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How to make your office more sustainable

This does what it says on the tin!  A quick guide to basic measures which can be taken to improve how 'green' you are at work.

Things you'll need

  • A consensus in your office that everyone wishes to improve its environmental credentials. That's all, really.



  • Put signs up to show how staff can double-side copy or print, posted within readable distance of each photocopier and printer, and make staff aware of this.


  • Start collecting used postage stamps from staff and donate them to a charitable reuse scheme (such as RNIB's stamp scheme).
  • Recycle all of your used printer and/or toner cartridges and keep a log of the numbers and dates sent.
  • Establish a stationery reuse system or collection point which can be accessed by staff in order to avoid throwing functioning stationery, such as ring binders, away.


Make sure that there are enough paper recycling bins throughout the office for all staff to easily recycle their waste paper:

  • at least one paper recycling bin per office
  • in open plan offices, at least one paper recycling bin per ten desk-based members of staff
  • paper recycling bins by each photocopier and printer.



    Put energy-awareness stickers and posters up encouraging staff to switch off lights and/or equipment when not needed. 

    Power-saving tips

    • Cut energy consumption and cooling costs by disabling screen savers on your computers. They consume more energy compared to allowing monitors to dim by power management. Ask your colleagues or your IT department to change their settings on their computers to help save energy
    • Turn down the brightness setting on your monitor
    • If you're not using an application or programme then close it down. Having multiple applications or programmes open slow down your computer and uses more power. You could also manually put your device to sleep when you leave your desk if you won't be using it for a period of time

      Air conditioning

      If your office has portable or fixed air conditioning, ensure that the doors and windows in all air conditioned rooms are kept closed when the air conditioning is on.


        Label all banks of three or more light switches in order to identify which lights each switch operates.

          Switching off

          Have a comprehensive shut-down checklist for holidays and ensure that all staff have been briefed on it.



            Do a basic walk-around in order to identify areas in the office which are being heated unnecessarily and take action to save energy as required.




            Promote the following to staff:

            • the nearest cycle storage facility
            • the nearest shower and changing facilities
            • details of the cycle-to-work scheme, if applicable (see further information below).

            Season ticket loans

            Promote your organisation’s season ticket loan scheme, if applicable.



              Think local 

              Think about how far a product has travelled to reach you and what the carbon footprint might be. 

              Check how products are made

              Just because a product is recycled or recyclable doesn’t mean it is necessarily environmentally friendly. The materials used could contain hazardous chemicals or be made alongside non-environmentally friendly products. With all wood and paper related products that are not made from recycled materials, ensure that they come from sustainably sourced suppliers i.e. FSC certified suppliers.

              Check your suppliers credentials

              Good suppliers will have an environmental policy and where possible, ISO certification.

              Whole life costing

              Looking at the whole life of the product rather than just the initial cost. How much does it cost for you to install, operate and maintain equipment or products? Also think about the cost of disposing it. 

              Think of the complete supply chain

              From merchant service providers to transport, there is a possibility of being green in most elements of supply chain. It is important to shop around and find out what is available to you.  


              Greening teams, actions and communications

              Communication is the most important tool to ensure that colleagues buy-in to playing their part in making your office sustainable. Here are some suggestions:

              • identify, rank and document what the office believes are its five most significant negative environmental impacts (see further information below)
              • formally induct all new staff on relevant environmental issues within their role
              • make sure that the office has a central point for updating staff about environmental issues. It could be a notice board or an online network

              Further information

              • Some of the information in this how-to guide has been provided by NetPay and PCS, both are NCVO Trusted Suppliers. 

              • Cyclescheme
              • National Association of Paper Merchants - The National Association of Paper Merchants (NAPM) has an accreditation scheme for recycled paper. For paper to gain the ‘recycled paper mark’, it must be manufactured from a minimum of 75% genuine paper and board waste fibre, no part of which should contain mill produced waste. 
              • Certified sustainable resources is where a material is guaranteed to have originated from a sustainable source. There are two main certified sustainable source schemes in place for timber-based products. The first is operated by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which has developed a system of forest certification and product labelling that allows consumers to identify wood and wood-based products from well-managed forests. Over a million hectares of forest and woodland in the UK are now FSC certified. The second is the scheme run by the Tropical Forests Trust (TFT). TFT aims to expand the area of natural tropical forest that is Forest Stewardship Coucil certified, helping to ensure that forest management is environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable. 


              Page last edited Jun 23, 2017 History

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