16 Tips For an Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Office space

4th October 2019

Preserving the environment, reducing our waste and being sustainable has been the subject of focus for the last decade or so. That’s why we should put the effort to change our everyday life not just as individuals but as businesses too. 

On a company level, to implement and encourage eco-friendly policies could skyrocket performance and results. Also, the healthy and responsible mindset will sooner or later spread among employees, clients, suppliers, and possibly, the entire industry! When it comes to nature, our planet, and our home – little achievements count big!

So, how to lower the footprint of your workplace?

At HR Online, we have prepared a list of actionable tips to help you make any office as eco-friendly and zero-waste as possible.

1. Spark the light in both employees and colleagues

  • Educate staff about environmental problems worldwide. Show them why people should care, and help everybody learn how positive impact can happen.
  • Set the grounds by holding regular talks in the office. Seek out for employees  passionate about reducing waste and sustainability, and help them set an example. 
  • Use numbers to explain the scale of the problem. Outline how much waste the company can avoid if everybody works together. Think of straws, coffee stirrers, single-use plastics, cups, as well as electricity, and water. 
  • Search for external speakers to present the devastating results of plastic pollution. Sometimes people need to recognize expertise and authority in order to believe and take action.
  • Use documentaries to inspire your coworkers such as “Trashed” or “Plastic Oceans”.

Make sure to praise employees that deserve it

2. Try an alternate team building event 

What better way to put the fun back into the workplace and inspire people about the environment than organising a pro-active clean-up. Choose a location near your office – a park, a beach, or a riverside – and take everybody there. 

Once you see with your own eyes how much trash is left to rot, the problem will transform from fictional to real-life.

To clean up the outdoor alongside your colleagues can only strengthen the bond between colleagues and nature. The common greater cause ou takes things to another level. As people gather rubbish, they will probably find various single-use plastics and as guilt builds up, discussions can happen. From this moment on, your team could grow more considerate about plastic items used in the office. 

3. Install a filtering system for tap water

Plastic water bottles are one of the most common polluters of oceans and beaches. To prevent the use of disposable bottles in your workplace you can:

  • Install a filtered water cooler powered by the main water supply;
  • Install a filter on the tap in the office kitchen;

Once you have unlimited tap water in the office, employees could easily switch from disposable to reusable bottles.

4. Improve air quality in the office

A single business can’t fight the air pollution outside but at least it can take care of the air quality indoors. Fresh and clean air in the office will benefit the health and well-being of your employees. It can also significantly improve creativity and work performance.

Ensure that your colleagues’ breath clean air:

  1. Measure the air quality in the office. By tracking you can ensure productivity and health.
  2. Install air cleaners. Smart Wi-Fi purifiers are an excellent choice.
  3. Place more plants in the workplace;
  4. Regularly ventilate the meeting rooms and other common areas;
  5. Hold team meetings outside;

The 5 Office Hygiene Factors You Need to Consider

5. Provide reusable cutlery, cups, and plates in the office kitchen

Disposable cups and utensils make a huge percentage of office plastic waste. 

Sure, they are easy to use and there’s no need to wash but think about the resources put for production and transport. We use these once only for them to end up as waste. Decomposition of plastics can take anywhere from tens to hundreds of years.

That’s why it’s crucial to invest in reusable and washable knives, forks, spoons, cups, and plates. They are more durable and will save the company money in the long run. Or even a better idea is to invite your colleagues to bring their own items from home and keep them in the office kitchen. 

Note: Ensure there’s a proper place for cleaning the reusable mugs, utensils, and dishes. A dishwasher is a clever and efficient solution.

6. Encourage colleagues to bring homemade food 

Take-out lunches usually come in disposable containers that can’t be washed or reused. To tackle this problem you can provide appliances for storing and heating food, as well as comfy tables and chairs. This way you will ensure your staff brings and enjoys homemade dishes in the office. Or even better, look into simple yet efficient cookery ideas and set up the kitchen for easy and fast-made meals. 

7. Opt for zero-waste coffee and tea

Have you ever thought about how much plastic waste is accumulated by coffee and tea lovers in the office?

There are several ways you can minimise this quantity:

  1. Offer loose tea instead of tea bags which are made of plastic.
  2. Choose coffee brands which sell their product in a glass container or a metal tin. 
  3. Substitute the disposable coffee pods with reusable stainless steel ones if you’re using a coffee pod machine in the office, then s
  4. Invest in a French press. It works perfectly and plastic-free for both coffee and tea.
  5. If you get milk delivery, find a supplier who offers milk in glass bottles which can be returned.
  6. Ensure everyone has a reusable mug for their favourite beverage.

8. Surprise your employees with a gift set of reusable items

Given that you have a budget for company gifts, you can prepare a set of reusable branded items to your team. You can use this set as a bonus, a birthday gift, an onboarding package or when someone has a company anniversary.

Antonia from Escape Waste suggests the following items for a reusable gift set:

  • Water bottle;
  • Lunchbox;
  • Bamboo fork, knife, and spoon;
  • Coffee/tea cup;
  • Straw;
  • Tote bag;

9. Choose suppliers that deliver with less plastic packaging

You can contact your company suppliers to explain that you rather decrease the plastic footprint of your business. Together you can find alternative packaging that works for both parties. 

By raising concern, you can influence suppliers. This way contractors might consider changing their company policy and thus spread the word further.

10. Place recycling bins and encourage people to do so too

Although recycling is not the answer to our global waste problem, it’s still better to separate trash than leave to pile up. 

  • Recycle plastic items that you can’t replace with plastic-free alternatives. 
  • Ensure you also install bins for paper, glass and metal objects. These are all valuable resources which can be reused for another purpose.
  • Recycle any corporate appliances, batteries, computers or other devices. You can delegate this task to a company specialising in electronic waste recycling.

Note: Plastic can only be recycled a certain amount of times. Eventually, it will end up in landfills, or even worse – in nature.

11. Compost any office food leftovers

People often forget food leftovers in the office fridge and they go bad eventually. What can you do instead of throwing everything away? 

The answer is composting. Contact the company which provides waste management services to your business and ask if they collect food waste as well. If not, you can choose between the following options:

  • Install composting bins if your office has a balcony or a garden.
  • Search for a community compost pit near your workplace.
  • Find employees with a personal compost and ask them to take the food waste home.

12. Stock recyclable or reusable office supplies

Many office supplies consist of small parts from different materials which are very hard or even impossible to recycle. The alternative is to find items which can be composted, reused or recycled. Here’s an example of better substitutes to some of the most commonly used office supplies:

  • Coloured pencils instead of markers;
  • Refillable pens instead of regular ones;
  • Paper tape instead of sellotape;
  • Note: Refrain from using sticky notes as they can’t be recycled due to their glue strip. 

13. Set up a printer policy

Using an excessive amount of paper is a problem for many businesses. Make an audit of your printing needs and find out where you can minimise. Develop a printer policy and determine which documents/emails have to be printed or skipped. Set up the company devices to double-sided printing to fully exploit every piece of paper.

Also, you can go through old company documentation and see if anything is obsolete. You can reuse the paper for writing notes.

14. Fix, reuse, donate, buy second-hand office furniture

Office pieces of furniture experience more wear and tear than the ones at home. Think about how you can prolong their lifespan by regular maintenance and repair. 

If you really need to replace the old office furniture, then consider buying second-hand. Often you will find excellent quality at a bargain price. Afterwards, you might resell or donate to charity the items you don’t need anymore.

15. Invite your team to brainstorm office eco-friendly ideas

Two heads are better than one. Involve your colleagues in the process of transforming your office and work habits. Have a discussion or a brainstorming session where everyone can share sustainable ideas. 

Your coworkers know the company best and have the ability to come up with a clear vision about the future impact of your business.

16. Encourage the home office

You don’t need people in the office all the time, not to mention how counterproductive that is. According to SummerHouse24, the growing demand for garden offices is a sure sign of a growing trend throughout the UK. By letting people spend more time at the comfort of their home or garden office, you can nourish productivity and loyalty. 


Read: 6 ways to improve the health and wellbeing of your employees

Final remarks, 

To introduce and implement an eco-friendly mindset in the office is rather easy. It takes a bit of goodwill, practice, and love for nature.

Dimitar Karamarinov is an award-winning digital multi-instrumentalist of background and skill in a wide range of digital mediums and multimedia starting as early as 2006. With over a decade of experience in audio, graphic, and motion design, along with various forms of business and communication, he gains experience with Entrepreneur Franchise top 500, Inc 5000, and multi-continent companies, along with various charity initiatives under his belt.