‘My office sucks when it comes to the environment. We burn through paper towels, disposable cups and printer paper like nobody’s business. Everyone leaves their computers on overnight. Our windows don’t open so we blast the air con all summer. No one recycles properly, and our executives fly all over the world for meetings. How do I even start to change things without getting fired – or becoming the office bore who no one wants to talk to at the Christmas party?’
Nazir via email
I’ll admit that my first response on reading your question was: just quit! But seeing as that’s not an option for most people (and maybe you really love your job), let’s give your company the benefit of the doubt. Everyone’s stupidly busy meeting deadlines and targets, and without a dedicated sustainability person, the stuff that ‘would be nice’ often just doesn’t get a look in.
So where to begin? I think the heart of your question lies in the ‘becoming the office bore’ bit. Saving the planet has become quite cool, and I can guarantee that you’re not the only one in your company who cares. Speak to your colleagues and see if you can get a green dream team together.
Then go to the top. Money talks, and if you can show your management how eco-friendly changes will actually save them cash, you might be taken more seriously. The University of Cambridge found that by setting all its staff’s monitors to go to sleep after ten minutes instead of 30, they’d save £3,000 each year. On top of that, being sustainable helps a company hire. According to one study, three quarters of workers would take a hefty pay cut to work for a business which doesn’t leave a trail of destruction.
So what if your bosses agree with you – but they don’t want to hire a consultant or create a new role? There are still ways you and your green team can make a change. Ask your office manager and IT to reduce energy usage, bulk-buy recycled loo roll and make sure your office is printing double-sided (or going paperless). You can see a useful free guide here.
You never know: your meat-free, plastic-free, carbon-neutral Christmas party could turn out to be the most amazing one that the company has ever had!
Got a question for Natalie? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natalie Fee is an environmental campaigner, author and speaker. She founded the City to Sea non-profit, which campaigns against plastic pollution. Her book ‘How to Save the World for Free’ is published by Laurence King. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.