Greening my office: no one’s switched on

| 3rd March 2010
Office lights
In her second blog posting, young environmental pretender Sylvia Sunshine reports on her attempts to convert her office workplace to more sustainable practices

My office is cluttered with PCs, radios, TVs and other electrical appliances. They prop up the walls, block entrances and provide a constant hum.

But there is a major side-effect of this office equipment fetish. These gadgets also provide the office with a disproportionately high carbon footprint – something that is quite literally staring my colleagues and I in the face.
Morning routine

Every morning I am first through the door: first to sit down at my desk, first to the coffee machine and first to switch on my PC. Or so one would think.
No, when I enter my office each morning I am greeted by 20 or so tiny flashing eyes of red, green and blue; a bright constellation of standby lights and a regular reminder that no one in my office switches off their electrical appliances.

Switch off

This week I decided that I would raise the issue with my boss: why do we leave on all of our office equipment switched on? Why do we pump out carbon, 24 hours a day, when the office only operates for a measly eight hours?

As soon as I say something I am told firmly that ‘it is all to do with cost and efficiency savings.’ A predictable response, though to be honest, it actually feels like my boss is now predicting what I’m going to say next!

‘If we switch off the monitors every night, our electricity bill will go up because of the power surge’ he says. ‘It’s not worth it.’

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This is of course wildly inaccurate and as far as I can tell is just a poor excuse, from someone who cannot handle the responsibility of pressing a button twice a day.

I suggest that the organisation invests in the Carbon Trust’s ‘How to operate your office equipment efficiently’ manual and I promise him that it would save him money and reduce the carbon footprint of the office.

Office debate

Unsurprisingly this sparks little interest from my boss, but it does start an interesting office debate.

‘I don’t want to have to go around switching everything on and off all the time’ says Jane, the office PA.

‘The printer wouldn’t like it. They used to do in my old office and the printer broke after a few weeks.’

‘Yeah, that happened at my old place too’ says Gill unconvincingly, raising her head from behind her oversized screen.

She goes on, ‘I can’t always bend down to switch on my TV either. I do care about the environment but it’s nice to sometimes come in with everything running in the office.’

On the surface these comments appear harmless. But it strikes me that my co-workers aren’t even thinking through what they are saying. Instead they are just lining up as many excuses as they can think of, ready to fire them at me.

Just as I’m about to respond, my boss turns around again, possibly feeling guilty about the Carbon Trust incident earlier. 

‘It’s not that I’m against switching off the TVs’ she says.

‘I mean, I think that we should switch off the TVs because it’s good for the environment. But you have to remember that this is an office. If it makes our lives a bit easier to keep the computer monitors on overnight, then that’s great’.

Collective responsibility

At this point I give up. Am I the only one here with a conscience? Am I the only one with any concept of the implications of my actions? Why does it feel like my environmental stance is losing me friends? And why does it feel like it could eventually lose me my job?

It’s not that my colleagues are planet-killers. It is just that they always seem to take the easy option.

They want life delivered on a plate. They don’t want to know about collective responsibility or carbon footprints. They say they care about the environment, but they’re unwilling to put that ‘caring attitude’ into practice.

Call it laziness, call it narrow-mindedness, call it self-destruction. I call it work.

Week two: a turn off.  


Greening my office: these guys print everything
In the first of a new blog, young environmental pretender Sylvia Sunshine reports on her attempts to convert her office workplace to more sustainable practices

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