How to Take Climate Action – Part II: Workplace & Office Sustainability

Marley Flueger

This blog is part of How to Take Climate Action, a series that unpacks what we can each do to influence the systems around us and reverse climate change. The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our lifetime – and it’s a systems issue. But we’re not powerless to change our trajectory. 

Our power comes from the roles we play in our households, at work, as participants in financial markets, and as members of local, national, and global communities. 

In this chapter of the Climate Action Playbook, we break down how to take action in the workplace.

Punch in for the planet

Many of us spend most of our waking hours at work – and our labor is one of the main ways we contribute to society. Each of us, from entry-level employees to corporate executives, has the power to advocate for the planet at work. 

Here’s the good news: for many companies, adopting sustainable practices benefits the bottom line. That’s because efficient processes cut waste, save energy, and boost productivity. Plus, consumers are increasingly loyal to sustainable brands.

But how do we practice climate action on the job? In this chapter of Joro’s climate action playbook, we’ll teach you how!  

1. Use your voice for change

Effective advocacy requires understanding where your workplace can improve and being able to show it’s good for business. But most of all, it requires being willing to start a conversation.

Many of us, especially women and marginalized folks, have trouble speaking up when we don’t feel like subject matter experts. Here’s how to find your voice and use it.

  • Come Prepared: Productive, inspiring conversations are a catalyst for change. Use this climate conversation guide to prepare. Still nervous? Practice on robots to prepare!
  • Build Your Crew: It helps to have people in your corner. Is there a manager, sustainability officer, or co-worker you think would back your suggestions? Can you get them on board so your voices can amplify each other?
  • Focus on Direct Benefits: Office sustainability initiatives are good for the planet and business. Focus on how specific actions will benefit productivity, the bottom line, or your company’s long-term vision.
  • Offer Your Energy: Action is the most valuable currency. Offer to bring people together under an initiative of their choice or commit your time to an office sustainability plan.

2. Apply a Climate Lens to Your Current Work 

Businesses don’t go green on a whim. An engaged employee pushed Etsy to embrace carbon-neutral shipping. A product wizard envisioned ocean plastic sneakers at Adidas

At many companies, employees are one of the most powerful groups – sometimes even more powerful than shareholders. Even if your employer isn’t climate-oriented, you can push to make its products, services, and work processes more sustainable. 

Identify where you can influence decision-making and advocate for greener practices. Here are a few good places to start.

Advocate for Sustainable Design

Products have an environmental impact from the cradle to the grave. If you’re involved in production or product design, champion sustainability mindsets. 

  • Improve Longevity: Strive for quality items that stay in circulation as long as possible. Consider end-of-life in design: could your product be recycled or recirculated more easily?
  • Utilize Green Materials: Shoot to use fewer or environmentally-friendlier materials and follow industry developments to keep tabs on green alternatives. 
  • Close the Loop: Keep your product out of the landfill with a customer return and recycling initiative, and identify ways to repurpose production waste.

Improve Inefficient Processes

  • Quantify: Encourage your workplace to develop a greenhouse gas inventory to quantify operational emissions. This provides a clear view of the pollution produced by your work processes.  
  • Review: Use the inventory to understand where your organization is using energy and resources wisely – and where there’s room to cut back on waste and pollution. 
  • Strategize: After “where” comes “how.” Organizations like WRAP and the Carbon Trust can help your company develop a plan to reduce its impact. 

Use Data More Sustainably

The internet uses more energy than you think. Data centers host our online activity and have carbon footprints that rival global aviation. 

  • Optimize Website Design: Custom fonts, video and animation, and heavy coding sap energy and cause lag. Programs like EcoGradr identify where your website can run faster and more efficiently. 
  • Run Green: Green web hosts compensate for the emissions your website generates through renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets. 

3. Champion Office Sustainability Initiatives

Commercial buildings generate 6.6% of energy-related emissions, and employees contribute by using resources on the job. Here are a few ways to make your workplace more sustainable.

Advocate for Better Energy Use

  • Replace Wisely: Copy machines, light fixtures, and office appliances all have carbon footprints. Energy Star-certified products conserve energy and save money when it’s time to update. 
  • Green Your Building: Ask your facility manager if they’re aware of Energy Star’s. building certification. Certified buildings save money by using 35% less energy on average. 
  • Use Clean Power: Talk to management about cutting costs with solar or buying into green energy through the EPA’s green power partnership. 
  • Combat Idle Energy: Power down your computer to save energy after-hours (and remind your cubicle buddy to do the same). Ask IT to place power strips in all workstations to make it easier to shut everything off at once. 
  • Coordinate Office Quiet Days. Post-COVID, advocate for coordinated work from home days when all building power can be shut off. Companies save money, and employees save time, money, and carbon from their commutes.

Use Water Wisely

  • Go With the (Low) Flow: Encourage your workplace to choose low-flow toilets, sinks, and appliances when updating. Faucet aerators reduce water use and cut costs, too!
  • Make it Rain: Your building could capture rainwater for landscaping and cooling needs, or install rain sensors to stop sprinkler systems when Mother Nature’s on the job.  
  • Green Your Landscape: Native plants use less water than turfgrass, control erosion, and increase biodiversity. Check if your city has a turf buyback program to help finance the transition.

Workplace Waste

From printer paper to styrofoam cups to lunch scraps, we generate a lot of waste at work. Offer to help establish a recycling or composting program, ask your office manager to stock the breakroom with reusable dishware, or talk to management about digitizing processes to save paper and money.

Clean Up Company Functions

Large company functions usually involve eating – and lots of waste. Could your employer have guests pre-order to reduce food waste, serve less red meat and more vegetarian items, or use eco-conscious catering?

Green Your Commute

Ask your workplace to incentivize low-impact commutes like walking, biking, and carpooling. Host a bike- or walk-to-work challenge to boost office sustainability and build comradely within departments. Create a spreadsheet or signup board to connect employees with carpool buddies.  

Embrace Remote Alternatives

  • Telecommute: Remote work has skyrocketed in the past year – talk to your workplace about the productivity, cost-savings, and environmental benefits of continuing long-term.
  • Fly Less: Frequent fliers produce 50% of airline emissions, and many are busy business folks. Can you or your workplace skip the fight when virtual is a viable option? 

Build an Eco-Conscious Culture

  • Education: Employees need a space to learn and exchange office sustainability ideas. Does your company have a newsletter or quarterly meeting? Get climate education on the agenda. (Sharing this article is a good place to start!)
  • Signage: Place reminders around the building to recycle, unplug, or pack a plant-based lunch. Choose one of Count Us In’s environmental impact initiatives and encourage others to get on board. 
  • Bring Joro to Work: Joro users reduce emissions 22% more when they connect with friends (and colleagues!) on the app. Get in touch to learn more about offering Joro as a workplace perk. 

4. Explore a Career in the Climate Sector

Whether you’re at the start of your career or looking for a meaningful new direction, there’s no shortage of opportunity in the fast-growing climate sector. Help reshape dirty systems by driving innovation in sustainable agriculture, clean energy, green transportation, eco-infrastructure and construction, and so much more.

Apply to Jobs in the Climate Sector: Use job boards like ClimateBase and GreenBizJobs to find opportunities that suit your skillset. Build your network at green job fairs and by volunteering at environmental organizations. 

Take a Sustainability Course: Grow your skillset with a fellowship or online course at Terra.Do, CELI, or On Deck, or continue your climate education with new sustainability graduate programs like those offered by the Presidio Graduate School.

Grow Your Climate Network: Get connected with people who share your values by joining groups like: 

Work with Us!: Joro helps make climate action easy – and we’re hiring! Join our team and help build a solution as big as the problem.

Up Next: Green Finance & Banking

Now you know how to champion workplace and office sustainability, but how green are you on payday? Part three of Joro’s climate action playbook will teach you how to use your dollar wisely as a participant in financial markets.

We can all play our part to reverse climate change – and it starts with our personal choices! Download Joro to build a climate action practice to support you as you take on the systems around you.

Get Caught Up

A climate action practice is the daily exercise of bringing awareness and intention to reduce the carbon emissions within your control.

Grow your practice with exclusive tips and advice.

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