Sustainability, climate change, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) aren’t just trends in corporate culture these days. There are clear benefits for the bottomline and employee culture and retention.
McKinsey reports that 78 percent consumers prioritize sustainability and eco-friendly brands. And we’re seeing 89 percent of organizations with high ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) ratings outperform others in the market.
Elevate your corporate social responsibility efforts with Cooleaf. Discover how our platform empowers companies to engage employees, drive positive impact, and make a difference in the world.
In an era where both young professionals and experienced employees are looking for more meaning in their work, creating an eco-friendly office culture attracts potential talent and consumers.
Company’s like Bob’s Red Mill and REI have strong environmental initiatives or are fair trade certified and have some of the strongest employee engagement.
Your workplace has an opportunity to make a difference that not only instills a sense of purpose and camaraderie with your people, but it can benefit the planet too.
1. Make recycling easy
If you don’t already have one, an office recycling program is a great place to kickstart your environmental efforts.
Add clearly labeled recycling bins to shared office spaces such as kitchens and other common areas, and post recycling reminders near the bins listing the types of items that employees can recycle.
Already recycling? Check to make sure that employees know about the recycling program. It can be helpful to send the occasional refresher email to keep your recycling policies in the forefront of your team’s mind.
2. Make sustainability fun
A little competition can make just about anything fun – including your sustainability efforts. Using an employee engagement tool like Cooleaf, employees can compete with their peers and earn rewards for practicing environmental stewardship.
In honor of Earth Day, Cooleaf helped our customers facilitate a “Go Green Challenge,” where employees were asked to complete one earth-friendly activity each day of the week (watch an environmental TED talk, go for a nature walk, etc.). As a result, employees created 50 meatless meals, cleaned up 16 bags of trash, and supported 11 local restaurants or farmers’ markets.
Remote friendly tip: Creating a remote-friendly online activity keeps everyone (no matter where they are) accountable.
3. Conserve energy within the office
Turning off the lights and switching off electronic equipment around the office during off-hours will help to conserve energy resources as well as save your company a significant amount on your energy bill.
Ensure that your workplace has communicated your policy around reducing energy consumption at their desks and around the office and provide suggestions such as shutting off their computers at the end of the work day and keeping the lights off when a meeting room is not in use.
4. Take simple steps with your air conditioning
More often than not, your air conditioning can take up a lot of energy for your office.
Consider using a smart thermostat to schedule temperature throughout the day or set it away for weekends. Consider blinds or curtains for your windows to help rooms from overheating.
And be sure to clean your filter regularly. It can make a difference in the life of your AC. Or depending on where your AC unit is outside, if it’s not a window unit, ensure it’s in shade or add an awning to keep it from overheating.
5. Promote a paperless office
Digital and cloud computing solutions have enabled companies to become more collaborative, streamlined, efficient, and yes, green too.
From using desktop applications such as Microsoft Office and Google Drive for coordinating work projects to investing in digital HR and payroll software to handle workforce management, paper and ink are swapped out for an eco-conservative alternative.
6. Delete old emails and digital files
Did you know that emails are responsible for a large amount of CO2 emissions? Email centers and data centers storing our files and helping us send that “checking-in email” need a lot of electricity to run. According to Science Focus magazine, emails have a global carbon footprint of approximately seven million cars!
Encourage your people to review their inboxes and those old emails or digitally stored files. It’s energy saving and frees up your devices, extending their life!
To kick the initiative off with your team, you can host a data clean up activity. Cooleaf hosted one for spring cleaning, where people shared their before and after screenshots over crowded desktop files and bursting email inboxes.
7. Set up a ‘Lunch and Learn’
Educate and engage staff in contributing to your organization’s sustainability goals by hosting a lunch and learn about environmental issues. Or, host a company-wide movie night to watch an environmental documentary.
For Earth Day, Georgia’s Own Credit Union used Cooleaf to share a short PBS video about micro-plastics and encouraged their people to watch and share what was surprising or interesting about the doc.
8. Create a green team
To raise employee awareness of your organization’s sustainability goals, form a green team. Together you can brainstorm creative ways to tackle environmental concerns. If possible, try to have a senior management representative on the green team, and encourage staff from all levels to join.
When your green team accomplishes a goal, be sure to publicly recognize your Green Team for their success! Use an employee recognition tool to thank your Green Team for a job well done.
7. Invest in office plants
Placing plants around the office can help to beautify your workspaces, uplift the overall atmosphere of your workplace, and reduce stress and anxiety for your workforce. Indoor greenery can boost oxygen levels and remove harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide and formaldehyde. In fact, NASA research reveals that indoor plants reduce 87% of indoor air pollutants within 24 hours.
Remote friendly tip: Partner up with a plant company like and deliver a desk plant to your remote workers. It’s a nice way to liven up a WFH set up and surprise someone!
8. Promote reusable or recyclable dishware
When possible, provide reusable mugs, cups, plates, bowls, and cutlery in your office kitchen. If you don’t have the ability to store dishware in the office kitchen, look into compostable (or recyclable) dishware and cutlery.
You can also encourage your employees to bring their own dishware and travel mugs from home. Plus, travel mugs with your company logo make for a great employee welcome gift!
9. Have a coffee maker
Coffee pod machines are a favorite in most offices, but switching to a coffee maker with a reusable filter is a simple way to cut down on plastic waste. If your team prefers their coffee pods, be sure to look for brands that have recyclable pods, whether they’re plastic or aluminum. And make it easier for everyone to recycle but adding a small bin near the coffee area to collect used pods.
Remote friendly tip: Offer a coffee subscription discount to encourage Fair Trade or making coffee at home.
10. Invest or save takeout containers
Keep those reusable takeout containers. Getting a second use helps cuts down on plastic waste. You’ll also have a drawer of food saving containers for any office leftovers from events or office lunches which will help cut down on food waste!
11. Remove paper towels in the kitchen
Opt out of paper towels in the kitchen and replace paper towels with reusable towels, bamboo, or long lasting compostable sheets. Put a basket on the kitchen table with cloth napkins for when people are eating lunch or snacks and need to wipe their hands or mouths. To collect used ones, put a large hamper where you’d normally put a trash can and launder soiled cloths as needed.
There are so many cloth napkins and compostable sheets online. They also feel much better to use than industrial paper towels.
12. Set up a water station
Make water drinking easier. Install a water station and filter in your office to lessen plastic bottles in the recycling. You can also cut down on seltzer drinks by installing machines like a Bevi or a counter top soda machine for those La Croix fans.
13. Install motion-activated light switches
Improve energy efficiency by installing or swapping in motion-activated light switches. These are a particularly great solution for conference rooms and shared spaces since they are often separated from the central office space and are less frequently used.
Rather than relying on employees to switch off the lights as they leave or enter a room, motion-activated lights are human-proof: cut down your energy use automatically.
14. Replace LED lights
A small change like changing your existing lights with LED lights can make a pretty significant impact. LED lights last up to six times longer than other types of lights, meaning less replacements and less of a need of lightbulb manufacturing and emissions.
15. Donate or recycle old electronics
Most electronics are made from valuable resources and materials — such as plastic, glass, and metals — that require a significant amount of energy to mine, process, and manufacture. Contact waste management to ask if they have specific days for specific recycling materials (like batteries, printer cartridges, etc. )to encourage everyone to bring in old items from home too.
Community centers or non-profit organizations might also appreciate old computers, laptops, or headsets so be sure to ask around in your local Facebook Marketplace.
Do your part to conserve natural resources and reduce air/water pollution by recycling that old keyboard that’s been in your desk drawer for 2 years. You’ll get much needed space to boot!
16. Offer a public transport stipend
Depending where your office if located, you can offer a public transportation stipend to employees. Employees can opt in and you can take the stipend out of their pay before taxes to purchase public transport passes. It makes it a little easier and saves a little money for employees. Mass transit helps lower carbon emissions too!
You can lear more about subsidy programs from your city’s public transportation organization.
17. Encourage employees to carpool, bike, or walk to work
Go beyond the stipend and support walking or biking to work too. It has all kinds of benefits – it’s healthy, financially sound, reduces your carbon footprint, and is eco-friendly!
Sometimes, all it takes is building a bike rack or changing rooms in the office supports cyclers or walkers, or being the person to kick off a carpooling sign up sheet to give people a nudge.
You can also motivate your employees to swap singular car trips by offering incentives like monthly cash bonuses or prizes as part of your wellness program.
18. Get outside and volunteer
Cause-driven volunteer programs are an excellent way to support something meaningful and have a big impact on your communities. Work alongside your community engagement director to create partnerships with local non-profits or businesses.
There are all sorts of green causes and conservation campaigns your company can participate in locally. Whether that’s partnering with a park for clean up or planting more around public areas. Find a philanthropic project that’s close to your organization’s heart and get your people involved.
19. Include green thinking as a key part of your company culture
Include your employees in your environmental vision by getting them engaged and involved. Talk to and collaborate with your team members to gather their ideas for how your organization can implement environmentally conscious initiatives in the workplace as a part of your core values. You can also host an employee survey to gather feedback and ideas asynchronously.
Getting input from your employees will allow them the opportunity to embody and embrace your new mission and goals.
20. Embrace renewable energy
Green power sources, including solar panels and wind energy, are more accessible than ever, with options including rooftop solar installations and large-scale wind farms. Organizations of any size can make this switch to more sustainable practices.
If your organization is located in a deregulated electricity state, one easy way to make your office greener is to shop for your electricity supplier and choose a green energy plan. Almost every electricity supplier offers green energy plans that are generated by renewable energy sources, primarily wind and solar. These green electricity plans are priced very competitively compared to traditional electricity plans powered by coal or natural gas, she added.
20. Start composting
Set a goal to eliminate food waste in your office and start a small compost bin. Daily items like coffee grounds from our favorite brew, banana peels from the fruit bowl, and greens from the salad lunches are perfect for composting.
You can purchase or make your own compost bin. If you’re not sure what to do with compost, reach out or partner with a local community garden.
Remote friendly tip: Host an online workshop to help people kick-off their own composting. You can also send over any tools (or yes even worms) they might need to get started.
21. Get green friendly cleaning products
Most cleaning products are harsh substances that aren’t biodegradable or even safe for humans. Many regular cleaning products are manufactured in ways that damage wildlife ecosystems. Not to mention are unsafe in our own grey water (aka: water from baths, sinks, etc).
Switching over to products eco-friendly products mean less hazardous waste from manufacturers and also less waste in landfills. Many eco-friendly products also include BPA-Refills which limit your plastic waste.
22. Support working from home days
Go hybrid! Having work from home days can help your employees save time from driving into and from work or getting stuck in morning traffic. It’s a small way to encourage your team mates to help cut down on emissions, and it also gives a flexible option.
23. Donate supplies
Clean out that supply closet! You might have excess folders, staplers, notebooks, or writing utensils you might not need anymore. You might also have a ton of those old branded t-shirts or backpacks with an old company logo.
Consider connecting with local centers, classrooms, or listing these second-hand items on Facebook’s No Buy/No Sell Groups. You might not need them but you’d be surprised how useful they will be to others.
24. Host a market or clothing swap
Sustainability starts with getting multiple uses out of one item, so why not host a market or clothing swap with your company? Open it to families and friends too. It’s a creative way to encourage others to shop or sell second-hand, and it cuts down on added waste to landfills.
25. Consider reusing party decorations
If you’re decorating for the holidays or monthly birthday gatherings, consider skipping on single use items like balloons and streamers and see where you can give a second life to an item. Birthday banners can be reused multiple times. Buy higher quality party garlands made of pompoms and yarn. Use cloth table cloths. For larger corporate events, consider renting what you need.
Having better quality decor you can store and reuse not only cuts down on waste but makes these events feel even more special.
Remote Friendly Tip: Don’t forget to celebrate for those remote team mates! Make sure to give a proper shoutout like on Cooleaf’s platform or your Slack. And send over a gift card with a heartwarming birthday greeting so they know they’re appreciated.
26. Plan ahead when ordering online
Yes, it’s easy and cheap to get last minute items online, but e-commerce leads to so much additional package waste and carbon emissions. Instead of ordering when you think of it or ordering something last minute, make a running list of office items you might need or order in bulk. It’s an extremely small step we don’t all think about, but it does cut down on transportation and overpacking waste from wrapping that small item.
30. Support eco-conscious businesses in your local community
It’s always a good idea to support local businesses, especially those with an eco-conscious and environmental sustainability focus. Review the products your office purchases regularly, and check to see if they are locally sourced.
Do you provide office snacks for your employees? Switch to an eco-friendly brand, or offer fruits and veggies from a local farmer’s market. If you regularly cater lunches, focus on supporting restaurants that source locally-grown ingredients.
Advantages of a sustainable workplace
Businesses can’t afford to ignore the importance of a sustainable business environment. Research shows that social responsibility offers many benefits for companies, including cost savings, improved customer loyalty, a boost in employee morale, and general waste reduction.
Here’s how the impact breaks down:
Many business owners believe that prioritization of sustainability translates to increased operational costs, but that’s simply not the case! Adopting eco-friendly business practices can, in actuality, reduce business expenses and help increase profits. Businesses can also achieve cost savings by optimizing building operations, improving efficiencies, and reducing energy consumption. One example of this is recycling, which can help divert materials from your trash and help reduce overall waste bills. Using less energy, water, and waste equals less money going towards recurring bills.
Eco-friendly behavior often elevates a company’s reputation and status internally—leading to happier employees. Many workers today prefer to work for, and enjoy, being associated with environmentally responsible companies. What’s more, sustainable business can attract and retain top talent. Research conducted by Cone Communications found that 64 percent of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.
When employees see business leaders making an effort to educate themselves on sustainability and reduce their impact, many become inspired to follow suit. As a result, people are more likely to evaluate their consumption habits, recycle when possible, and reuse items to reduce waste when those around them are doing the same.
These actions benefit businesses by decreasing the amount of material that ends up in landfills, thereby reducing waste costs and improving overall sustainability while decreasing environmental impact.
Interested in learning more about how to "green" your workplace? Cooleaf can help — let's chat!
Organizations have been looking for innovative ways to create an eco-friendly workplace in line with their business activities.
Many are doing everything they can to include eco-friendly practices in the workplace, manufacturing, and services, as environmentally friendly office improvements have become an integral aspect of corporate accountability. Not only that, but these measures are now a decisive factor in determining whether or not an organization will be competitive in the future.
When it comes to creating a positive impact on our planet, small changes can make a huge difference. Social responsibility can have a favorable impact on employees' mindsets, well-being, and productivity. By integrating some of these ideas into your office, you can create a green workplace culture that will inspire your whole team.