Workplace sustainability is so important for businesses, yet is often neglected in favor of other considerations deemed more pressing. Most people associate sustainability with being environmentally-friendly, and while that is a big part of it, it is about more than that. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “The term ‘sustainable business practices’ generally means giving consideration to the environmental, economic, and social impact of a company’s business practices- both internally and externally- when making business decisions.” It’s a way of improving your company’s bottom line in a way that takes responsibility for your employees, customers, and the environment. So it’s a win-win practice; the challenge is getting everyone onboard.

Workplace sustainability begins with encouraging employees. It has to encompass the entire office, or it will never work. It’s simple to practice sustainability at home when it’s just your family you have to account for, but getting your whole staff involved is another story. Therefore, start small. If you try to enforce sustainability all at once, it will feel like an insurmountable task. Instead, try gradually rolling out some of these ideas in your workplace and reminding everyone involved with the company (employees, customers, and business partners) how important and beneficial workplace sustainability is.

Encourage employees to carpool or take public transportation

You can significantly cut back on greenhouse gas emissions if you promote a carpool policy. Incentivize employees to carpool by posting notices around the office and compensating drivers for mileage. You can reduce your carbon footprint, while promoting team building at the same time.

Practice telecommunication

You may think that allowing employees to work from home would curtail productivity, but in actuality, occasional work from home days have been shown to boost overall productivity. At most companies, the option to telecommute is considered a benefit and it cuts back on the environmental and economic impacts of commuting.

Cut back on waste

Enforce recycling in your office and cut back on waste; this may sound daunting, but there are actually many ways to go about this task. Start by placing clearly-labeled trash and recycle bins around the office; you could even include helpful guides on the bins of what can be recycled and what cannot. Other ideas to eliminate waste include switching to hand dryers in the bathrooms and going digital with most or all documents to cut back on paper waste. You can also use secondhand office equipment and recycled supplies. As long as everything is in useable condition, there’s no point buying new. You can save 20-30 percent on refurbished equipment and up to 50 percent on used.

Reduce energy use

There are so many simple ways you can reduce your company’s energy usage. Simply powering down machines when they’re not in use (as in unplugging them from outlets), can have a huge impact. Take advantage of natural light, and when you must use electricity, use compact fluorescent bulbs, which consume 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. Artificial lighting is responsible for 40 percent of electricity consumption in office buildings, and nearly a quarter of all electricity in America, when it is so often unnecessary. Also, keep tabs on the temperature on the office. You should have it set at a comfortable temperature so as not to stifle employee productivity; there’s no point in blasting the a/c in the summer, causing employees to bundle up with extra layers.

Promote workplace wellness

Workplace sustainability is not just about the environment, but also about keeping employees happy and productive. Promoting workplace wellness can, in turn, contribute to a more sustainable culture. For instance, going green in the literal sense by placing plants around the office makes for a more relaxing environment, while also absorbing airborne pollutants and emitting healthy negative ions and oxygen into the air- contributing to a healthier, happier environment! Some other ideas include a designated space and equipment for exercise and stretching, allowing flexible work schedules, and encouraging employees to take the stairs. 

Form a sustainability crew

Encouraging the entire staff to adopt sustainable practices will be your greatest challenge, so why not form a committee of engaged employees who will motivate the rest of the team? This is a great way to get your employees involved and show that you value their ideas and contributions. Plus, you could also initiate volunteering, which is a great way for your office to connect with the local community. According to a survey from the UnitedHealth Group, 76% of people who volunteered in the last year reported lower stress levels and 81% said it helped strengthen relationships among colleagues.