When it comes to sustainable practices, people are more likely to observe them in their individual capacity. Although there are a number of commercial concerns that are incorporating green measures at their premises, however they are far and few between.
A lot of companies have adopted recycling practices, and its more to face-lift their corporate image than anything else. Nonetheless, whatever the effort, it should be lauded as it goes towards helping the planet.
Green Office Practices
Sustainability and green measures should be taught at schools. They should be instilled at home and actively practiced in our workplaces. It is the commercial/industrial hubs where most of the energy is consumed. The energy mix indicates that in the developed world most of the energy is used by the industrial sector followed by transport and domestic sectors respectively.
So what are the measures an office can take for greener practices? Well before thinking about installing Solar Panels on the roof, it is the wastage that must be looked at. The approach should always be to plug the holes in the bucket first before trying to fill it up. Sustainability practices are similar.
The following steps if incorporated by any work place can substantially reduce the negative environmental impact.
Reduce Re-use and Recycle
Several measures can be taken to reduce office waste. Printing hard copies can generate huge paper waste and consumes a lot of electricity. Furthermore every now and then the toner has to be replaced. Plastic cups at the water dispenser are another huge source of wastage. It is mainly in the educational institutes (Schools, colleges and Universities) that most printing is done. Printing on paper when not needed should be avoided. Setting the printer to print double side can similarly save huge amount of paper. Many Colleges have reported that making this simple change has reduced paper consumption by 30%.
It is amazing to see how much waste is generated in an office space. Second to paper/cardboard, left overs from lunch/meals are the another cause of waste. In many areas, local councils have taken initiative of deploying communal anaerobic digesters in commercial areas. This is where organic waste can be disposed. Similarly employing motions sensors to light-up office spaces when required is also a measure that can save huge amount of electricity, CO2 emissions and hence money. If motion sensors are an investment too big, than the practice of switching –off lights manually should be adopted.
Recycling Bins have been popular addition to the work spaces, but aligning our attitudes towards green practices can have the biggest impact.
Cycle/ Walk to Work
People are often encouraged great amount annual CO2 emissions can be saved electronic gadgets that are connected to the socket and remain on a standby are switched off. However one should bear in mind that these emissions are still less than what would be emitted from an idling engine in 1 min. Therefore the best way to reduce CO2 emissions is to live close to your workplace and walk or cycle to work. The culture of suburban sprawl, which separated work places from residential places was spurned by the oil boom in the last century. However, as the oil age is approaching its end, councils should take note that this model of separate areas of work and living cannot function in the future.
There are many organization that have schemes which encourage cycling to work. In this regards, employees could be given discount on bike purchases and facilities like bike stands and showers can be provided at the work site. Not only it will substantially reduce emissions but will also promote health and well-being of employees.
Often heating systems in cold countries and cooling (air conditioning) systems in hot countries are over used in work environment. The comfortable range of temperature in a work environment is between 18 -25 degrees. Therefore in cold countries, the thermostat can be set to 18, while in warm countries it can be set to 25 degrees. This will not only save a huge amount of energy but also help the employees avoid thermal shocks when exiting the buildings. Likewise, un-necessary use of central heating / cooling should be avoided when the building is empty of partly vacated. In such situations localized fan or heaters should be used. Similarly sliding double doors at building exits also help in maintaining the indoor temperature by preventing the loss of heating / cooling. Organizations in cold countries should also ensure that there insulation is sufficient.
Waste heat if generated through any process can be used. For example, data servers and computing units generate a high amount of heat. This heat can be used to heat the building.
- If everyone does a little, we can do a lot
Most offices have plenty of vacant roof spaces. Provided that it is easy to get permission (because offices are mostly leased), Solar PV panels or Solar Water Heaters can be installed. Likewise, Ground source heat pumps or air sourced heat pumps are also other options that can be explored. Solar PV systems can provide a portion of energy consumed in the work place. Organizations like Mackie’s ice-cream in Scotland get all their electricity from on-site renewable installations.
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