion the world over. More and more people are making the transition from rampant consumption to Earth-friendly sustainable lifestyles. Considering the state of our planet right now, we can’t say this movement has come too soon. Previously, we spoke about how the cleaning products you use at home have a significant impact on your sustainable lifestyle. Today, we want to expand that discussion into workspaces and how you can incorporate sustainable practices at your office. Even with remote working picking up steam and more and more people adopting freelance career paths, the carbon footprint of workspaces globally is humongous and doesn’t bode well for the future, unless we start making offices sustainable too.

And this transition doesn’t have to be sudden. Often workspace initiatives don’t succeed because they’re launched with much fanfare and then interest fizzles out. Or because the change required is too massive to consider. But as the old Chinese saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The shift to sustainable practices at your workspace too needs to be undertaken step by step, day by day. Don’t try to change everything at once. Instead, introduce one new habit a day that will allow everyone at your office to ease into the sustainable living movement while ensuring the movement itself doesn’t fizzle out.

Here we have a 2-week program of things you can do – one a day – to ensure your office is a champion of workplace sustainability by November.

Day 1
Turn off lights when not in use. This is self-evident but a lot of offices leave a lot of lights on even when there is nobody in the room. Switching just one fluorescent light off for an hour everyday can reduce 30 kilograms of CO2 emissions annually. And meeting rooms don’t need to be brilliantly lit when no one’s in them, no? In fact, meeting rooms should only be lit by the brilliance of your ideas, no?

Day 2
Now that you’ve sensitised everybody to the importance of switching lights off, take the next logical step and move to energy-efficient lighting. Not only will this help you make your office sustainable, in the long-term, it will also make your office more economical. Energy-saving lightbulbs use at least 25% less energy and last at least 3 times longer, helping you save on electricity costs and also reduce consumable expenses.

Day 3
Still on the topic of lights, call your interior designer and figure out how to redo the office so you can minimise the use of artificial lighting during the day and maximise natural sunlight in your office. Not only is this an excellent efficiency win, natural lighting is great for office morale too.

Day 4
Switch off those computers too. Yes, you might get a lot of contrarian advice on how it is more efficient to leave office computers on all the time but a single PC left on 24/7/365 can cost you thousands of rupees in energy costs. Now multiply that by the number of computers you have in your office and just imagine the savings. And when switching them off is not always an option, put monitors to sleep and use energy-saving modes on your computers.

Day 5
Switch to laptops. Get rid of all desktop computers in your office and move everybody to laptops. You won’t lose much in processing power but the energy gains are tremendous. Laptops on average consume a third of the energy as a comparable desktop computer.

Day 6
Monitor the air-conditioning. Not too many people visit Antarctica or the Arctic Circle. But visit a typical office in Mumbai and you might begin to understand how cold Antarctica actually is. Because many (most?) offices always turn their air-conditioning up to the max. This is not good for the environment or your office’s energy bills. Nor is it good for the people working in your office. The optimal recommended setting is to leave your air-conditioning on at 24°C. Better still would be to take out all the air-conditioning and move to fans and natural cooling.

Day 7
Turn off that fax machine. Seriously, when was the last time you received a fax? Fax machines are relics from the previous century. Offices that do have fax machines still have them running non-stop to receive one fax message a year. And invariably whatever message has been received on fax is rendered better on email. If you still use a fax machine at your office, turn it off and tell everybody to email whatever needs to be faxed. You can save energy and paper both. And finally welcome your office to the 21st century.

Day 8
Stop printing. The convenience of a printer means most of us don’t even bat an eyelid when we print at the office. Whether it is an email or a recipe or a draft presentation, CTRL+P is used far too often. Stop. Think carefully before printing anything whether you really need to print. Switch to apps to manage brainstorming and project management so you don’t need notes on paper. And printing email is sheer wilful obtuseness. Print only what is absolutely essential to print. And don’t print colour sheets. Also, please turn on the “print on both sides” option by default on your office printer.

Day 9
As a continuation of Day 8, go paperless. 20 years ago, people used to talk about the paperless office. And with all the advancements in digital record-keeping in the intervening years, it is easier than ever to switch to fully paperless. Or as paperless as possible. With the exception of government documentation, there is nothing else where paper cannot be given up. And switch to PCW paper for the paper that you do use.

Day 10
Recycle. Now that you and your colleagues are reducing paper consumption, you want to get started on recycling. First, get a bin (or many) in which recyclable stuff can be collected. Envelopes, stationery, magazines, newspapers and pretty much anything else made of paper. Also, cartons and packing paper. And plastic bottles and cans. And ink cartridges from your printer. Not only is recycling good for the planet, it will make your office lighter and airier too.

Day 11
Clear the air. The quality of indoor air in your office affects health and morale of all the people in there. There are easy, sustainable ways to make sure your indoor air quality is always up to scratch. Get a few indoor plants. Avoid air fresheners. Avoid chemical-based cleaning solutions and switch to all-natural cleaning.

Day 12
Save water. Offices use a lot of water. And a lot of that water can actually be saved. Like the water that goes into flushing restroom urinals. Each urinal consumes an average of 30,000 litres of water a year. This water can be saved by switching to FlushFree ™.

Day 13
Save more water. Urinals are not the only water criminals in your office. They are abetted by the taps in your sinks. Switch to low-flow, water-saving faucet aerators. From personal experience, we can say using them also makes you feel more refreshed after washing your face.

Day 14
People are increasingly turning to composting to manage organic waste generation at home. But composting is an equally good, or even better, idea for offices. Compost all organic waste in your office. Convince other offices in your compound to join Use your office terrace or compound to start a garden and use the compost to nourish it.

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of ideas to turn your workplace green. But this is an excellent way to begin. And you know what they say about beginning well being half the work done, no?

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