- Buildings, including workplaces, produce 39% of carbon emissions, which has a significant impact on climate change.
- As a workspace operator, becoming more eco-friendly can feel like a huge challenge. A recent online event hosted by Cat Johnson offered actionable tips on how to get started.
- Here are the highlights from the event, featuring insights from four coworking experts who have successfully incorporated sustainable methods into their businesses.
Sustainability is important for nearly 80% of consumers, and 57% are willing to change their buying habits to reduce environmental impact (IBM, 2020).
And since approximately one-third of our waking hours are spent working, the place where people really want to see change is in the workplace.
So the question is, how can you build sustainability into your workplace operations?
The latest edition of Coworking Convos, a monthly virtual event for coworking and workspace operators hosted by Cat Johnson, delved deep into this question.
The online event featured insights from coworking experts who have successfully incorporated sustainable methods into their businesses, including:
- Tracy Wilson from SUPER and Pacific Workplaces
- Alora Daunt from The Pearl Works, California
- Simee Adhikari from The Ring Workspace
- Amy King from Good Coworking
Here are Allwork.Space’s top takeaways from the event:
1. “Turn off the faucet” – Tracy Wilson
SUPER (Single Use Plastics Elimination & Reduction) is a certification “passion project” co-founded by Tracy, which focuses on reducing throwaway consumerism and eliminating single use plastics.
SUPER is an upstream solution that seeks to change attitudes. Rather than buying items and thinking about the impact later – such as what to do with the plastic packaging – consumers are encouraged not to buy it and find plastic-free alternatives instead. “Turn off the faucet,” said Tracy.
This approach has the added benefit of engaging members in the workspace as well as people coming in for a tour. “Showing people a different way of doing things has a ripple effect.”
Look at what’s in your space and how you can eventually replace it with an eco-friendly version. “It could be a bar of soap rather than a plastic container, or a highlighter pencil rather than a pen.” Look at your suppliers too – for example, choose snack options or items that are wrapped in paper rather than plastic.
You can also weave this thinking into your onboarding process, for example by giving new members a reusable mug and water bottle, and explaining why.
By thinking through the small details, it shows that you care about your members’ experience as well as the environment we live and work in. This, says Tracy, sets a happy precedent for what they can expect in your space.
2. “When you know better, you do better” – Alora Daunt
“Sustainability is a long game, not just a checkbox exercise,” says Alora, who has been running her SUPER-certified coworking space, The Pearl Works, for just under one year.
Learning how to become more eco-friendly is a continual practice, but it’s important to first understand why it’s important to you and your community. Once you know this and can understand how to put steps in place to improve it, you can also share this knowledge and best practice with your members.
The same goes for local businesses, and by connecting with other organizations that care about sustainability, Alora said that it enables her to engage members and attract new members to the space whose values align with her own.
Alora also made the point that the coworking business model already utilizes the eco-friendly approach of re-using. “We’re really good at this in coworking! We provide space and resources that people use again and again. We are inherently engaging with sustainability.”
3. Choose suppliers with a sustainable conscience – Simee Adhikari
The eco market is a 12 trillion-dollar industry, says Simee. But where do you start?
The Ring Workspace started by following the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the UN. This enabled them to gain understanding of where they are in terms of sustainability, and to map out an attainable path to becoming more eco-friendly, step by step.
“Ask yourself, where can I significantly make a change and impact? Is it waste, shipment, energy? Aligning that with these global and regional goals gives you a starting point.”
One effective way to make an impact is to switch to suppliers that think sustainably. Simee noted that the industry that’s predicted to have the highest emissions in the future is IT – more than aviation or shipping. Each time we use a search engine, or send an email, servers consume energy to carry out our request, which generates harmful emissions.
To reduce the impact we make in this “invisible world”, Simee recommends choosing eco-friendly suppliers for your technology requirements. One example is Conscious Clouds – a cloud storage company that uses renewable sources of energy.
4. “Lean into programs” – Amy King
Amy King from Good Coworking has a personal reason for building an eco-friendly brand. Amy used to have bad asthma, but when she started working at a LEED Platinum office, her asthma symptoms disappeared.
“We spend 90% of our time indoors”, noted Amy, which clearly shows the benefits of living and working in clean, green buildings. Not only that, she noted that buildings produce 39% of carbon emissions, which “has a huge impact on climate change”.
As such, Good Coworking is a “living lab for sustainable and wellness practices”. Amy partnered with her landlord, which enabled the workspace to implement a number of impactful eco-friendly practices. They are now aiming for a LEED Platinum certification.
She recommends leaning into programs and incubating these ideas in your space, as this will educate members (and yourself) along with the wider community. “They learn more than they realise.”
Amy acknowledged that it’s challenging to manage expectations and find the capacity to research local initiatives and grants, and make it all happen. One way to overcome this is to create a ‘green team’ in your business. This can be anyone in your organization who is passionate about sustainability and is eager to commit time and energy to combating climate change – with this person leading the charge, you are much more likely to gain the knowledge you need to become an eco-friendly brand.
Don’t miss Cat Johnson’s next Coworking Convo on Friday, May 27, when she’ll be leading a discussion on how to foster a culture of belonging in your workspace. Sign up for free here.