Sustainability is a key component in modern office design, as well as a crucial factor that can help shape a successful workplace.
Operating a sustainable office has several advantages. Not only is it cost-effective, but it can also improve productivity and assist with enhancing a company's image. Furthermore, embracing sustainable practices in the workplace can create a happier and healthier workforce, leading to a boost in staff acquisition and retention.
Let‘s take a look at the simple ways you can create a more sustainable office, from encouraging green travel and going paperless to installing living walls, and more.
Embrace Sustainable Furniture
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that up to 8.5 million tons, or 17 billion pounds, of office furniture ends up in U.S. landfills each year. While flat-pack furniture has become a quick, simple, and cheap way to fill offices, businesses should reconsider the way they furnish their space in favor of sustainability.
Start by foregoing cheap and mass-produced designs for well-crafted pieces made from sustainable materials, such as wood, stone, or bamboo. Some furniture companies are also creating designs made entirely of recycled plastic. Supporting these brands—and their unique office furniture—is a great way to keep additional plastic out of landfills.
Look to Your Lighting
Lighting accounts for approximately 25 percent of the energy bill in commercial buildings. Therefore, when looking to create a more sustainable office, this should be one of the first areas addressed.
Swapping your existing office lighting for 30W integrated LED fittings can save up to 67 percent in energy usage, due to their lower power levels, generation of less heat, and longevity when compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.
Along with switching out your office’s current light bulbs for more energy-efficient ones, you should also enhance natural light where possible. According to the World Green Building Council, employees working near sunlit windows have a 15 percent higher productivity rate. This can be attributed to natural light’s ability to significantly improve health and wellness among workers.
In our digital age, our increasing reliance on digital work methods is actually allowing offices to be more sustainable. This is because printed documents—particularly for corrections, revisions, and updates—contribute up to 90 percent of all office waste within the U.S.
Additionally, over 60 percent of the 17 billion cubic feet of trees deforested each year is used to make paper. This deforestation alone is responsible for almost one-fifth of the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions.
By making the effort to embrace digital practices where possible and go paperless, offices can dramatically reduce this unnecessary waste. To make the switch, consider which software, apps, devices, or cloud storage you can utilize in your office’s day-to-day operations.
Encourage Green Travel
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, motor vehicle exhaust accounts for up to 95 percent of all carbon monoxide (CO) emissions in cities. Companies can encourage and incentivize employees to reduce their commute emissions by walking, bicycling, carpooling, or taking public transportation to work.
Installing showers and practical staff lockers in your office will allow walkers, bikers, and runners to freshen up upon arrival and store their gear in a safe and secure location. For cyclists, having adequate bike storage in the form of a bike rack or garage will encourage workers to swap four wheels for two.
Turn Off Electronics
Many offices have developed an unsustainable habit of leaving electronics—including lighting—on throughout the night when no one is present. For some, this both looks good at night and aims to deter burglaries, while for others it’s simply out of sight and out of mind.
In order for an office to be sustainable, electrical equipment such as computers, printers, televisions, heating/AC, and lighting should be shut off each evening when staff goes home. In order to make this process easier, offices can set up timers that automatically turn off this equipment for them.
Utilize Living Walls
Another great way to create a sustainable office is by bringing more plant life into the workplace. However, for many offices, floor space is limited. To still reap the benefits of plants, offices can utilize their vertical space with living plant walls. This allows them to adorn otherwise empty spaces with hundreds, if not thousands, of gorgeous plants.
Not only do plants look great in an office, but they also provide several benefits to companies and their employees. This includes boosted moods, improved physical health, enhanced focus, increased productivity, and a reduction in noise pollution. Additionally, plants produce more oxygen, offsetting chemicals released into the air, and create a cleaner, more sustainable working environment for all.
Living walls can also be a practical addition to a workplace in terms of how they are used. Due to their portable and easy setup, they make stunning room dividers, or can even provide an aesthetically pleasing backdrop for Zoom meetings. Furthermore, living walls are easy to maintain, requiring little to no care from staff.
At Zauben, for example, our popular Model Z living wall self-irrigates and monitors plant health 24/7. No plumbing or drainage is required, as the Model Z holds a 4- to 6-week watering tank at the base that recirculates water throughout the living wall.
We also offer ongoing plant care to keep your living wall looking lush and beautiful. Our monthly service includes a 100 percent plant guarantee, water tank refills, cleaning, and pruning plant growth. This allows your office to enjoy the beautiful scenery and benefits of a living wall, without any of the maintenance.
Finally, the Model Z living wall has been designed with sustainability at the forefront of our minds. Every living wall uses 1,200 recycled plastic bottles, as well as 75% less water than soil-grown plants. Additionally, the plant lighting is automatically set to the earth's natural light cycle to help reduce energy consumption.
A More Sustainable Office Can Start Today
Sustainability is no longer a “nice to have” feature of a workspace, but rather, a key component of successful offices in our modern era. It’s important for organizations to take responsibility for the longevity of our planet and its resources. Plus, with benefits such as a happier and healthier workforce, companies have a lot to gain from ensuring their office is being run sustainably.
With just a few simple and inexpensive tweaks, you too can transform your office into a more sustainable version today. If you're ready to make a simple, yet highly effective change in your own office, visit one of our showrooms or schedule a demo of our incredible living walls today.