Mark Brown looks at the ways that careful purchasing decisions can help offices become more environmentally friendly
Reading time: 4 minutes.
Managers, business owners and employees all have a responsibility to consider ways in which they can make their workplace more environmentally friendly. Although not required by law, it is good practice to have a workable environmental policy in place to help ensure that offices, factories and other places of work are doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprint.
Measures like going paperless, setting up recycling facilities and reducing waste are all great ways to start, but it’s also important to think about sustainable procurement, from cleaning products, to stationery to your office furniture so you can make ethically responsible choices when making purchasing decisions for the workplace.
Manufacturers take responsibility
The good news is that manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of the important role that they play in creating a more ecologically friendly supply chain.
If you are committed to reducing your carbon footprint it pays to do your research.
From sourcing sustainable materials to reducing packaging, many companies are taking their environmental responsibilities seriously. So, if you are committed to reducing your carbon footprint it pays to do your research.
Desks, chairs, shelving, noticeboards, litter bins – in fact almost anything you find within an office building – can be manufactured from renewable, recyclable or sustainably sourced materials. So, check out what each product is made from before purchase. It’s also worth looking to see and see if the manufacturer or supplier has an environmental policy in place – this can often be found on the website.
Looking for certification
Office furniture can be made from a variety of materials, but it’s likely that at least part of a desk, chair or workstation will include some wood.
Most ethically sourced products that incorporate wood will have a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This certification guarantees that the wood comes from a sustainable forest and/or has been sustainably harvested so it is an important hallmark to look out for.
Why invest in quality?
Over the last fifty years, we have increasingly moved towards being a throwaway society. If something breaks, it’s often cheaper and easier to buy a new version rather than get something fixed. However, if you are buying cheaper products that frequently need replacing, you need to consider whether this is actually a false economy.
It’s certainly wasteful and damaging to our supply of non-renewable resources. So, it might be a wiser investment both financially and ecologically to purchase higher quality furniture that is likely to have a much longer shelf life.
It’s also important to think about what happens to a piece of furniture once it comes to the end of its life. Choosing an item of furniture with parts that can be recycled makes it a better choice environmentally.
Many manufacturers are becoming increasingly resourceful and ecologically minded when sourcing materials. And it’s not just the wood or plastic that can be sustainably produced or recyclable: the way that a chair or sofa is upholstered can also make a significant difference.
For example, some suppliers manufacture environmentally friendly fabrics such as recycled polyester from used plastic drinks bottles. The plastic is turned into flakes and then melted down into resin which is extruded into a fibre used to create the yarn used in the fabric. It takes around 22 plastic 500ml bottles make one metre of fabric.
Lighting the way
Lighting and heating are likely to account for the largest energy consumption in a standard office, but there are measures that can help reduce energy usage. They may require an initial financial outlay but over time can save money as well as reducing a building’s carbon footprint.
Steps such as installing lights controlled by movement sensors can significantly cut energy consumption and are particularly appropriate in places such as meeting rooms, toilets and kitchens that may not be in constant use.
Other simple measures such as installing LEDs which use 75% less energy and can last more than three times as long as a standard light bulb also have an impact, particularly when combined with other measures.
How you lay out your office can also have an impact on energy consumption. Make the most of natural light by positioning workstations near windows if possible. Keeping workstations away from draughty areas and nearer heat sources can also help keep the office thermostat lower.
Ultimately, creating a more eco-friendly office is about having an overall strategy in place with a range of measures from implementing an ethical purchasing policy to raising staff awareness which, when combined, can make a real difference.
About the author
Mark Brown is owner of Lismark Office Products.