On average, we spend 70,000 hours of our life at work. Although much is made of external pressures on organisations, less celebrated is the power of the individual to effect change in the workplace. The incentive for the employer is not only to do their bit for the environment, but often to save money as well. We have great opportunities to reduce our individual, and or workplaces, impact on climate change whilst we are there. The Stern Review has recently highlighted the economic case for taking action on climate change now. It estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing between 5% – 20% of global GDP each year, now and forever. In contrast, the costs of action can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year. Below are a number of simple steps that we can all take in our workplaces.
Top tips for tackling climate change at work
General Energy Usage
No cost energy efficiency measures can save 10% on energy bills alone.
- Keep detailed energy consumption records for your building by taking weekly meter readings.
- Complete an energy audit for your building. The Carbon Trust have a free guide to assessing the energy use of your building www.carbontrust.co.uk
- Switch computers off when not in use. Give responsibility for turning off equipment (e.g. photocopiers, printers etc) at the end of the day to someone.
- Switch off equipment at the plug when not needed, in particular mobile phone and battery chargers.
- Avoid using batteries where possible. Use rechargeable batteries where they are needed.
Heating & Lighting
Reducing the heating by 1oC can save 8% on heating bills. The recommended temperature for office spaces is 19oC. The average office wastes £6000/yr by not switching off un-necessary lighting.
- Switch lights off when not in use
- Use stickers next to light switches to make staff aware of their use
- To improve control and reduce un-necessary lighting, ensure lighting is individually controlled, rather than one switch for all. For example, use localised pull cords.
- Replace lightbulbs with energy efficient equivalents
- Clean shades: A dirty shade can cut down light by 20%.
- Consider movement sensors or timed lighting controls where appropriate
- Know who controls the heating system in your building and get to know how your local heating system works
- Discourage the use of supplementary heaters.
- Close doors and windows when the heating is on.
- Switch off extractor fans at night and at weekends.
- Ensure radiators and heaters are not blocked by furniture.
- In open plan areas use screens to block draughts.
- If a new heating system is planned, invest in zone and thermostatic controls.
- If boilers are to be replaced install condensing boilers as they are much more efficient. Even better would be to install a combined heat and power unit. For more information visit www.chpa.co.uk
- Consider installing a renewable source for energy and heating, such as biomass, wind or solar. For more information visit www.cheshirerenewables.org.uk
- Purchase goods made from recycled materials where they are available. For more information visit www.recycledproducts.org.uk Where this is not possible, use suppliers with a commitment to environmental issues or external certification of environmental standards.
- Have a used goods area within the office, e.g. for binders, padded envelopes, files, etc so they can be reused.
- Reduce the impact of packaging, e.g. use concentrates, refillable containers, choose goods with recycled packaging materials.
- Consider the life cycle of a product, how durable and long it will last.
- Ensure photocopiers, faxes and printers are set to print double sided
- When purchasing IT or electronic equipment, ensure that it has energy efficient features such as automatic power saving.
In the UK, 86% of the 4.8 million tonnes of office paper we consume is still sent to landfill. As recently as 2001, some of the largest and most widely used paper merchants were still importing paper made from ancient Indonesian forests. If each one of us used one less staple a day, we would save 120 tonnes of steel each year.
- Use both sides of paper whenever possible.
- Ensure instructions on photocopier, fax and printer use (especially double sided printing) are available to reduce waste.
- Do you have a notice board? It could be used for general notices instead of individual ones.
- Re-use scrap paper for notes.
- Use the reverse side of wasted paper for faxes
- Use chlorine free, 100% post consumer waste recycled papers. For information on where to buy this visit www.recycledproducts.org.uk
- Cancel junk mail, catalogues and faxes via the Mail Preference Service Tel 0845 703 4599, www.mpsonline.org.uk
- Chose re-usable products instead of disposable ones to reduce your waste levels.
- Envirowise offer a range of support to businesses to help them reduce their waste. Visit www.envirowise.gov.ukfor more information.
- To find out about companies that can offer recycling services to your work, or for further advice about the savings that can be made through addressing your organisations impact in Cheshire, contact the Eco Audit Co-ordinator at Cheshire County Council, tel 01244 603358.
Travel at work
- The Energy Savings Trust offer a free fleet review to organisations with a minimum of 50 vehicles. Contact them on 0845 6021425 or visit www.est.org.uk
- For organisations with smaller vehicle numbers, free telephone support is available. The EST can give advice on alternative fuels, fuel economy and reducing mileage.
- Talk to your employer about the possibility of reducing the need to travel, such as teleconferencing or working from home where feasible. Remote working reduces travel and associated emissions and it improves employees ability to balance work and home life.
- Register on a car sharing database such as www.liftshare.org or www.nationalcarshare.co.uk, or speak to your employer about setting up an in-house car sharing database.
- Tax free bicycles can be purchased by your employer for you to use to travel to work, saving up to 50% on the cost of a bicycle. For more information, contact Cyclescheme on www.cyclescheme.co.uk
- Ensure that meetings or events are held at
venues easily served by public transport.
- Establish if the food that is served at an event is produced locally
- For a large event, consider offsetting delegate travel and venue energy use through tree planting or a donation to another carbon offset scheme such as the Carbon Neutral Company www.carbonneutral.com or Climate Care www.climatecare.org