How green is your office?

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Research shows that however green we are in the home, most of us leave our eco-habits at the factory gate when we clock in for the nine to five. For those of you who can see what needs to be done in your office, but don't know how to go about doing it, here's an eight-point guide put together by the Low Carbon Innovation Network.

Step 1: From tiny acorns...

If staff are pretty good at switching off lights but always leave their computers on, just focus on changing one issue at a time.

'One noteworthy method that has proved to be successful in the past is an office review of all electrical equipment to look at what’s been left on after all the staff have gone home,' said a spokesman from Legal & General.

Step 2: Get the board on board

If a company really wants to pick up the pace in reducing their carbon emissions, the backing of the senior management is a necessity. Even if the initiatives do not require investment, any scheme has a much better chance of succeeding with strong leaders on board.

Step 3: First, find your problem

The key is finding the right initiative for your organisation. If the necessary preparation has been made as to which area needs improvement, then the decision over which initiative to proceed with becomes a lot easier.

Examples include: staff awareness days, pledge schemes – where staff pledge to act in the office as they would at home in relation to energy efficiency or encouraging staff to give up parking permits using cash incentives.

Step 4: Carbon capers and eco excitement

There are many ways to make schemes more entertaining, ranging from using comic stickers to bringing in a healthy element of competition in the office. 

A member of the Low Carbon Innovation network said, 'Launch the initiative company- or facility-wide on a memorable date or week. This could be linked to a national campaign, such as Energy Efficiency Week in October. Alternatively link it to an important company date and/or celebration, such as an anniversary or building construction date.'

Step 5: Sing from the same songsheet

It’s important to ensure that everyone in your organisation is on the same page. Presentations can be particularly useful to check everyone is clear in what they have to do and what the general aim of the scheme is. Other methods include using the staff intranet and newsletters; providing as much information as possible is vital to making the initiative successful.

Step 6: Croissants for cereal cyclists

One NHS trust manager told us, 'if you’re trying to get someone to do something for you, you need to give them feedback, higher recognition and just a thank you. An example of this was seen when we looked at transport, free breakfasts for cyclists have proved effective in promoting our ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme.'

John Neame, Managing Director of the Low Carbon Innovation Network said: 'Motivating employees to sustain their level of commitment to energy saving initiatives seems to be a really tough challenge, so staff incentives can really help. Company bikes look like being the next big thing!'
Step 7: Keep it up!

Sustainability is the key piece of the puzzle. In order to make your new green achieve last, the manager or team in charge of it need to keep on top of the situation by monitoring how staff implement the scheme. After the novelty has worn off, staff can become more lax in their quest for energy efficiency. 

Step 8: Learn from your mistakes

You can learn what worked and what didn’t from past initiatives; discovering what type of approach is the most effective gives you something to work from in the future. Feedback is fundamental in introducing new and improved schemes, whether they relate to carbon reduction or something completely different.

The Low Carbon Innovation Network brings together over three and a half thousand executives involved in reducing carbon emissions to share best practice and innovation in the drive to tackle climate change. Support for this free-to-join Network comes from over 15 trade associations and professional institutes. Members receive a weekly Bulletin of case studies to share best practice and can participate in networking events to progress their own plans for carbon reduction initiatives. For more information, visit

This article first appeared in the Ecologist July 2007

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