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How To Inspire Sustainable Change At Your Office

We’ve discussed before that there are many ways to change the world, many ways to feel good about what you do, many ways to fight today’s environmental and social problems:  


  • You can raise conscientious children, giving them love and compassion, knowledge and awareness, that they will then pass on to others.  
  • You can change your own lifestyle to become as sustainable as it can be, and become an example to those around you, who will be inspired to make changes themselves.  
  • You can work within your community to make it more adaptable, to encourage others to change their lifestyles, and to help others in need.  
  • You can give money or time to international causes.  
  • You can vote and participate in local and national politics.  
  • You can do all of these things together (and I hope some of you find the time to do so!).  
  • And… you can use your skills for a good cause, making money and making a difference at the same time.  Or if you can’t do that, you can make enough money and live frugally, so that you are able to give a portion of your money to important causes.


But here’s something else:  if you work in a place that doesn’t really fit within your values, you can take steps to make it more aligned with the rest of your life.  How?  


Ten Ways To Make Your Place Of Work More Socially & Environmentally Responsible:


  1. Write a climate action plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 2010 or 2015, and rally management to fully get behind the plan.  Also consider gathering a committee to write a corporate social responsibility plan for the office.
  2. Work on recycling and composting programs at your office.
  3. Encourage the office to buy silverware, cups, mugs, plates and bowls from a local thrift store, not only to reduce waste (from plastic and paper), but also so that employees can comfortably eat in the office during tough economic times.
  4. Work on energy efficiency in the office:  replace incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs, plug computers into “smart” power strips or turn off power strips at night, reduce heating and air conditioning in the office, have the last one in the office turn off lights at night, etc.
  5. Inspire fellow employees to bike, carpool, and bus to work.  Also encourage the office to install secure bike racks, and offer possibilities for telecommuting.
  6. Install a water dispenser or water filter on the sink, as an alternative to individual bottled water.
  7. Reduce paper usage by encouraging electronic documents and double-sided printing.  Reduce company mailings in favor of emailings.  Also use post-consumer recycled printer and fax paper.
  8. On the exterior grounds, replace ornamentals with native plants – or even an herb or vegetable garden for employees.  These special touches often inspire long-term employee loyalty.
  9. Stock the breakroom with fair trade, organic coffee and tea.  And encourage company gatherings to serve local, sustainable foods.
  10. Create a social giving committee for the office.  Ask that employees consider giving canned food once a week, or a few dollars a month for local causes.  Ask management to consider giving 1% of sales or profits to an important cause.  Both of these are a great selling point for the business!


Obviously the office won’t make all of these changes overnight.  But present a list to the powers that be, and ask that the office slowly works to tackling the list.  It might make sense to get several interested employees together to make this list, and you may want to approach management before you start and ask for their support in creating a committee to focus on these things.


If you don’t think your workplace would go for these types of changes, pitch that these things will not only make their employees happier and more likely to remain in their jobs longer, but it will also be a selling point for clients and it will likely increase profits as it decreases costs (in energy, garbage, etc).  Green will be the next bubble, and since the economy isn’t doing well at the moment, anything that can be done to help business grow is important right now.


Please Add To The List!


I’m sure that I’ve missed many things here.  Please add more!  Does your office have a climate change plan?  A CSR plan?


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7 comments to How To Inspire Sustainable Change At Your Office

  • I work at Boeing and while the employees do great things I really feel the compnay only does the things that they can point to themselves and say” Look at Us! We are Boeing!Look What we did”
    It is bad enough they do that, but then they do other things like- When the employees bring food in for the food banks- BOeing is right there saying how Corporate Responsibility is so important and that Boewing is doing such a good thing allowing the employees a few boxes to donate food while the fat cat Execs sit up in their perches eating free food and drinking free coffee and bottled water that their employees have to pay for-It’s just like the Car Maker Execs spending $20,000 to fly their corporate jets to washington DC to beg for billions of tax dollars, because the companies they mismanaged cant survive instead of paying $800 for a first class plane ticket because it is beaneath them. But I am getting on a rant here.

  • Wonderful list, Melinda. I’m not working but am proud to say that my husband did initiate a few of these things at his work. I’ll have to forward this list on to him to inspire a bit more change. :)

  • I’ll add switch the candy bowl to organic fair trade chocolate, supply everyone with canvas bags, delegate a space for plastic bags that can be saved and reused, pray someone will actually remember to save and use them besides yourself. Talk about plastic and reusing supplies alot. Rant about waste (not always effective). Purchase biodegradable utensils instead of plastic if co-workers won’t switch to regular utensils and recycled paper plates because there’s no way in hell they would use a real one that would require washing. Praise co-workers each time they suggest a way to save resources. Praise them again the next day. Invite them to the farmers’ market or give them pink lady apples with a story about the grower. Let the youngest person in the office take the lead. They know things. Recycle batteries, talk to the janitorial staff about safe and non toxic cleaning products. Give away supplies or equipment that are no longer needed. Reduce and clean up the waste in your office. Don’t give up and look away and breathe a lot. Change is happening.

    Thanks for the water filter idea Melinda. I’m going to look into that one. And thanks for the list. I ponder sustainability at work a lot. Heck, I ponder it home a lot.

  • We have done all of these, but we are a home office of 2, so it was really easy! No opposition.

  • One change I helped *push* my employers to make was switching our hand soaps in the restrooms to an earth friendly, biodegradable option. We also have changed to 100% recycled hand towels. I’m hitting a sticking point with the TP though, it’s still quite a price increase. However, we already recycle all our glass, plastic and aluminum. We take our cardboard to a local cardboard recycling center.

    Another thing we do that is great for the community is to donate all of our magazines and fabric scraps to local preschools for art classes and we take all of our recyclable paper to the local middle school for recycling in their paper bins where the school gets money per ton collected.

    Also, instead of sending out corporate gifts to our clients during the holidays, we make a sizable donation to the local food bank in our clients names. Our employees can also contribute to the donation, which is matched by the owners.

  • I brought a spare microwave to work, which gave my coworkers the option of bringing a lunch from home instead of all driving somewhere to find something to eat.

  • [...] it.  And to act on it.  How can you change your industry for the better, from within?  Can you make your workplace more green doing little things?  Can you help write a sustainability plan for your industry?  Can you even just bring [...]

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