If everyone on the planet lived the same lifestyle as the average UK resident, we would need three planets to support us. To live within our fair share of the planet’s resources, we need to reduce the amount of resources we consume by two thirds.
The environmental impact of a building depends on three factors – the building itself, the services on offer in the building, and the behaviour of the people who use the building.
This page gives you some inspiration – and provides links to more detailed information on:
Four steps for Landlords
There are four main steps to help you move forward in reducing the environmental impact of your premises:
- set out your strategy in the form of an environmental policy: London Sustainability Exchange (LSX) include an example policy in their Green Guide for Offices (page 20) - download it by following this link
- put in place regular monitoring of gas, electricity and water consumption, and waste production: compare actual against typical usage for a building of similar type (the 'Energy Consumption Guide 19: Energy Use in Offices' will help you with this; it is available by following this link to the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers' (Cibse) website); set targets accordingly, and aim for year-on-year improvements
- take action to reduce environmental impacts (both through replacing inefficient equipment and by educating tenants)
- measure the results and share them with tenants, visitors and funders
Remember, publishing all this information demonstrates to your stakeholders that you are serious about tackling environmental issues.
Four steps for tenants
These are four steps to help you move forward in reducing your organisation's environmental impact:
- identifying an eco-champion or team, charged with making green and ethical behaviour an integral part of your organisation, can kick-start the process
- think about monitoring your energy, gas and water use, as well as how your employees travel to work - this helps you to understand the extent of the problem
- publishing this information can also demonstrate to your stakeholders that you are serious about tackling environmental issues
- being green and ethical at work is about understanding the wider impacts of your organisation and thinking creatively about how to reduce these impacts
There is lots of information out there on how to go about greening your office. Three good resources to get you started are:
- 'Creating your green action plan' by the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action. Follow this link to the navca website
- the 'Green Guide for Offices' by London Sustainability Exchange (LSX). Follow this link to download the guide, or visit the LSX website
- the 'Green Office Action Plan' (GOAP) by Friends of the Earth Scotland. Visit the dedicated Greening the Office website to further information.
Other useful steps are:
- to establish an environmental or sustainability policy: London Sustainability Exchange (LSX) include an example policy in their 'Green Guide for Offices' (page 20) - download it by following this link
- to use posters and information boards to inspire staff: for example, the LSX Green Guide to Offices (page 21) includes a sample chart showing an organisation's monthly water use; the Envirowise website also offers four free online tools which will help you understand, and start reducing, your organisation's water consumption levels
The design and construction of the building and its systems (eg. heating) will have a big impact on its environmental performance – and the comfort of the occupants. These are expensive things to change, so it may be best to wait until you are upgrading an item for other reasons (eg. the windows or boiler) and then make energy efficiency a key consideration when specifying the new equipment. The Energy Saving Trust
can provide information on energy efficiency, renewable energy and relevant grants.
The Energy Technology List is a register of energy efficient products such as boilers, lighting controls and renewable energy systems eligible for tax breaks (through enhanced capital allowances) under a Government scheme to support low carbon technologies.
Even if you’re not planning larger scale work, you can look at reducing the environmental impact of smaller work, such as re-carpeting or a new coat of paint.
For more information about the issues to consider in selecting eco-products for use in your building, visit the GreenSpec website.
Follow this link to our Financing your project page for fundraising options for capital work.
Read your gas and electricity meters at monthly intervals and plot the amount you use each day on to a graph by dividing the total used by the number of days between readings. This way you can see if it is going up or down.
Change to green energy
- consider switching to green energy. See the Green Electricity webiste for green suppliers in your area. If you are a tenant and your landlord provides the electricity supply, discuss changing to a green supplier with them
Choose energy efficient equipment
- choose energy efficient computers and other IT equipment which carries the ‘Energy Star’
- choose appliances such as fridges that are ‘A’ rated. This energy efficiency rating will be displayed on a label on the front of the appliance
- use low energy light fittings and bulbs
- buy flat screen monitors if you can afford them. They use half the electricity of the bulkier ones
- make energy efficiency a key consideration when purchasing new heating or cooling plant - the Energy Saving Trust can provide information on energy efficiency, renewable energy and grants
- the Energy Technology List is a register of energy efficient products such as boilers, lighting controls and renewable energy systems eligible for tax breaks under a Government scheme to support low carbon technologies
Only use the energy you need
- only boil the amount of water you need when doing the tea run
- switch off lights when they’re not in use
- avoid overheating or cooling the office
- fix leaks and dripping taps. Check that toilets are not “running” (water dribbling into the pan all the time)
- when you are replacing equipment, fit low flush toilets, waterless urinals or spray taps
- choose water efficient dishwashers and washing machines. Water consumption is displayed on a label on the front of new appliances (alongside the energy efficiency rating)
- provide a washing up bowl (to encourage people not to wash up under a running tap)
- if you do not have a water meter, get one fitted. Then you can plot your monthly water use on a graph. This way you can see if it is going up or down
Friend's of the Earth's Greening the Office website gives more water saving information and ideas.
A travel plan pulls together all your strategies for reducing the environmental impact of the transport choices your organisation makes. You can see how your employees are getting to work by doing a spot survey. Ask as many as your employees as you can how they got to work that day – by car, bus, public transport, bike or foot. Catch them as they come in or go round all the desks. When you have this data you can then decide how best to focus your efforts on how to get more people to bike, walk or take public transport. For more information visit the dedicated transport section
of the Energy Saving Trust's website.
- provide interest-free season ticket loans for employees
- use cycle couriers or companies that use alternatively-fuelled delivery vehicles
- choose taxi companies that use alternatively-fuelled vehicles
- provide cycle parking, lockers and shower facilities
- offer a pool bike to staff for local journeys
- join, or set up, a Bicycle Users Group (BUG) for cyclists at your and other local offices
- offer employees an interest free loan for purchasing a bike for commuting. The Government's 'Cycle to Work Scheme' allows employees to acquire bikes without paying tax, with a typical saving of 30-50% depending on the staff member's tax bracket; Cyclescheme is the number one information portal for the scheme, offering excellent advice for employers on how to enable their staff to benefit
- Sustrans offer a national route planning facility for cyclists based on the National Cycle Network, over 10, 000 miles of cycle routes and footpaths on traffic-free and traffic-calm roads
- for further information on cycling and the workplace see the London Cycling Campaign's website
- become a corporate member of a car club to enable staff to use cars for business journeys without driving their own car to work. You can find your local car club by following this link
- find someone else going the same way as you who needs a lift or can offer you a lift. Find your local car share-scheme at by following this link
- consider limiting car parking to staff and visitors with accessibility needs
Waste and recycling
There are three steps to reducing the amount of waste your organisation produces: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Reduce – buy less
- only buy products that you really need
- choose products with less packaging
- have a stationery amnesty – restock the stationery cupboard with the unused equipment in people’s desks
Reuse – give things a new life
- buy a printer that can print on both sides of the paper
- save paper printed on one side for notes or printing out drafts
A wide range of office waste can be recycled including:
- light bulbs
- printer and toner cartridges
- mobile phones
- organic waste eg. fruit peelings, tea bags
A list of recycling collectors in London can be found at the Wasteonline website
. Resource Futures
provide a useful guide to sustainable waste management solutions for offices in Bristol and similar organisations are located around the country.
Don't forget to buy recycled products as well. Without a strong market for recycled materials, it will be harder to make recycling economically viable.
promotes and facilitates the use of reclaimed material in place of new. They provide advice and assistance throughout all stages of the project cycle on ways to extract and reuse construction materials, fixtures and fittings.
Look for an ethical cleaning company that pays their cleaners a living wage and uses eco-cleaning products.
Bear the following thoughts in mind when you are choosing products. Ask your suppliers to quote for alternative products with a better environmental performance.
- how much energy does it use?
- how much water does it use?
- does it use the minimum amount of resources required to do the job?
- is it made locally?
- is it made from recycled material?
- is it organic?
- is it fairly traded?
- does it contain toxic chemicals?
- is it from a sustainable source?
See The Green Guide for Offices
for a list of suppliers of green and ethical products.
- buy organic and fair trade tea, coffee, sugar and milk. Order catering packs of fair trade tea, coffee and sugar online at the Traidcraft shop
- choose local/organic/fair trade caterers for events
- organise regular staff lunches where people bring food to share – it’s a great team building/networking opportunity and saves waste
- install a vending machine offering organic and fairtrade products.
- choose products from ranges such as Ecover, Bio-D or Vertue to avoid some of the chemicals used in conventional products
- ask your cleaners to stock and use eco-friendly products
- choose recycled – and not just paper and card products. You can now find biros and rulers made from recycled paper cups, mouse mats made from recycled car tyres.
- buy wood products certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
- buy second hand furniture to reduce both your expenditure and your environmental impact.
- Green Works supplies office furniture from large commercial organisations and Government departments that would otherwise go to landfill at reduced prices to charities and community groups. Carpet tiles and other office equipment are also available from Green Works as well as made-to-measure furniture made from reused furniture materials
- Bioregional Reclaimed promotes and facilitates the use of reclaimed material in place of new. They provide advice and assistance throughout all stages of the project cycle on ways to extract and reuse construction materials, fixtures and fittings
People are a crucial part of the picture. If you design an efficient building with excellent services but people don’t use the facilities correctly - leaving IT equipment switched on all weekend, for example - the benefits of your hard work will be much reduced.
Getting everyone inspired and on-board is all about communication.
Landlords could consider including a clause in their agreement with tenants requiring them to seek to minimise the environmental impact of their activities. This makes the landlord's approach clear from the outset.
Energy saving works best when it is top-down ie. when the Directors are convinced and make it a core part of the organisation’s way of working. By targeting the finance director, and showing that reducing energy use will keep the service charge down (especially given the climate of rising energy prices), you stand the best chance of getting the energy saving message enforced throughout an organisation.
Specific information on how everyone can reduce energy use in a building can be distributed either by the landlord (maybe through the tenants’ handbook) or tenant. Information such as how to use individual radiator controls, or reminding people that the lights in their office are separately switched and thus don’t all need to be on at once should be circulated.
You could provide staff with an “Intellipanel” power adaptor that switches all their peripherals off when they switch off their computer (follow this link for further information
) as an example of how you expect them to operate.
There are lots of free posters and stickers available to remind everyone to switch off lights and equipment or double-side their photocopying, for example.
Try these links for free eco-posters and stickers:
Feeding back the results of your environmental monitoring to demonstrate the impact of the work you are doing on being greener is very powerful. For example, you could post graphs of your latest water, gas and electricity consumption in communal areas (page 21 of the LSX Green Guide to Offices
includes a sample chart showing an organisation's monthly water use).
You could also produce a leaflet telling people the most common ways that energy is wasted in offices and how they can prevent this. Have a supply of these in the reception area so that visitors can take the message away with them.
Energy Performance Certificates
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) requires that all properties, whether residential, commercial or public, must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when built, sold or let. The EPC is produced by an accredited energy assessor using standard methods and assumptions about energy usage. It means that the energy efficiency of buildings can easily be compared and allows prospective buyers, tenants, owners and occupiers to evaluate the energy efficiency of and carbon emissions from a building. Once prepared, an EPC is valid for 10 years.
A request for a copy of the building’s EPC will form part of the purchaser or tenant’s solicitor’s standard enquiries. All landlords will be responsible for ensuring that a valid EPC is made available to prospective tenants and failure to do so could result in a fine based on the rateable value of the property.
In terms of deciding whether or not a building is suitable, some organisations may consider a high-scoring EPC essential, particularly if the charity is heavily involved in the promotion of sustainability and environmental issues. Others may decide that a good, although not necessarily the highest scoring, EPC will suffice.
To find out more go to the Communities and Local Government website.