How to Create a Sustainable Workplace

'Let's flourish' over a flower pattern

With the country coming out of COVID-19 lockdown, now is the time to implement whatever office changes we’ve been mulling over – time to make our workplaces work for us.

A sustainable workplace has maybe seemed a bit too much effort previously. You try to sort the recycling and you worry over how many plastic bottles there are but when you’re running a business, what are you supposed to do?

Shopping, working and consuming in a COVID-19 world has forced us to look outside our super-narrow field of vision when it comes to getting the things we need. Small, sustainable businesses have seen a huge rise in demand for their products as we all start to realise that supermarkets are only the standard because of convenience. Once that convenience is gone, there’s no reason to feed the machine automatically.

Plus, sustainability is about so much more than being kind to the planet. Now, more than ever, we need to be making good choices about how we sustain our employees and, ultimately, our businesses’ chances of survival.

Four changes you can make for a more sustainable workplace

1. Stop buying small hand wash bottles

Every workplace should be going through A LOT of soap while we’re navigating a COVID-19 world. Rather than an endless series of the small, plastic-bottled pump soaps that every small office has, it’s time to get tough with something way cheaper and much more sustainable.

Liquid soap production has a huge carbon footprint. Lots of small businesses have sprung up to answer this problem.

Wearth sell 10l cartons of soap with a tap by a brand called Fill, which you dispense into their refillable bottle. £3.90 per litre – compared with £5.20 per litre for the standard, garbage-for-the-planet Carex hand wash I’ve bought for my office a million times. More fool me.

Fill hand soap from Wearth
Wearth London

A fairly new idea in sustainability is recycled soap.

What? Ew.

Wait! Recycled soap is not gross. Hardly-used bars are melted down (which sterilises the soap) and then reformed into liquid. This can then be shipped in large quantities for use in refillable containers. Think about how much soap gets wasted in hotels. Those bars of soap get maybe three uses before 95% is chucked in the bin by housekeeping.

There isn’t anyone doing large-scale consumer-facing recycled liquid soup yet but there are charitable initiatives that distribute recycled soap to communities that need it.

It’s coming, though. I recently heard an interview with a guy who’s trying to get this off the ground, and it’s something to watch out for.

But for a start – stop using small, domestic bottles of hand wash that cost a fortune! Let’s save money and save the planet at the same time.

2. Sign up for a wonky fruit box

A fruit delivery is a lovely touch for the office but most of us just do an expensive supermarket order. Anyone that’s had to unpack one knows how much plastic it involves. There are better and cheaper ways.

Buying seasonal fruit means your produce can come from the UK, cutting down on its carbon footprint. If you choose a ‘wonky fruit’ box, you can also support growers by buying the fruit supermarkets won’t touch. Perfect, wonderful fruit that’s rejected for being a slightly odd shape. The kind of madness we’re all starting to see for what it is.

Oddbox is one example of wonky fruit delivery, with a focus on sharing out seasonal surplus to reduce waste. Their office boxes start at 50 portions of fruit per recyclable box. No plastic, unlike from the supermarket.

Oddbox fruit and vegetable sourcing

3. Get a SodaStream subscription

Yep, THAT SodaStream. But with a focus on sustainability, not making your own pop. Give people a reason to stop buying bottled water, with a super-affordable but luxe-feeling facility.

A SodaStream subscription works with a canister return, so all your empties get reused. The actual SodaStream itself is often on offer – think £50 – and doesn’t require plumbing or loads of counter space.

4. Embrace working from home

The most sustainable workplace is one that doesn’t exist. 20, 30, 40 people getting in their cars, driving to work via Starbucks, eating their lunch out of plastic packaging, and printing the heck out every document – that’s gross.

It’s cliched but my lord, how has it taken a global pandemic to get us to see this clearly? But the distance, perspective, and practice have given us the opportunity for real change. If your business can survive a pandemic and the team being apart, it can survive setting people free to work in their own homes long-term.

Better work-life balance, less strain on the planet, less strain on company finances. Sustainability on every level. What’s not to love?

A good work culture can get things done wherever each team member is. A bad work culture can’t even get things done with people sat right next to each other.

This call to change is a scream for a sustainable workplace

We’re small businesses, here. We have the power and the manoeuvrability to make good decisions for how we want to affect the world.

With many of us facing financial difficulties, we need to find ways to make our workplaces – if we even keep them! – run in a more sustainable way.

Sustainable for the planet, sustainable for our people, and sustainable for our businesses’ futures

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