One of the most significant environmental threats is our heavy dependence on non-renewable energy sources. Researchers are yet to fully determine the magnitude of the effects of fossil fuel use on the people and planet. Environmental degradation, death and deformities in marine animals, global air pollution, and global warming are just some of the effects. These are just some of the many reasons we should save electricity at work.
Of course, the obvious end to these issues is to stop using fossil-fuel-generated electricity. But that is an achievement that is slow in the making. Many regions in the world now generate their electricity through solar, hydro, thermal, wind, and other renewable sources.
Yet, 80% of the world's energy still comes from non-renewable sources.
To mitigate the effect of these polluting energy sources, we must reevaluate our consumption practices, especially in the places where we spend the most time, such as saving electricity at home, school, and our workspaces.
In this article, we outline nine easy ways you can save electricity at work. Each is practical and simple to achieve, and as such, we don't cover more significant options, such as installing solar panels or retrofitting your spaces. However, these remain equally valid should you have the means.
An incandescent bulb left on for a year will consume 876 kWh of energy. Contrary to popular belief, switching off a bulb when leaving a room makes a significant difference. Bulbs consume energy, and in a workspace, you probably have many areas to light up. Encourage your co-workers or employees to switch off the lights when they are not using a section of the office to save energy.
Unless there's an ongoing meeting, boardrooms should be dark, even if unplanned meetings are the norm at your workplace. We don't expect that anyone would find offense in the expectation that they need to 'set up' a room before using it, or for that matter, flick the light switch off when not in use.
You can ensure that people remember to switch off light bulbs by placing reminders in each room. For example, you can print and paste a "Please switch off the lights before you leave" flyer on the inside of each door at the office. So anyone leaving will be sure to see it and take the right action.
If your office environment hasn't yet, switching to energy-efficient light bulbs can significantly affect your energy usage. Lighting controls that automatically switch off unused lighting on a timer or motion detector help improve energy efficiency.
Whereas it will likely prove impractical to replace your existing lighting controls if you're moving or kitting out a new office, consider including the most energy-efficient lighting options available.
With the introduction of online file sharing, most workplaces do not need to print out masses of documents anymore. However, we understand that sometimes, employees should only share sensitive information in hardcopy. In that case, avoid unnecessary printing copies. Finalize all details in your documents before connecting to the printer.
If you must print out semi-finalized copies, then try to do so by reusing paper. Here are some changes you can make to print less:
Check out our other tips to save paper waste in the office.
Elevators are heavy energy consumers. They account for between 3-8% of a building's energy consumption. When enough people choose to use the elevators less, they will directly reduce the energy use in that building.
If you work in an office with elevators and a staircase, you should try to take the stairs more often. It is a great way to reduce the energy cost for your building, and it also helps you get some exercise done during the day.
You can choose to use the stairs once or twice a day. For example, you can take the stairs when heading to/coming back from lunch. Or you can decide to only use the stairs at the start and end of the workday; either way, saving energy is healthy and easy with this simple tip.
Of course, this applies if you don't work in the mid to top levels of a high-rise building. If your office space is between the first and 5th floors, then choosing to use the stairs once a day can contribute to reducing the energy consumption levels of the building.
A report by National Grid estimates the energy bill for a business to be 19% of its yearly expenditure. Yet, it is common practice in many workspaces to leave appliances running. Things like air conditioning, copying machines, computers, and other heavy electrical appliances are left running overnight. Sometimes, employees leave them running over the weekend and during short holidays.
Start making a difference by turning off all your devices before leaving for the day. Switching off the lights and appliances at the end of a day's work can save your company electricity and energy costs. If you're not in management, speak to someone to make this an official or unofficial part of your energy efficiency policy.
We should take good care of the devices used in the office. Many employees keep their laptops plugged in from the moment they get to the office until it is time to close. Make a note to disconnect your chargers from the plug and switch them off.
Not only will this practice consume more electricity than needed, but it can also reduce the lifetime value of laptop batteries. This means more e-waste is generated over time, and more money is wasted replacing parts.
You can also lengthen the time between charges by using your devices in energy-saving mode.
Remote working is another effective way to reduce the collective cost of hosting several workers in one office building. In the US alone, up to 4.7 million employees work from home at least twice a week.
With recent global developments, we expect these numbers to keep growing. Now, imagine how much electricity we can save if every office building stays closed for at least two extra days every week.
Of course, this strategy will only be effective if employees are also energy-conscious while working at home. We can achieve the best results if we manage not to disrupt the average level of energy use in our homes even as we work there.
With a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the temperature in the office whether there are people present to do so or not. You can also upgrade to a smart thermostat model, which syncs with your smartphone, thus allowing you to control it without even being inside the office.
The smart thermostat model lets you inform it of your usual working hours, thus enabling it to cool/heat the office before employees resume. This helps to save electricity and reduce energy costs.
When purchasing computer devices, buying the ones with long-lasting battery life and energy-saving features is always better. They might cost more initially, but you should look at them as an investment because the devices will last for a longer period, thus saving you more money.
Energy-efficient devices offer various benefits and help you save electricity as they require less time to charge with more hours of use. Prioritize laptops over desktops when buying devices for the office, as laptops use less energy.
Microwaves, coffee makers, kettles, and fridges are some of the kitchen appliances needed in the workplace. They run on electricity. Thus, we should take great care when using these appliances in the workplace.
Encourage employees to switch off the microwave and other similar appliances after use. This, of course, is another reason why every company needs an established culture of sustainability. Introducing sustainability within the office to your policies should bring to light the importance of saving resources when possible.
If you're an employee, it's easy to see the issue of saving electricity at work as someone else's concern. After all, you're not paying the electricity bills, right? Wrong. The problem with overconsumption of electricity does not just stop at a high bill. It directly affects our environment and the quality of life we enjoy.
When we collectively use less electricity, fewer fossil fuels are mined and converted to energy (through harmful methods) for our consumption.
As an employer, you're in a position to influence other people and help share the importance of saving energy. Make a conscious effort to highlight sustainability and environmental awareness as one of your company's core values. Not just in theory but in how you interact with your environment and the resources available. You can also undertake an energy audit to formalize the process and work toward improvements incrementally.
By using less electricity in our work offices and other places, we're building the right habits for a sustainable future and learning to consume less and conserve more.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.