8th May 2023

Stepping Stone 1 What is a green office? Perhaps unsurprisingly there is no precise definition, incorporating many different facets of an office’s performance.

Energy efficiency

Rendering energy use more efficient is often regarded as one of the world’s most crucial contributions to mitigate climate change. Improving efficiency makes an existing energy supply extend further, reducing consumption and improving the productivity of the world’s energy.
This is in addition to improvements in air quality, reduction in pollution levels and economic benefits of improved energy efficiency.
Unsurprisingly, the desire to improve energy efficiency, by reducing the amount of energy that businesses need, forms a crucial part of the British Energy Security Strategy.

Actions you can take to improve the energy efficiency of your offices:

  • Start with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – EPCs tell you how energy efficient a building is and give it a rating from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient). An EPC also highlights the energy efficiency improvements you could make, how much they will cost, and how much you could save. By law, a property’s EPC needs to be available to potential buyers upon marketing for sale or rent. If you rent your office space, check with your Landlord whether there is an existing EPC available or whether they have plans to get one. If you own your office space, you needn’t be selling it or renting it to commission an EPC. Consider you EPC and the listed energy improvements. The Energy Saving Trust provides a range of support to businesses looking to improve their energy efficiency.
  • Consider energy technology/efficiency – one area of assessment in preparation of an EPC is the energy efficiency of existing plant and machinery and impact upon your office environment. Common considerations for office spaces are boilers, air conditioning, HVAC/thermostatic controls. The Government’s Energy Technology List (ETL) provides an easy-to-use tool for procurement managers, including guidance on potential financial, energy and carbon savings. In addition to the benefits for the environment, increasingly members may consider the capital cost of replacing equipment against the cost savings across its lifecycle. You may also be able to claim accelerated tax relief through the Annual Investment Allowance.
  • A spotlight on LEDs – another area of assessment in preparation of an EPC, and one worthy of specific mention, is the lighting system in your office. Upgrading from conventional lighting to LED technology can deliver cost savings of up to 80% for a business. See the ETL’s guidance on LEDS.
  • Switch to Green power – consult with existing/alternative providers to explore switching to a renewable energy source i.e. energy from natural sources or processes that constantly replenish. Ensure to check the origin of energy source – there are various Guarantees of Origin certification schemes, with some energy providers also independently certifying their renewable electricity products.

Office waste

Every day offices generate huge volumes of waste; you can make a meaningful impact by considering:

  1. how to reduce avoidable waste
  2. how to handle unavoidable waste

Actions you can take to reduce the waste footprint of their offices:

  • Appoint a waste champion – their role can be to create and maintain a culture of recycling and waste reduction. Waste champions can provide the sustained positivity and commitment needed to success with the below.
  • Carry out a waste audit –  reviewing the amount and type of waste that you produce will help you to develop a plan for reducing, reusing and recycling waste. WRAP’s waste audit guide for businesses is a great starting point.
  • Embrace zero waste to landfill – this is more of a philosophy than an immediate goal. Businesses that generate waste are already required to apply what is known as the waste hierarchy, ranking waste management options according to what is best for the environment. Government guidance provides practical tips for applying this hierarchy, enabling you to work towards zero waste.
  • Reduce paper and plastic waste – an element of your wider waste plan, these specific initiatives are great low hanging fruit to start your journey. There are many ways to do this and the internet is awash with ideas. Possible starting points include: changing to sustainable office supplies e.g. recycled paper, refillable pens; going paperless; banning single use plastics.
  • Recycle office supplies/used assets – this will be informed by your waste audit but a variety of solutions are available for common office waste streams. Recycling hubs are a great way to engage workforces and may contain options for: paper recycling (confidential/non-confidential), general office supplies, batteries etc. In particular you may want to consider:
    • E-waste – any items that have a plug, use batteries, need charging or have a picture of a crossed out wheelie bin on, are known as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). It is important that these items are not sent to landfill and can be recycled at Recycling Centres, electrical item bring banks or via electrical retailers. There are also a number of companies that offer WEEE collection and recycling services if required.
    • Printer ink – also be aware of printer ink cartridges which are hazardous waste. Increasingly, printer cartridges are being collected at Recycling Centres and selected high street electrical retailers, however again there are a number of companies that will offer collection and recycling services.
  • Find innovative solutions to specific waste challenges – new solutions are made available every day and there is no reason why you cannot create and develop your own ideas.

NOTE: Members will occupy their offices under a variety of different arrangements meaning that it may not be possible to make progress across any/all of the above areas for both energy efficiency and office waste. Even if you do not have the final decision in these areas there is nothing however to prevent you from starting a conversation with those that do!

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to adopt

  • Total energy consumption (breakdown into electricity, heating/cooling, etc)
    • Reference standards, source of conversion factors, methodologies and assumptions for calculation
  • Percentage of energy from renewable sources (solar, wind, etc)
    • Energy intensity ratios (one or combination of below)
    • Energy consumed per employee
    • Energy consumed per square feet
    • Energy consumed per £ generated in revenue
  • Amount of reductions in energy consumption achieved as a direct result of conservation and efficiency initiatives
  • Total weight of waste generated (in metric tons) break down by categories identified
    • Total weight of waste recycled
    • Total weight of waste re-used
    • Total weight of waste going for landfill
  • Amount of reductions in waste generation (paper, plastic, etc) achieved as a direct result of formal initiatives

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