5 ways to shrink your environmental footprint

Article3 min19 July 2017By Angela Young

A company’s environmental credentials can affect its reputation enormously. But 'going green' not only enhances your organisation’s good name and reduces its negative impact on the environment – it will also save you money in the long run. Here are some tips to help.

1. Go green from day one - The Green Building Council of Australia offers the Green Star ratings system to advise on the use of sustainable and energy-efficient materials to fit out a new office. Installing effective lighting and ensuring good integration with the base building management system will boost an office’s rating. Integration with the building’s management system means connecting to the building’s computer system to give you greater control over many aspects of the physical office, including lighting. (See point 2.) The more forethought at the start, the easier it is to maintain an efficient and workable system. Choosing certain materials for furnishings and carpets, for example, will not only help with future recycling opportunities but will also ensure air quality within the premises is not compromised. (Out, formaldehyde smell!)

It’s possible to monitor your green credentials. The best way to start your journey is to measure your output and benchmark it against others. A national initiative called CitySwitch has been designed to improve office energy and waste efficiency through a variety of different services, tools and workbooks. Giving tenants an energy rating for their office space (independent of the base building, which will have its own rating for core services) helps them understand what needs to change, and assists them in making those changes.

480 Queen Street, Brisbane has a 6 Green Star Rating

2. Lighting – it’s one of the easiest ways for tenants to reduce their energy output. Installing sensors and timers on lighting systems means lights can’t be left on when not in use and there’s no pressure on the 'last one out' to switch them off. Opting for the more efficient and effective LED technology reduces energy output, too. Such a simple step from day one can make a huge difference.

3. Pre-cycle – encouraging employees to eliminate unnecessary waste in the first place is a great way to minimise the need for recycling. The office water cooler, for example, doesn’t need any plastic cups provided. When staff have re-usable glasses at their disposal, as well as the use of a dishwasher – or, preferably, two smaller ones that can operate at different times so there’s always one available for filling – they will willingly swap single-use cups for glasses. Likewise, re-useable coffee cups (and these could carry the company logo) can reduce all those takeaway coffee cups in landfill.

The best way to start your ecological journey is to measure your output and benchmark it against others

4. Get recycling right – pesky takeaway coffee cups are one of the biggest problems arising from offices today. Many people are unsure whether or not they’re recyclable, but popping the wrong kind in the recyclable materials bin can contaminate entire loads, condemning perfectly recyclable waste to landfill. In fact, they usually aren’t recyclable, thanks to the interior plastic coating for waterproofing. Installing office bins that are clearly labelled 'non-recyclable', and either separate 'paper waste' and 'container waste' bins, or a 'co-mingled waste' bin are crucial for managing waste effectively, preventing contamination and maximising recycling.

5. De-fits – the end of a tenancy is a time when recycling activities can be continued, but often aren’t. The Sydney Better Buildings Partnership has a program that tries to lift the current average 20 per cent of materials recycled at the time of de-fit (the gutting of an office after a tenant moves out) to 80 per cent. In one trial, Dexus managed to divert 60 per cent of de-fit waste to recycling, but its goal is to do even more. One example of de-fitted materials that can be recycled is the walls. A company called REGYP collects the old Gyprock from office walls and turns it into fertiliser (gypsum).

It’s clear, then, that there’s plenty of opportunity for energy- and waste-saving initiatives in the office environment. Implementing systems is no great hardship, but it’s certainly a lot easier on everyone if they’re there from the get-go, and building choice can go a long way towards making that happen.

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