How to Achieve a Sustainable Shared Workspace: Office Recycling 101

It’s 2019, post-THAT-David-Attenborough-documentary, and unless you have been living under a rock, you know that our environment is under threat. Carbon emissions, plastic pollution and a serious waste problem are issues that affect everyone. Whether you’re a fully-fledged eco-warrior or are simply trying to minimise your impact on the earth, it isn’t always easy being green. There’s a ton of info out there on how to make your home more sustainable and plenty of incentives to get you cycling, sharing transport or cutting out the commute. However, the workplace sometimes gets forgotten, even though we spend a large percentage of our time there. In a company office, there is usually some corporate-driven, box-ticking effort to improve sustainability and a lot of people only cooperate because they have to. In a coworking space, each member of the coworking community has real power to create a sustainable shared workspace that works for them.

Here are five, super-easy ways to move towards coworking sustainability.

1. Recycling made easy

If you ask someone throwing their waste in the wrong place why they don’t recycle, the answer is never that they don’t care about the environment or that they don’t think recycling is a good idea. Everyone thinks recycling is a good idea! In theory. However, let’s be honest; sometimes, it’s a hassle and we’re all guilty of being too preoccupied to think about what we’re doing with our waste. If it isn’t easy to recycle, then you cannot expect everyone to do it. Some people are just not as motivated to make a big effort, others are too busy, and lots are forgetful.

When everyone has a waste-paper basket, it’s just too tempting to chuck all kinds of waste into them. Apart from anything else, nobody wants a soggy banana skin slowly going off under the desk next to them.

It isn’t just old packaging and food waste that need to be recycled; old equipment like computers, phones, cables and more can also be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. If something is no longer needed but still works, donate it. If it’s broken, it can be recycled. Same goes for ink and toner cartridges, batteries and even lightbulbs.

In some coworking offices, there is a central recycling area (like in all our Areaworks spaces) instead of individual waste-paper bins at each desk. Large, recycling bins with clear labelling makes recycling a lot easier as you know what goes where. And if it helps (or if you’re really “in” for the role), you can volunteer to be the recycling hero for the week to run the workspace recycling.

If recycling bins are not available in the shared workspace you’re in, why not ask for it? You never know, they may just be waiting for someone to step up.

2. Use less water

Almost every home, office or workplace uses more water than it really needs. We should stop here to point out that we aren’t encouraging anyone sharing a space to forego having a wash; there are loads of ways to cut down on water use without suddenly becoming the least popular person to sit beside!

Basic things like turning off the tap as soon as you’ve finished, only filling the kettle with the water you need and not running the dishwasher until it’s full, might sound basic. Now, imagine every person across the city doing the same and you realise that the potential impact of these simple changes is huge.

If you have plants in the office (and this is why you should), then water them using old drinking water, unused (cooled!) water from the kettle or old dishwater. Even the most environmentally conscious people are sometimes unaware of just how much water gets wasted. Something as simple as making sure everyone in the shared space knows to report a dripping tap or toilet immediately can cut the water usage.

3. Go green with plants

You might remember from our previous blog post why we love plants in a coworking space, that not only do they create a relaxed vibe and make the place look good but they also filter the air. This is especially important in a city like London, where air pollution levels are high. Plants can turn the office into a healthy, oxygen-rich place to be.

Studies have shown that plants in a home or office can reduce stress and promote feelings of wellbeing. Adding plants is a very easy way to improve both coworking sustainability and coworking happiness at the same time. All our Areaworks spaces are filled with lots of greenery! The visual effect is stunning and the benefits to the coworking community are awesome.

4. Bid plastic farewell

The impact of single-use plastic which ends up in landfills, waterways and eventually in the food chain, is devastating. Banning single-use plastic is one way to seriously move towards a sustainable shared workspace. Pointless plastic such as drinking straws, cutlery, plastic wrapping and food packaging soon adds up. If it can’t be recycled, then avoid it. Think about the plastic around you in the coworking space and ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Does that document really need to be laminated? Could office supplies be delivered with less packaging? Do you really need food wrap inside a lunchbox?

Use alternatives to plastics; the market is full of clever eco-friendly products that can help everyone ditch the plastic, i.e. bamboo straws, wax wraps for food etc. Choose reusable coffee cups, water bottles, and bits and bobs.

5. Go paperless

Printing can become a habit. Some people simply like to have a paper copy of everything that comes in, and while this is understandable for important documents, workplace sustainability can take a serious hit if printing is happening willy-nilly. Bear with us while we do some maths. If there are 50 people in a shared workspace, and they each cut down on printing by 10 pages a day, that’s a whole ream of paper saved. Before you print, ask yourself if you really need a paper copy, then proofread it on-screen to make sure you won’t have to reprint later, reduce margins sizes, select only the pages you really need and always print on both sides of the paper.

Encourage less paper use by making sure there is sufficient reliable digital storage, backed up by good IT support so people feel more confident in it. Have a stock of paper for notes that people can use – used envelopes, the blank backs of printed pages or any other random sheets that might be lying around. If everyone puts their usable paper into this stack, and everyone uses it, you will see a big reduction in the amount of new paper being used.

A sustainable shared workspace comes down to creative thinking and input from the coworking community itself. Without everyone buying into the idea that a sustainable workspace is a happier, healthier workspace, it won’t work. Making it easier for each person to do their bit is key. We believe that sustainability shouldn’t be a chore; it should be an ongoing process of improvement that we can enjoy and be proud of.

If you’d like to take a look at how we do it, or you’re looking for a sustainable workspace option, book a tour, we’d love to show you around.