By Steph McCann

Making the commitment to switch off this Earth Hour can mark the start of shift towards more sustainable and greener practices in your business. Go beyond the hour and start thinking about integrating some simple and sustainable practices in your office or organisation. 

Green team

Start a green team in your office to get people involved. Ownership in change seems to be the best way to embed sustainability into your office culture. If you already have a green team in your workplace, then go one step further and try to start a building-wide green team. I recently went from floor to floor in our own building and invited other tenants to participate in a sustainability committee, that includes our landlord. We’re already planning some great initiatives. Your green team can champion workplace sustainability goals by kick starting an in-office recycling program, or spearheading a waste or energy audit, which can be used to help set goals for the year ahead. The green team can also be key advocates in implementing some of the other resolutions below. Communicating sustainability changes to your colleagues is important for bringing them on the journey with you, and for the eventual success of your initiatives. 

Bring a reusable cup
Coffee cups are not accepted through general recycling collections, and most are destined to end up in landfill. Worse yet, then often contaminate the commingled and paper streams, dooming them to the same fate. While many of us already know that our morning coffee carries a hefty environmental price tag, it’s still estimated that Australians use an astounding one billion disposable coffee cups each year. Make a resolution in your office to bring reusable cups to work. A Keep Cup is a great option, or you can simply bring a mug from your office kitchen to your favourite café when getting your morning cuppa. With many cafes offering discounts for people who bring in reusable cups, it’s better for your pocket too!

 

Switch off or switch it up

New year, new you, right? This is the perfect time to start looking at ways to green your office and get everyone behind the cause while you’re at it. Here are some simple and sustainable New Year resolutions to bring into your office or organisation in 2019. While computers are essential to the day-to-day running of an organisation, they’re also a major energy vampire. Start switching off your monitor when going to lunch or meetings (screensavers do not save energy) and set up a hibernation feature so your computer can automatically conserve energy when it is inactive for more than several minutes. Try remembering to unplug devices from charging before leaving the office. Your personal devices are a great start, but you can take it one step further and ask your facilities manager about how you could get all your lighting and air conditioner systems on sensors or timers. This can have a massive impact in your overall electricity consumption, and cost. You could even think about switching to a green power electricity supply. Companies like PowerShop supply 100% carbon neutral electricity and are invested in developing even more renewable generation in Australia.

 

Go paperless
Do ten copies of that meeting agenda really need to be printed? Start to think twice before printing, and try to take your work online to a cloud based platform like Google Docs to share and work on documents collaboratively instead. When printing is needed, always print double sided on recycled paper. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo that shows the timber or paper product have been sourced from forests that are managed responsibly, avoiding deforestation and habitat destruction.

Think before you buy
If you buy goods on behalf of your organisation, try to make procurement choices more conscientiously. Opt for products that don’t cost the Earth. There are a few simple environmental credentials you can look for when making purchasing decisions, such as Fair Trade, Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) and National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS). Choose products that use minimal packaging, are made from post-consumer recycled materials and can be recycled at the end of their life.

Waste free lunches
Keep a reusable container in your desk drawer for your favourite vermicelli noodle bowl, so that you don’t have to take away a single-use plastic container each time. Or better yet, commit to bringing leftovers from home so that you can reduce waste by eating food you already have, as well as saving a bit of cash. Also, start up a reusable shopping bag hamper, so people don’t need to get a plastic bag when they go to the supermarket.

Recycling: start small, but aim big
Most of us already recycle at home – so why not in the office? I’m not too modest to say that at WWF-Australia’s head office we separate eight different streams of waste (soft plastics, batteries, paper/cardboard, commingled materials, food waste, e-waste, printer toner, and of course, general waste). Start with an achievable goal: ask your landlord what streams of waste are collected in the building (hopefully at least cardboard/paper and commingled), and then try to get your office to match it. Consider removing desk general waste bins or replacing them with recycling boxes so employees start to really consider what they throw away and how to properly dispose of waste.

The long game: Going carbon neutral
For those who want to take it to the next level, make becoming carbon neutral your organisation’s long-term goal. At WWF-Australia, we’re proud to be certified carbon neutral. Being 100% carbon neutral means WWF-Australia has invested in the environment an amount that is equal to what we have taken from it. To achieve carbon neutral certification, organisations must measure emissions, reduce these where possible, offset remaining emissions and publicly report on their carbon neutrality. Making the decision to go carbon neutral is a big step but bold action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and businesses can play a key role is leading the charge.

If all of this isn’t enough to get you thinking green for 2019, research prepared by Deloitte and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand in 2017 found 64% of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are willing to spend more on products produced by companies committed to social responsibility. 

Demonstrating a real commitment to sustainability is good for business, allows your organisation to differentiate their products, services and brand and most importantly, will make a real impact on the environment. Do your organisation, yourself and the planet a favour and start ticking making sustainability a reality in your organisation this Earth Hour and beyond.

 

Register and pledge your organisation's support this Earth Hour.

 

In photos:
Koalas with nowhere to go

Koala carer Clare, from Return to the Wild Inc, has been looking after koalas for decades. Check out some of the photos she has taken during her time in-the-field.

 

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Koala taking refuge on suburban fence, southeast Queensland © Clare Gover, Return to the Wild Inc. / WWF-Aus