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What can you individually change in your workplace (home or office) to create a greener, more sustainable environment?

COP-26 has grabbed the headlines for the last couple of weeks, with moving stories of the effects climate change is having on different countries and communities, in addition to some stark figures regarding our future geographical impact. With the pollution facts and figures being quite overwhelming, it can be difficult to see what difference an individual can make. I have toiled with this and have discussed with the Brewer Morris tax team, to come up with some easy to action points which can be used and abided by in the workplace – whether that be at home or in the physical office.

I hope you find this useful, as if we all individually make one small change then together we will create large change for the better. 

1.      Move towards the paperless office.

This has been various company’s ideology for a few years, but had to come into execution in the first lockdown due to a lack of home printers and required resources. Now that we are returning to the office, let’s not return to printing unnecessarily, just because it is accessible. Meeting agendas can continue to be shared on a screen; Excel spreadsheets continue to be on a shared Drive; on-line tax filing states what it does on the tin! And from a recruitment perspective, we will no longer be printing out a CV and bringing it to a meeting, or printing out a brochure, as this is all accessible via email or other on-line platforms.

2.      Turn down your heating.

An advantage of going into the office in the winter is to be in a warm environment, and equally in the summer to take advantage of the air conditioning. However, whilst working from home, it is too easy to switch the heating on during the day, particularly now that winter is starting to take its grip. If you have your heating programmed to 2 hours in the morning and 3 hours in an evening, why not shave off half an hour from each session and allocate this to a 1 hour midday slot, so that you are not using more energy then you previously had, and the home area can be kept at a better temperature.

It goes without saying to keep oneself warm with blankets and appropriate clothing for the season. If it is feasible, move your work area to a room which receives the most sun, as even in winter this room will naturally heat up more.

Thermostat temperature is key in this process also, and it is recommended to be set within the range of 18-21 degrees Celsius. If your heating is set higher than this, turn it down to limit your impact on climate change, and at the same time you will save some money!

3.      Coffee Cups!

Are you a wishful recycler by putting your coffee cup in the recycle bin? However, due to the plastic lining inside a “throw away” coffee cup, it cannot be recycled. With the return to the office comes the increase in grabbing a coffee on the commute, or for a meeting. Our waste from this is dramatically increasing, so it makes sense to bring to the office your reusable coffee cup. Take to your meeting your reusable coffee cup and encourage those with you to do the same.

4.      Lunch!

Returning to the office means a return to a nice lunch often prepared by one of the high street lunch chains. When choosing your lunch, also take a moment to consider the packaging it is in and can it be recycled. If it can, it may be that you have to give it a rinse in the office but then place in the recycle bin, do not be lazy and put it in the nearest general bin. 

Whilst paying for your lunch, do you need the plastic cutlery on offer or can you use the cutlery in your office? Opt for the latter, but if you have to use the former, again rinse after use and place in a recycle bin. You definitely do not require the napkin! You are an adult and it is presumed can therefore eat with decorum. Finally, if you do require the paper bag to carry your lunch in, then place it in the recycle bin, but firstly question if you need the bag at all.

The additional items accompanying your lunch are luxuries, which means you can live without them and by refusing them you are allowing for a “greener” meal time.

5.      Plant.

The positive, air cleansing benefits of trees are widely reported, but this is the same for all plants, and so having a plant in your office will also cleanse the toxins inside your working area. This is an easy win in your home working environment, and in the office it can be shared by all. An additional benefit of having plants in a working environment are the positive mental impacts and the calming influence they have.

There are many more small actions to be taken to create a greener work place, from turning off computers and chargers at the socket when on stand-by, to checking if there is a more environmentally friendly commute to the office. The list can go on, but as an individual it is important to know that any small changes we make day-to-day will contribute towards a more sustainable and greener environment.