52 Practices To Implement Sustainability in the Workplace

Updated June 24, 2022

As issues like climate change and corporate responsibility become more prevalent, organizations are starting to prioritize sustainability in the workplace. This practice ensures an organization meets its goals while protecting the health of communities and the environment. Becoming more sustainable can help an organization build trust among its customers and employees. In this article, we list 52 ways to promote sustainability in the workplace.

Related: 12 Types of Sustainability Certifications for Professionals

What is sustainability in the workplace?

Sustainability in the workplace is when an organization actively monitors its societal and environmental impacts. The goal is to profit and provide excellent customer service while contributing to the wellbeing of local communities and nature. These values can improve the health of employees, promote social causes and increase overall customer satisfaction.

Here's an example of sustainability in the workplace:

A organization works with Vendor A. When Vendor A starts using extracting methods that hurt the environment, the organization partners with Vendor B. Vendor B uses eco-friendly practices to provide the same high-quality products but charges more than Vendor A does. The organization continues partnering with Vendor B because of its commitment to sustainable practices.

Related: How To Become a Sustainability Specialist (With Skills and Tips)

11 ways to increase sustainability in the workplace

Here are 11 ways to increase sustainability in the workplace:

1. Store documents online

Organizations can save trees by using less paper in their daily operations. Storing documents online reduces waste and ensures that organizations always have backup copies. When using paper is necessary, organizations can be sustainable by printing on both sides and adhering to the appropriate recycling procedures.

2. Manage electronics

Organizations can minimize energy use through simple electronics management practices. For instance, an office might place stickers on light switches to remind employees to turn them off when they're not in use. An office might also require employees to shut off computers and printers before clocking out for the day.

3. Audit old devices

As devices ranging from industrial equipment to office appliances age, they become less efficient. They might use excessive energy or even leak hazardous chemicals into the environment. Organizations can practice sustainability by auditing old devices and scheduling any necessary repairs, upgrades or replacements.

4. Coordinate eco-friendly shipments

An organization can coordinate eco-friendly shipments by ordering multiple items from the same vendor. It can also choose no-rush shipping options to save money and reduce its environmental impact. Try to be proactive about ordering items well before you require them so that shipments result in the lowest carbon emissions possible.

5. Use industrial laundry services

Some workplaces require employees to wear aprons, coveralls and reusable gloves as part of their uniforms. If employees wash these articles of clothing at home, they may waste more water and energy than necessary. It's often more efficient to regularly collect employee uniforms and wash them via industrial laundry services. In addition to promoting sustainability, this practice ensures employees always have clean uniforms to wear.

Related: What Is a Sustainability Officer?

6. Incentivize eco-friendly travel

Some organizations reduce carbon emissions by incentivizing eco-friendly travel. For instance, they might establish a carpool program, reward employees who use public transit or install bike racks outside of the office. Organizations might even increase telecommuting opportunities so that employees can work from home.

Related: Corporate Sustainability: Principles and How To Build a Strategy

7. Install a water cooler

Offices can reduce plastic water bottle consumption by installing a water cooler. This appliance makes it easy for employees to fill their reusable water bottles and remember to stay hydrated. Alternatively, offices can purchase filters to attach to their faucets.

Related: A Career in Sustainability: How To Become an Environmental Planner

8. Upgrade product packaging

If an organization sells physical products, it might consider upgrading its packaging. Using more recyclable materials and fewer packing peanuts can reduce overcrowding in landfills. The organization can also include recycling reminders on its packages to ensure consumers discard the materials in the appropriate bins.

9. Recycle old electronics

When electronics decompose in traditional landfills, they release toxins that are harmful to the environment. Organizations can prevent these effects by starting a collection bin for old electronics. Once they collect old computers, printers and phones, they can send them to a certified recycling center.

10. Give eco-friendly gifts

Organizations often give employees and customers gifts to boost morale and increase brand awareness. Eco-friendly gifts have the organization's logo and include those that encourage sustainability. Popular ideas are reusable straws, water bottles and tote bags.

11. Optimize employee training

Employees who receive the proper training tend to produce less waste and make fewer errors. Consider optimizing your training programs to ensure employees have the resources to succeed. You might increase the length of a new employee's probation period or schedule training sessions with more advanced team members. In addition to increasing sustainability, good training programs boost morale and retention rates.

41 additional ways to increase sustainability in the workplace

Here are 41 additional ways to increase sustainability in the workplace:

  1. Add potted plants in the office

  2. Compost food waste

  3. Buy condiments in bulk

  4. Replace paper towels with reusable towels

  5. Install water-efficient sinks and toilets

  6. Organize volunteer cleanup events

  7. Use sustainable food containers

  8. Replace notepads with dry-erase boards

  9. Partner with vendors that prioritize their environmental impact

  10. Source higher-quality raw materials that produce less waste

  11. Reduce required business travel

  12. Collect old plastic bags

  13. Plant trees and shrubs outside of the office

  14. Celebrate environmental events

  15. Host a donation drive

  16. Invest in LED light bulbs

  17. Partner with an eco-friendly pension provider

  18. Switch to digital invoices

  19. Invest in energy-efficient appliances

  20. Put recycling bins around the office

  21. Use eco-friendly cleaning products

  22. Implement reusable cleaning supplies like rags

  23. Collaborate with eco-friendly businesses

  24. Sell or donate overstock

  25. Organize car-free workdays

  26. Use sustainability tracking tools

  27. Perform regular quality checks

  28. Offer healthier dining options

  29. Redesign process flows

  30. Hire a sustainability consultant

  31. Install smart thermometers

  32. Invest in rain sensors and drip irrigation systems

  33. Promote tobacco cessation resources

  34. Use reusable silverware in the cafeteria

  35. Host sustainability contests among employees or customers

  36. Buy bulk coffee grounds instead of single-serve pods

  37. Create a sustainability committee

  38. Encourage employees to walk to work

  39. Install automatic lights with motion sensors

  40. Invest in solar panels

  41. Share sustainability efforts on social media

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