How to make your working day eco-friendly as you return to the office

Tuesday 7th September, 2021

For many people across the country, working in the office has been a relatively rare occurrence over the last 18 months - but with national restrictions now having lifted, and more and more people getting vaccinated, most are now getting back into the daily routines of office life.

However, this return to the office also presents an opportunity for working Brits to break with old habits and adopt a more eco-friendly approach to their working days. This is especially true for those who have gotten used to having total control of their recycling habits and environmentally conscious lifestyle during the many months spent working from home, and want to keep that momentum going.

In keeping with the New World, New Habits theme of Unblocktober 2021, we’ve put together a series of top tips on how to bring about positive environmental change during your working day - both for yourself and your colleagues.

Adopt environmentally friendly commuting

Global emissions research shows that carbon dioxide emissions dipped slightly in 2020, as a direct consequence of the lower number of people taking to the roads during the pandemic. Now that many are returning to the office for their daily commute, rush hour traffic has become a problem once again - but it’s worth remembering that there are alternatives.

If you previously drove to work every day, you may find that you can make it to work just as efficiently by taking a greener form of public transportation, such as a train or a tram. In many cases, this may even be quicker than snailing your way through busy road traffic, and will also save money on petrol and parking!

You can help reduce emissions by setting up a car-sharing scheme with some of your colleagues, another method that will also result in lower costs for your group. In some cases, you might even be able to walk or cycle into work, or arrange with your bosses to work from home more regularly - all of which will really help to minimise your personal carbon footprint.

Be responsible with the lights and temperature control

Working in a comfortable environment is always important, but it’s equally vital to make sure that you’re using the lights and temperature controls responsibly, in order to save energy - not to mention avoiding running up a huge energy bill for the company!

Before turning on the air conditioner or the central heating, you should ask yourself a few questions. Does the room in question really need to be heated, if you’re only going to be in there for a few minutes? Is it possible to keep cool simply by opening a window? If you are activating the temperature controls, have you made sure to close the windows first? Have you switched the unit off after you’ve finished using it?

Many of these same considerations should also be borne in mind with regard to the lighting, making sure that you switch everything off if you’re the last person to leave the office. This is easy to forget and can be a real source of energy waste, which makes this an important habit to get into.

Go paperless where possible

So many of our day-to-day business processes have become digitalised in the last few years, a process that has only been accelerated by the pandemic. In this modern era of digital presentations and email communication, there is less reason than ever before to rely on paper documentation and printouts - so there’s no need to go backwards on this just because you’re back in the office!

This can be achieved in various ways, from resisting the temptation to needlessly print out multiple copies of reports that could easily be talked through on-screen during a meeting, to making a broader switchover from physical filing cabinets and paper invoices to their digital equivalents.

Not only will this help reduce paper wastage and energy use, it will also help to save space and money for the company - a true win-win scenario!

Bring your own food and drinks in reusable containers

Buying food and drinks during the workday inevitably leads to masses of plastic packaging, stray bottles and disposable cutlery, all of which can be damaging to the environment. Properly recycling these items is a must for office workers, and will greatly help to reduce their environmental impact.

However, there’s another way of tackling this problem that’s even more effective - simply avoid buying these prepackaged food and drink items in the first place! You can do this by making more of an effort to create packed lunches for yourself, whether that means putting a sandwich together or bringing your leftovers along in a reusable container.

By providing your own lunch, along with a refillable bottle or flask to quench your thirst, you can avoid adding to the broader problem of packaging waste, while saving yourself a bit of money every day.

Avoid putting fat, oil, grease or plastics products down the drains

Proper waste disposal is about more than just recycling - it’s about making sure that you aren’t blocking the drains and sewers by washing fat, oil and grease (FOG) down the plughole when you wash up after lunch, or avoiding flushing items like wet wipes and tampons down the toilet.

All of these items contribute to the formation of fatbergs, giant masses of FOG and non-biodegradable plastics that build up in the sewer and lead to blocked pipes, urban flooding and harmful waste entering our waterways and seas. Many people know that they shouldn’t be putting these items down the drains, but get into a bad habit of doing it anyway, whether at work or at home.

With the UK’s drains currently under strain due to bad waste disposal practices during the pandemic, you can make a huge difference by pledging to stop flushing these items during the working day - and by encouraging your colleagues to do the same!

One of the best ways of doing this is by getting your business to sign up for Unblocktober. Organisations that take the Unblocktober challenge will commit to getting all of their workers to pledge to avoid putting FOG and hidden plastics down the drain for the entire month of October - a sure sign that your business is prepared to step up and become an environmental champion!

To find out more about how to get involved, just take a look at the information on the Unblocktober homepage, or fill in our business signup form to receive an information pack for your whole company. By doing so, you’ll be able to make sure that your return to the office can mark an important turning point, both for your organisation and for the health of our sewers and seas!