• Sustainability is becoming part of our everyday lives, particularly at work. 
  • Cat Johnson’s latest Coworking Convo discusses everyday strategies for increasing workplace sustainability. 
  • Expert panellists offer 5 ways to make eco-friendly choices in the workplace. 

Whether it’s the morning news headlines, or the colourful recycling bins dotted around our streets and workplaces, or even the ecolabels and ‘free from’ certifications on brand packaging, the topic of  sustainability is slowly yet surely becoming part of our everyday lives. 

So what kind of everyday choices can we make to play our part? 

In the latest Coworking Convo – an interactive monthly webinar featuring specialist subjects and speakers – Cat Johnson, a digital content marketing expert for the coworking sector, invited four panellists to discuss some of the small things that workspace owners can do to make their spaces more sustainable. 

The panel featured: 

  • Jamie Orr – Cowork Tahoe 
  • Moji Igun – Blue Daisi Consulting 
  • Amy King – Good Coworking 
  • Sonja Brunner – Downtown Association 

Here are 5 takeaways from the Convo. 

1. Make your members do as little as possible. 

For Jamie Orr, member experience is paramount – and that includes making members feel good about being part of a sustainably-minded community. Even better, have them do as little as possible to feel part of it. 

“We don’t want to keep reminding people to turn the lights off, because that just adds to the stress of their work day. Think about what you can do for your members in order to allow them to participate and feel good about sustainability initiatives.” 

For instance, Jamie suggested installing LED lightbulbs and switches with occupancy sensors, so the light turns off when people leave the room. For temperature control, often it’s better not to have individually controlled rooms – even if this goes against the grain – because remembering to turn thermostats down (or off) at the end of the day once again places responsibility on that person. 

Make it easy for them by making the most of automation whenever possible. 

2. Find ways to divert waste from landfill. 

For Moji Igun, the priority is figuring out ways to divert waste away from landfill and working towards zero waste. 

‘Zero waste’ can seem like a frightening concept, she says, because it feels so extreme. However, it’s more achievable than you might think. 

Moji recently carried out a zero waste audit with a company that felt they weren’t doing enough to operate sustainably. By literally going through their rubbish over a period of time, Moji discovered that the company was already diverting 80% of their waste away from landfill. 

“The focus now is on pushing that little bit more, and finding creative ways to reduce or reuse the remaining amount.” 

There are two key approaches for workspaces: 

  • Member facing activities: Can members compost in the facility? Can they recycle? Can they access or bring their own reusable plates and cups? Operators should put systems in place to enable members to do what they do at home, at work. 
  • Behind the scenes: Look at your existing processes and analyse ways you can make them simpler, so that there is less reliance on your people. For instance, consider switching to digital systems or automated tools. “Some shifts are surprisingly easy to make.” 

3. Reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order 

Jamie noted that the well-used phrase ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ should be prioritised in that order. 

First, focus on reducing waste by reusing items. Choose long-lasting items rather than single-use –and provide an easy way to reuse items (ie. provide a water-filling station for bottles, and encourage members not to use single-use plastic containers). 

You don’t want to get rid of something if at all possible, but when you do, try to make it easy to recycle. Recycling bins is the obvious choice, and for specific items like batteries, some spaces now provide a specialist recycling collection service. 

“For every little change that you make, share it with your members and explain why you’re doing it,” added Jamie, as it’s a great way to encourage buy-in. 

4. Sustainability is about people. 

Sonja Brunner spoke about how sustainability can bring workspace communities together and encourage joint action. And sometimes, the best and most effective actions are the simplest. 

For instance, Sonja uses a ‘cup wall’ at her coworking space, which is simply a space with hooks and name tags where members can hang their cups ready to be refilled the next day. Again, this reduces reliance on disposable cups. 

She also recalls working at a space where there was a dedicated area for free items. Members donated anything from computer equipment to unwanted gift sets, which gave items a second life and kept them away from landfill for longer. 

“Sustainability is about community and engaging with others. Ask people around you – there is a lot of creativity and knowledge in your space.” 

5. “Grow a responsible business culture.” 

Amy King’s mission is to “grow a responsible business culture that has a net positive impact on the world”, and she is constantly seeking ways to create a space that’s sustainable but also “gets people talking”. 

One way to make this easier on workspace owners and operators is to partner with companies that specialise in waste. For instance, she signed up for a free partnership with a food composting company that makes the most of food scraps, and also works with a waste management company that measures how much waste her workspace is diverting from landfill. 

Amy recommends checking with local government to see if they offer programs or incentives to reduce waste, and also working towards certifications. 

Some certifications aren’t achievable because they require extensive landlord involvement (which some are reluctant to give) and may be too expensive. However, others are attainable and important, “because they show that a third-party expert has verified your work”. They also provide tools and resources to help space owners set up a sustainable strategy and measure against those goals. “It’s a huge help for resources and understanding.” 

For more ideas on creating a sustainable workplace, take a look at Cat Johnson’s list of 27 sustainable tips for coworking spaces. 

The next Coworking Convo takes place on May 28, and focuses on Coworking and Mental Wellness. Join Cat and other participants to learn and talk about strategies to support and facilitate the mental wellness of coworking members and your team. 

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