Last November, we posted about six ways your office could stay green during the winter. Ideally you took some heed there, because now it’s time for the summer version. How can your office stay green and be a bit more environmentally-friendly during the hot months?
This is a two-birds-with-one-stone concept. Summer Fridays are popular at some offices — although it’s still only about 3 in 10 offices nationally that use some variation of summer hours. The first benefit to summer Fridays is that, whether you use a reduced schedule (employees out by 1pm, etc.) or a totally-wiped schedule (no one has to come into the office), you can save money and benefit the environment from your primary physical office spaces — because if people don’t need to be there, you don’t need to be running all the mechanisms that support people being there. That’s a bottom-line benefit to you (lower bills) and an environmental benefit. The third benefit? Employees will be more engaged knowing they have flexibility within their summer schedules to design vacations with their kids off of school, etc. There are limits and ‘within reason’ arguments here, of course — make sure that productivity is still the paramount goal — but summer Fridays can benefit you (and the environment) in three tangible ways.
Local Food Information And Purchasing
If you provide food to employees, consider purchasing locally during the summer months. Most areas have an array of famers’ markets in the summer, and it helps ensure that vegetables haven’t traveled thousands of miles simply to reach your employees’ plates. If you don’t provide food to employees (many companies do not), consider educating your employees on local purchasing options. You could select a farmer from a nearby farmer’s’ market and give him/her an option to come in on a Wednesday afternoon and showcase some produce, then use it as a chance to promote various buy-local options.
Relaxed dress code
This is a bit in line with the summer Fridays concept above, but consider a more relaxed dress code in the summer months. Again, obviously there are ‘within reason’ aspects to this — if you have a major client meeting, you probably want your people in suits. But a relaxed dress code often means a higher comfort level. This can save on A/C costs (if everyone is in dense suits, the need to crank up the air is more logical), and some research has shown that a relaxed dress code actually increases productivity across the board.
We talked about this in our winter ‘go green’ roundup, but it deserves inclusion here as well. Summer is a natural time of year to want to have your car at work — because if that ‘all employees will be released at 1pm’ e-mail does come, you want that connection to freedom or the ability to head anywhere (as opposed to waiting for Jim from IT to clear his plate so you can carpool home). But carpooling makes a ton of sense in the summer — and especially this summer, when there’s expected to be an uptick (not long-term) in gas prices relative to the general drop we’ve seen most of the year so far.
And again … we return to food. One of the major issues with an office in the summer is that it’s hard to foster a real sense of team or collaboration — people are in and out all the time on different vacation days and schedules. (Oftentimes, senior managers with more accrued vacation can be gone for up to half the working days of a given summer, depending on the age of their kids.) If you want to try and build some camaraderie between those in the office at a given time, consider a weekly potluck. Everyone brings a specific food item in a reusable container, and you use eco-friendly cups and plates. It helps your employees save money on their own lunch, it creates a small amount of waste, and it builds up your team in the process.
Internally, make sure your water cups are BPA-free. We’ve all walked into a work kitchenette with hundreds of plastic cups piled high in a trash can. It’s not quite environmentally-friendly. Try to get BPA-free options; they will be more costly, yes, but they’re better for the environment. Also note: many products are referred to as “BPA-free” but still not safe or good for the environment. You can also help guide employees to the best water bottles for their individual use, which is a good way to pay it forward in a corporate context.
Print only when necessary
This applies to every season, and most companies have some variation of this message at the bottom of email signatures. Despite this, many people still print out tons of documents, including documents that really don’t need to be printed. (Ever shown up at a meeting where the organizer has printed out copies for everyone and everyone else shows up with the same documents printed?)
This aspect of summer eco-friendly-ness is where we can directly help the most. If you use a content management system (or ECM, aka enterprise content management), you can run meetings in a more effective way — simply project elements from the ECM onto a screen, and invite attendees to bring a laptop/tablet to follow along. Our content management system can allow for shared editing, so your meeting can be more dynamic — instead of one organizer running through core ideas and points, it can feel like a collaborative environment where everyone is shaping and responding to the agenda as it’s presented.
What other tips for going green in an office over the summer have you seen?