Companies all over the world are focusing on improving their sustainability practices. While it has become a marketable quality to boast companies environmentally friendly initiatives, it is vital to get the workforce involved in the process from the start. Before you begin remaking and marketing your products and services as eco-friendly, it is important to share your eco-goals with your team and get them equally excited to make a difference in the environment.
The two ways to create sustainability activities in your workplace is to offer both eco-friendly team building activities, as well as sustainability awareness. In this article, we’ve curated a list of 19 activities that are focused around sustainability for the workplace.
Eco-Friendly Team-Building Activities
Start an employee grown herb garden.
Herb gardens can be created virtually anywhere. In some climates, these work best outdoors, whereas others can be grown indoors, with assistance. When a framework for an employee grown herb garden is created, the more herbs that grow, the greater the engagement will be from other employees. Herb gardens are often easy to grow and create an added reward for the employees who contribute. Allow any employee who helps with the garden to share in its harvest. This can become a great long-term team building activity.
Plant trees with your company.
Planting trees are singlehandedly one of the best things individuals can do to make positive impacts on the environment. If your company has the property that can support tree growth, this can be done right outside the office. If not, this could turn into a half day activity where employees go out and plant trees in the community. If you’re not sure of the best place to plant trees in your community, reach out to a local arborist for suggestions.
Host a Farmers Market in the company parking lot during the weekend.
Farmers markets are great ways to bring the local community together while supporting sustainable farming. Depending on the availability of your office parking lot or property, your company could host local farmers to sell their harvests to the community. Encourage your employees to assist in the planning, while having them invite their friends and family to the market. While this can be a great team building activity, it could also lead to good press and marketing opportunities.
Build and use a company compost bin.
Composting is a great way to enrich the soil to help plants grow. Instead of throwing away your organic waste, encourage your employees to add it to your compost bin instead. Building and maintaining a company compost bin can bring your team together during the building process of building the bin, and the composting part itself. Once the soil is ready to be used, it can be shared with employees to take home for their own gardens, or it can be used for a company garden.
Have departments compete in minimal waste initiatives.
A minimal waste initiative is a way to reduce company waste and save resources. An inclusive method to do this is through healthy, department competition. The goal is for each department to compete in having the lowest amount of waste and excess energy used at the end of a week or month. Examples of this could include:
- Weigh each departments garbage at the end of the day or week. Use the total weight as a score for each department where the lowest score wins.
- Have employees track their business-related carbon footprint. Anytime an employee needs to drive, fly, or operate machinery, have them calculate their carbon footprint. The department with the smallest footprint wins.
- Count pages printed at the end of the month, per department. The lowest number of pages printed wins.
- Count the time employees order delivery food instead of bringing their lunch. Inform them how delivery food creates a lot of waste due to the food containers and added carbon emissions required to deliver the food. One point would be added when a department employee orders delivery work, whereas one point subtracted when a department employee brings their own food. As always, lowest scores win.
Include employees children for family-friendly actives.
By including the employee’s family and children into company activities, you may be able to appeal to a wider audience. Getting kids involved in eco-friendly exercises can be a great way for your goals to go home with the employees as well. Examples include:
- Make bird feeders for the home and office.
- Spend a day cleaning the trash from a local park.
- Make eco-friendly soaps that can be used in the office and at home.
- Invite children to present at employee gatherings on why the environment is important.
Host monthly hikes, letting the employees take a half day to enjoy nature.
Giving employees the opportunity to explore nature can often lead to a stronger desire towards wanting to preserve it. While allowing employees to take monthly hikes, you can show them the importance of living eco-friendly lifestyles while you hike.
Setup rainwater harvesting.
Water waste can be a big problem in office buildings. Combat this by working together with employees to learn about and create rainwater harvesting bins that can be used to supplement the office’s water supply.
Provide boardgames in the break room.
Break rooms are full of employees taking their mind off work in an effort to relax. Unfortunately, most of them are spending their time on phones and tablets. Encourage employees to relax without electronics by providing various board games in the break room. This also becomes a simple way for employees to start their own activities with other coworkers.
Workplace Sustainability Engagement and Awareness
When adding eco-friendly activities to your team building, it is essential to create sustainability awareness in parallel. Without this, the eco-friendly activities may as well be meaningless. Below is a list of activities and ideas you can use to increase awareness.
Encourage sustainable eating habits.
A lot of waste is derived from workplace eating habits. Employees love to order take-out and purchase instant microwavable meals, only to throw away the boxes and containers the food came in. You can teach employees about this waste and share ideas with them on how they can combat it.
- Collect a week’s worth of employee food containers.
To start by raising awareness of food waste, a dirty, yet effective method is to collect all single-use food containers and show how many were disposed of after a week’s worth of lunches.
- Encourage employees to bring their own food to work.
After sharing the amount of waste collected from a weeks worth of eating, you can start an initiative for employees to bring their own food to work, thus, minimizing food container waste.
- Host a meatless Monday, where employees eat vegetarian for one day a week.
For most American’s, eating meat is a necessity. Unfortunately, the amount of resources needed to grow meat is incredibly harmful to the environment. To fight this, support a single day of the week where employees are urged to try meatless alternative options for their lunch.
- Introduce Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups.
CSA groups bring local food producers together with consumers. These groups help introduce local companies with local consumers in an effort to provide directly to consumer farmed products as well as eco-friendly practices.
Share local farmers market information.
Consolidate all the local farmer’s markets and share their information with your employees as a motivation way to get them to purchase locally sourced products.
Offer outdoor seating to allow employees to work outside when the weather permits.
Working outside can boost productivity and encourage individuals to connect with nature. An outdoor working environment lets your employees share in your love for nature.
Conduct an energy audit in your office.
Energy audits identify how much energy your building is using. After conducting one of these audits, most auditors will share ideas on how you can improve your companies energy use. Be sure to share these results with your employees to help them understand how their actions in the office affect the environment.
Unplug and turn off when not in use.
Offices love to keep the lights on, by sharing the importance of sustainability with your employees, everyone can work together to share in the effort. When rooms are not in use, turn off the lights. Unplug small appliances and turn off computers when workers are not using them.
Share your electricity bill with employees.
Individuals are more electricity conscious when they are in their own home because they are the ones paying the bill. When you share the cost of energy with employees while explaining the environmental reasons as to why you want to lower it, it will lead to a greater conscious effort for others to want to be involved.
Ban bottled water for a day, week, then a month.
Everyone knows how wasteful disposable plastic water bottles are. Let your company create change by testing out plastic water bottle bans. First, test it out for a day, and then gradually work your way up so individuals are bringing their own reusable bottles to work every day.
Stop purchasing paper cups and have your employees bring their own cups to work.
Paper cups are simply unnecessary to have in an office when everyone can use reusable cups.
Purchase recycled paper.
While encouraging employees to reduce their printing habits, switch to recycled paper and share your reasons behind it.
Make a Double-Sided printing policy.
The majority of paper printed in offices happens because printing is free for the employees and it can become a habit for individuals to print documents instead of saving them digitally. While this can be a tough habit to break for some, as a company, you can cut your paper usage in half by setting a double-sided printing policy.
Have your CEO host a talk on sustainability and why it is important.
When eco-friendly activities are started at the top, individual employees will be more likely to want to engage as well. Have your CEO start by implementing these sustainability ideals on his own, and have him present on the topic when you are ready to implement them as a company.
Ditch the paper poster and bulletin boards and opt for a digital one.
It is easy to print posters and put them all over the office in an effort to engage employees in sustainability. But an even greater way is to physically remove all bulletin boards, replace them with a notice for staff to check to your companies intranet and post important messages there instead.
Get certified in ISO 14001:2015
This ISO certification outlines environment management systems for your company and is a great way to engage in eco-friendly practices.
For those focused on making their office a more sustainable environment, it may seem easy to impose restrictions such as no plastic bottles, or urging employees to bring their own lunch. But it is recommended that opportunities are given to employees that allow them to take advantage of nature and appreciate why your company is fighting so hard to push for a more sustainable future.
Preventing the air conditioning from turning on unless the temperature reaches a certain degree without first sharing in the importance of conserving energy has a greater chance of lowering workplace morale. The activities shared above can act as a jumping off points, but managers and business owners should understand that the main goals of creating sustainable activities are to get employees to want to make a difference in their own lives, and not to force them to change.