Businesses everywhere have had to implement new strategies to take safe measures for employees to return to work. However, while companies are focused on making changes to minimize the risk of transmission from COVID-19, why not encourage more sustainable practices as well? With the advantage of starting fresh, companies and their employees have the opportunity to rethink the office environment.
But with this fresh start, where does a business start in implementing new green practices while bringing employees back into the office safely? And how can individuals like yourself strive to live a more sustainable lifestyle when you head back in? Here are six ways to make your return to work more sustainable, from protecting smartphones with eco-friendly phone cases to switching to greener cleaning supplies.
1. Use Eco-Friendly Commuting
Instead of falling into the old routine of jumping into your car and sitting in rush hour traffic, find a more eco-friendly means of commuting to work. Take public transportation by train or bus – or even pick up a bike and pedal into work. Not only is it fantastic exercise and great for your overall health, but it eliminates your dependency on fuel. Whether you take the train or bike, you can listen to podcasts or tackle some tasks. And while you’re at it, choose sustainable or repurposed items for your personal devices and cycling gear, such as a secondhand bike helmet or an eco-friendly AirPods case and compostable phone case.
2. Reduce In-Office Days
According to Microsoft’s latest report, a survey found that 73 percent of employees wished for a more flexible, hybrid remote work option once officially called back into the office. And if the company you work for offers the convenience of a more flexible, blended work-from-home approach, you should take advantage of it!
Consider working from home most days of the week so that you cut down on commuting. Even reducing your commute to only two or three out of five days a week can have a significant impact on the environment and our dependence on fossil fuels. Less traffic results in few emissions, which is good for the environment, plain and simple.
3. Find a Reusable Face Mask
As businesses navigate new regulation territories of the office space in a post-pandemic era, face masks will be front and center. While many offices may not expect employees to wear a face mask while at their desks, it will more likely be required in public and communal spaces, especially when several small businesses share a larger office building. But instead of disposing of face masks, consider a reusable one that won’t wind up in the trash and our oceans.
One step you can take is to encourage your company to provide employees with washable, reusable masks they can wear to work. And not just any reusable mask. Make sure it’s made from a sustainable resource, such as organic cotton and preferably a material that is locally sourced, dramatically reducing its carbon footprint.
4. Install Eco-Friendly Dividers and Screens
Acrylic screens have become the norm these days and are the safety divider of choice. However, what will become of all these plastic screens once they are no longer needed? While they are an important part of our protection in preventing the spread of COVID-19, plastic can easily be substituted with a more sustainable material. For instance, you can seek out screens made from recycled materials, such as cardboard construction that can kill viruses and germs in a day’s time. Glass screens are also a good alternative, as they can be made from recycled materials and recycled at the end of their life. Plus, they can be cleaned instantly and resist scuffs from wear and tear.
Of course, if the company does choose to replace their existing plastic dividers and screens with more sustainable options, store the plastic style away for reuse instead of just disposing of them.
5. Switch to Non-Toxic Cleaners and Disinfectants
Washing our hands and disinfecting surfaces is vital in the fight against COVID-19. However, if your company hasn’t already done so, now’s the time to make the switch to non-toxic cleaners. Many cleaners are chock-full of harmful chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause illnesses and long-term side effects – not to mention the toxins can harm the environment.
Instead, urge the company to choose green-friendly cleaners and disinfectants. Spraying surfaces with more natural ingredients that are just as effective can create a healthier office space for everyone. Also, consider using other eco-friendly items like biodegradable antibacterial wipes.
6. Rehome or Donate Removed Furnishings
Social distancing has required offices to evaluate their floor plan and come up with a new system for workstations and cubicles. Unfortunately, spreading out desks has left little extra space for communal areas where employees can chat. But what happens with that furniture? Instead of tossing large sofas and chairs in the landfill, get the company to donate them to a local thrift store or to rehome them to an individual or even another business. Donating furniture to charity means less items in the landfill, and that’s a good thing!
Sustainability Is a Step Forward
Looking forward to stepping into a more sustainable office? Taking advantage of the impact COVID-19 has made to our workforce and the new rules and regulations have allowed businesses and employees to become more sustainable. Whether you’re doing so to improve your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or an Environmental, Social or Governance policy (ESG), it will create a cleaner, healthier earth.
Alex Montague is the Content Creator for Pela Case. She is part of Pela’s Community team and contributes to their social media platforms. Based out of Kelowna, B.C but born and raised in Hamilton, ON, Alex loves trying new recipes, going for hikes, and she is very passionate about my skincare routine. She’s excited to share how to make sustainability for everyone!
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