Energy Efficiency at the Office: It’s Better to be Proactive – not Reactive
Your business’ ‘next normal’ is around the corner, and whether you’re planning to go back to the office, keep the home office, or create some hybrid of the two, you have the chance to ‘build back better’ and re-evaluate how you use energy.
You see, part of the United Nations’ 7th Sustainable Development Goal is to ‘double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency’. To do this, we need to look at our buildings, because commercial buildings (like office blocks) use a lot of energy.
In fact, together with the construction of those buildings, they account for 36% of global final energy use and 39% of energy-related CO2 emissions.
That means there is a lot of room for improvement.
If we’re going to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, buildings around the world need to improve their energy intensity by 30-50% per sqaure meter.
In this blog, we’re exploring ways you can become more energy efficient at the office, but many of the tips below also apply to those who work at home.
1. Find out How You’re Using Energy
Check your office’s energy consumption and evaluate your overall energy usage. You can do this by conducting an energy audit (an analysis of energy usage in your building) to see which electronics and appliances are using the most energy.
You can then compare that data to the manufacturer’s specifications to determine whether these electronics and appliances are operating at full efficiency, or whether you need to repair or replace them.
2. Set Goals
To eliminate energy waste, you need goals. Goals give you ‘long-term vision and short-term motivation’, and they don’t have to be complicated. They just need to be realistic and based on the information you received during your audit (your current energy consumption status).
These goals can include reducing energy consumption in specific departments or processes, improving return on investment from those energy-saving actions, replacing certain electronics with new, energy-saving ones, and increasing employee awareness, to name a few.
3. Get the Basics Right
The secret to reducing energy consumption in your office is simple. Create a culture of awareness and make small changes. Motivate yourself and encourage employees to change daily habits. Habits like keeping devices plugged in all day, keeping all the lights on, printing, and cranking up the air conditioner.
Instead, make sure electronics (including smartphones, laptops, printers, coffee machines, etc.) are switched off and plugged out when they’re not in use (they still use power when they’re plugged in), use natural light whenever possible, print only when necessary, on both sides of the paper, and stick to cooling or heating areas where people spend the most time (leaving corridors and storerooms as is).
4. Replace Broken Electronics with New, Eco-Friendly Versions
Remember: the point is to reduce consumption. Don’t just go out and buy new, more energy efficient electronics when the ones you currently have are in fine working order. However, if they are not in fine working order, they can draw unnecessary electricity (which means both a higher electricity bill, and a higher environmental cost).
If this is the case, dispose of them correctly (recycle) and replace them with new, energy efficient ones. In the market for new lights? Opt for low wattage. Need new computers? Choose laptops over desktops (laptops usually consume less energy – but always check the specs first!).
Bonus Tip: Home Office Energy Efficiency
Adam Grant, organizational psychologist and bestselling author, recently said that, ‘Productivity is purpose and process, not place. It’s driven by why and how we work – not where we work.’
Before the pandemic, many businesses believed that being in an office full time was imperative to productivity. Since Covid-19, many companies have realized the benefits of more flexible work arrangements. When it comes to energy consumption, the results aren’t as clear (we save on our daily commute to the office, but do we save on energy usage?).
There are a lot of ways you can offset the potential increase in energy use while working from home. Many of the above tips apply (switching to more energy efficient appliances when you need to buy new ones, unplugging devices that aren’t in use, making use of natural light, etc.) with a few extras.
Like washing your clothes less often (check out our blog on how often you should wash your clothes without compromising on hygiene), skipping the dryer if possible. You can also take energy efficiency into the kitchen. Try cooking in bigger batches to save on electricity (here’s how).
No matter what your ‘next normal’ looks like, make sure you throw energy efficiency into sharp focus, and ‘build back better’.