• Teri Sutherland

12 ways your business can save the planet



Our actions at work have a direct effect on our business, but they can also affect our planet, too. I’m sure you are already doing things that reduce the impact on our environment. The good news is, there may be other simple things you haven’t tried yet — starting at home . . .



1. Make your own lunch


This may sound negligible, but the simple act of preparing your own lunch results in a number of positive outcomes: Less waste. Less rubbish. Less emissions.


As much as we like to support our local cafes and delivery drivers, every drive to the shops emits carbon — yep, even electric cars. Remember, the electricity to recharge the batteries in electric cars has to come from somewhere.


Every takeaway bag and every disposable piece of cutlery becomes waste. (Of course, don’t bypass your local takeaway altogether. Perhaps treat your workmates at the end of each month — or there’s always the office Christmas party. More on this later.)


Try to limit your meat consumption. By relying less on livestock, valuable resources such as water are preserved and the release of toxins and other harmful emissions are reduced.



2. Take your own water bottle and coffee cup


Do you really need that plastic bottle of water? What about that cardboard coffee cup with the plastic lid? Probably not. Even though these items can be recycled, it still requires valuable resources to do so. Specific bins need to be made. Trucks have to collect the bins. Factories need to be built to store the rubbish and recycle the materials. All these things contribute to emissions in our atmosphere.


By refilling your own water bottle and using your own coffee cup, you’ll be eliminating waste and reducing emissions.



3. Leave the car at home


Of course, this isn’t always achievable, and most commuters have already considered their options and their carbon footprint. Where possible, carpool with a co-worker who lives nearby. You drive one week. They drive the next.


Catching the train can be faster than driving on congested roads. What about scooting or a good old bicycle? Councils have invested heavily in bike paths over recent years. You may be surprised at the number of quality paths in your area.



4. Service your vehicle regularly


If you must drive to work, be sure to have your vehicle serviced regularly.

By ensuring your car is running efficiently, you’ll reduce your emissions, and minimise your chances of requiring parts for a costly repair down the track. And reconsider purchasing a new vehicle when the warranty expires. A well-maintained vehicle is better for the environment than manufacturing an entirely new one.



5. Save electricity


There are numerous ways you can save electricity at work.

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights, appliances and devices.

  • Adjust the temperature of the refrigerator during the cooler months.

  • Use the air-conditioning sparingly. Try opening a window first.

  • Don’t overfill the kettle. Overfilling will require more energy to reach the boil.



6. Save water


Don’t overfill the kettle when making hot beverages, and don’t overfill the sink when washing cutlery. Ensure all taps are turned off when not in use — including any hoses. Dispose of used tissues in a bin, not by flushing them down the toilet. Ensure the cistern in the toilet is working correctly and not leaking. See also 11 below.



7. Save paper


OK, so you’ve made a mistake on an invoice or packing slip. Don’t throw it in the bin. Use that paper to write notes while you’re on the phone, or labels for stock in the warehouse. (You can also use it to write a shopping list for tomorrow’s healthy lunch!) Better still – don’t print invoices in the first place. Go digital. Send it via email.



8. Recycle, recycle, recycle... of course


If you can’t persuade all your workmates to bring their own lunch and drink bottle to work, be sure to recycle their bottles, cups and containers. Set up separate bins for recyclables and general waste. Use recycled or biodegradable bags in waste bins.


At the end of each month, dispose of the recyclables at an exchange depot and put the money towards a staff lunch or Christmas party! Larger companies can arrange delivery of industrial bins for general dry waste, paper and cardboard, and other items such as batteries.



9. Use enviro-friendly cleaning products


Many cleaning products use chemicals that are not only toxic to the environment, but can be lethal to wildlife. Many insects and reptiles seek refuge in drain pipes and play an important part in the balance of the ecosystem. Use cleaning products that are manufactured responsibly and contain plant-based ingredients.



10. Recycle office furniture


Instead of purchasing new office furniture, consider good used items. Sometimes, older office chairs, desks and filing cabinets are better quality than some of the new offerings.


If you’re not in the market for used furniture and need to replace old items with new, be sure to donate the unused furniture to your charity of choice.



11. Become a greenthumb


Beautify your surroundings by adding plants to your environment. The natural beauty of the plants enrich your life and brighten your outlook — they’ll also soak up the CO2 in the atmosphere and replace it with vital oxygen.


Place a pot plant in the lunch room. Plonk a palm tree in the office. Go bananas and grow a garden in the car park. It all contributes to a cleaner environment for us all. If your budget is limited, succulents are hardy, grow from a friend’s cutting and don’t need much water.



12. Spread the word


No need to go door-knocking here. But, every time you see a co-worker dump a cardboard cup in the bin, gently remind them there is a better way. Encourage your workmates to make the small changes that all add up to a better planet for us all.