Greening should start at work
UK workplaces generate over 66 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year from the energy and resources they consume, yet businesses waste 30 per cent of the energy they buy, on average.
As workplaces and work-related transport generate around two-thirds of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, the Trades Union Congress, this week, proposed ten simple steps that employees can take at work to cut energy use and protect the environment.
For many organisations, a 20 per cent cut in energy costs is easily and cheaply achievable, and would be the same as a 5 per cent increase in sales.
The TUC guide sets out ten simple steps employees can take to help ‘greening the workplace’, which include switching off lights, computers and other machinery during breaks and after work, green travel plans and reducing wastage of water, paper and other materials.
The guide also gives examples where individuals have got together with workmates, trade unions and employers to make changes with a bigger impact across the whole workplace.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, said:
“More and more people are recycling and reducing energy use and waste at home. But for many people work is still a green-free zone, despite being the biggest polluter and power user in the UK.
“There are simple steps people can take to make their workplace greener but to make a real difference it’s better to get everybody on board. It may seem daunting at first but if employers, employees and unions get together problems can be solved and good practice can be spread across the whole organisation.”
Ten simple steps to ‘greening the workplace:
1. Switch off all computer equipment, appliances, motors and machinery when not in use.
2. Take the stairs not the lift.
3. If your workplace is too hot, turn the heating down instead of opening a window. Work with union reps to address over-heating caused by equipment or poor ventilation.
4. If it is too cold in winter, ensure radiators and heaters aren’t obstructed and ask your employer to install better insulation or even combined heat and power.
5. Check if lighting is on unnecessarily in the middle of the day – 80% of the UK’s lighting energy is used at work.
6. If you are the last to leave, make sure you turn everything off behind you, including machinery, printers, drinks machines, fans, lights, etc.
7. Set up a green travel plan. Some employers offer incentives for lower energy ways of travelling, e.g. cycling, public transport, car-sharing and walking.
8. Apply the three ‘Rs’: recycling is great, but reducing waste and re-using is even better. Print on both sides of paper, re-use envelopes, and think about ways of reducing other waste that is generated in your workplace.
9. Reduce water use at work through publicity and simple adjustments to taps and toilets.
10. Work together for a greener workplace – talk to your workmates and your union about working out solutions with your employer.
The TUC report, ‘Greening the Workplace’, and more information is available at: http://www.sustainableworkplace.co.uk
The TUC has this month launched its GreenWorkplaces project to raise awareness and build union capacity to tackle climate change and energy issues at work. The new project will support colleagues who want to work with their employers to reduce energy use, waste and harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The TUC’s learning and skills project, unionlearn, is currently training a new breed of environmental union reps to help staff green their workplaces. For more information visit http://www.unionlearn.org.uk
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