This Sunday, June 5th is World Environment Day, and businesses looking to join in with the Only One Earth theme can sign up on the day’s website to get an Earth Action Number, and can identity a specific goal or action they will take for the benefit of the environment.
I recently gave a presentation to the Engage Web team on environmental stewardship. I was aware when I was giving it that a lot of people don’t like being lectured on the environment because they feel their lifestyle is being attacked. I was keen to make the point that nobody is perfect in their environmental practices. Environmental stewards shouldn’t “humblebrag” about their efforts, but at the same time, people wanting a greener world shouldn’t immediately get retorts like “well, what about you? You’ve got a phone, you shop at Primark, you eat meat…” and so on.
There’s a cartoon I’ve seen where a climate scientist is delivering a lecture, and someone in the audience is asking “what if climate change is a hoax and we’re creating a better world for nothing?” That’s stuck with me and is the attitude I try to take to take to environmental betterment. If we forget about the icecaps, bushfires and rainforests for a moment and think about the environment in a more selfish, First World way, it’s not difficult to see that making small changes has obvious benefits to us here and now, and should be a pleasure rather than a chore.
Below are five small changes businesses and their employees can make, and examples of how taking these steps can be incentivised rather than made into a punishment.
1. Encourage greener transport
A lot of people instinctively get in their car whenever they want to go anywhere, not considering whether there’s a better way to get there. Often, these are the first people to complain about the rising costs of petrol.
Personally, I think traveling by train is a pleasure 90% of the time. You can switch off, read a book, play with your phone or whatever rather than having to concentrate on the road. For other employees who think this way, businesses could consider offering travel passes as a perk of working there.
In the Merseyrail travel area where Engage Web and many of our clients are based, it’s possible to buy an All Area Saveaway ticket for just £5.65, allowing you to do as many train journeys as you like for a day (outside of peak weekday hours) anywhere on the Merseyrail network, including Liverpool, the Wirral, Chester, Ellesmere Port, Southport and St. Helens. It’s also valid on most Merseyside bus services and even the Mersey Ferries. I really can’t understand why anyone from Ellesmere Port or most of the Wirral would drive to Liverpool when it’s so quick and cheap to get the train.
Also, constantly traveling by car is the most unhealthy way to get around. Walking and cycling have obvious mental and physical health benefits, and businesses can sign up for a cycle-to-work scheme, allowing employees to save money on bikes and accessories while also spreading the cost.
Other advantages of leaving the car at home include avoiding the hassle of parking, and the freedom to go for a pint after work without worrying about driving home!
2. Get smart with tea and coffee breaks
Perhaps the biggest example of my own environmental hypocrisy is the number of cups of coffee I have in a working day. No matter how serious your caffeine addiction is though, you can do your bit by only boiling as much water as you need.
Thinking selfishly, the advantage of doing this is that it means you don’t have to wait as long for the kettle to boil. At the same time, it saves water and electricity, thus making the business more profitable.
If you prefer tea to coffee, did you know that some brands of teabags contain plastic and others don’t? Here’s an up-to-date list of the brands you should pick if you don’t fancy a dash of microplastics in your brew.
3. Turn lights off
It’s an obvious one, but the cost of people leaving the lights on in the toilets and other rooms when they are not in use can really add up. Again, switching them off saves the company money and helps the lightbulbs last longer. After all, if you leave them on all the time, can you really complain if you find yourself in the dreaded situation of being on the loo when the bulb runs out?
4. Don’t waste paper
We’ve all worked with that person who has to print everything out. As well as the cost of paper, print cartridges cost a fortune, and if they’re used excessively, any business will start noticing it.
Remember that most paper can be recycled, and that shredded paper can even be composted. Rather than leaving paper lying around the office and creating a potential fire hazard, why not give it a second life?
5. Stop using Google
Finally, I’ve written before about my love of Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees. Using some crude mathematics, I found out that on my office computer alone, my Ecosia searches have planted enough trees to neutralise the carbon emissions of a car making a round trip from the Engage Web office to Namibia every year!
If you take up any of these practices, you can add them to your Environmental Policy, which any company large or small should have.