7 ways your office is low-key contributing to climate change

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The environment makes its way into regular discourse these days… and for excellent reason.

Between climate change and major calamities like the Amazon rainforest fires, it’s clear that steps must be taken to reduce the damages inflicted by mankind on our planet. And it’s easy to assume that those steps can only be taken on macro levels, by massive corporations changing their practices and by governments instituting new regulations and policies.

However, even individuals and smaller businesses can make a difference, which is why every office should seek to go as “green” as  possible — not because it’s trendy, but because it’s necessary. Read on for seven common workplace habits that don’t pass muster as “eco-friendly,” along with the best ways to fix them.

1. The kitchen/break room regularly stocks plastic utensils and cups

Buying plastic utensils and cups for employee use seems like a logical course of action: they’re easy to throw out, therefore reducing the need for dishwashing. However, single-use plastic cutlery, straws, plates and cups also wreak havoc on ecosystems by endangering wildlife.

And, sure: no one LIKES washing dishes. But keeping your office kitchen stocked with reusable mugs, silverware, and dishes results in a far greener workplace. Many eco-conscious offices even supply employees with reusable water bottles to keep at their desks and refill from spring-water coolers placed throughout the workspace, which can easily limit the waste caused by using and immediately tossing a plastic cup.

2. The lights, heat, and other electronics stay on overnight

If you work in a large office building/park with building management that’s totally separate from your company, you may not have the ability to encourage the building to cut the lights and heat overnight. However, if your company does have authority over those matters, it’s a valuable way to conserve energy and reduce your business’s carbon footprint. Even if you can’t affect the lights or the heat, you can ask your office manager to urge employees to turn off their computers overnight and power them back up when they arrive at work in the morning.

3. Employees go through reams and reams of paper on a daily basis

In certain fields (like law and childhood education), the regular printing of paper documents can’t typically be avoided. But more and more businesses are coming to realize that “going paperless” isn’t as daunting a prospect as they once imagined. If it’s feasible for your company, try replacing paper documents with emailed PDFs and e-signature programs.

4. Telecommuting is heavily discouraged

As with the paper matter, the ability to permit telecommuting depends heavily on your particular industry. However, some companies insist on the physical presence of their employees out of habit rather than out of necessity. If most of your workers commute via car, traveling back and forth five days a week results in significant gas expenditures and chemical emissions, neither of which do the environment any favors. Permitting your employees to telecommute proves far greener, while also having the added bonus of making workers happy (since no one enjoys workday gridlock traffic).

5. Office plants aren’t a common sight

Plants improve air quality, so an office with plenty of greenery often proves a more pleasant place to work. Of course, it’s not advisable to force a desk plant on an employee with a not-so-green thumb…but if your workers are open to it, your company might consider providing them all with small, easy-to-maintain succulents to keep in their workspaces.

6. The office purchasing department isn’t focusing on eco-friendly products

These days, eco-friendly office supplies- everything from recycled paper to low-waste coffee machines to non-toxic cleaners- can be easily obtained by companies looking to go green. If your company hasn’t yet made the switch, it’s a point well-worth raising with the purchasing department.

7. Recycling isn’t part of the company culture

There are plenty of recycling skeptics out there, who don’t believe that it really matters whether you drop your crumpled paper in a blue bin or in the regular waste basket. However, your office’s recycling habits can indeed make a difference, especially if everyone is willing (and encouraged) to pitch in. Some offices even incentivize recycling, offering small rewards to employees when the bins are used correctly.

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A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.