For quite a while I have been wondering how to go green at work. Yet somehow, I always put this effort off and prioritized other areas of my life. Although the pandemic has brought a lot of sorrow and pain, it certainly significantly helped me. And, I think, many of us – in relation as how to go green in the workplace.

1. Working from home

Before the pandemic, my workplace already had a rather flexible approach toward working from home. Yet during COVID-19, we have been working from home almost exclusively for several months. Many of my colleagues think that in the future, we will continue to have the opportunity to work several days per week from home. Working from home is a great solution for those who think about how to go green at work. It reduces the energy consumption related to commuting (as discussed by Blythe Copeland in this blog post for Treehugger). And as one does not need to dress up at home as much as in office (or only needs to focus on the upper part as on the photo below:-)), the need for dry cleaning services reduces considerably.

How to go green at work - casual clothes and new fasion

2. Commute in a more sustainable way

If working from home is not an option, or on days when you need to go to office, it is always possible to explore more sustainable ways of commuting. If you can, biking or rollerblading to work are great options that help you to stay fit, in addition to their environmental benefits. Using public transport, especially if it is powered by sustainable energy, is also a good way to be more environment-conscious. If I were braver, I could bike to work. Yet I feel that this goal is a bit too ambitious for me.

As also discussed in my blog post on greener commuting, I have found another solution. First I drive my car to the closest train station. Then I take a train and a few stops on a tram or trolleybus, all now using electricity from sustainable sources. Ideally, it would be great to carpool with somebody to the train station. This is definitely a possibility to keep looking out for.

3. Use recycled and refillable pens and notebooks from recycled paper

In addition to printing less, something I also explore in my blog post on how to save paper, using recycled or refillable pens is a good eco-friendly choice. The office provides us with a choice of pens. Next time I need a pen, I will see if they have some environmentally friendly options, such as recycled or refillable pins. If not, I will suggest that the office managers explore buying those. If this is not possible, I’ll buy eco-friendly writing utensils for myself as a way how to go green at work. Here are some options of greener writing utensils – a wooden pen and a pen from recycled plastic:

how to go green at work - recycled pens

The latter has a sticker on it that reads in French “recycled plastic, mainly from bottles”

recycled pens

4. Interweave environment and climate change mitigation into your work

As another way how to go green at work, I have been trying to interweave environment and climate change mitigation in various ways into my work. For instance, when I was asked to propose a research idea related to migration, I incorporated a strong focus on climate change mitigation into my proposal. More recently I have been asked to write a strategy for a fund. Again, I made sure that the strategy incorporated a strong environmental focus. You may be surprised at how many ways environmental protection can be included in the various tasks we are asked to do in our professional world.

5. Take your own lunch and coffee to work

Instead of buying take-out food in plastic packaging from a nearby supermarket or restaurant, a great way to be more environmentally friendly is to bring your own lunch to work in reusable containers and eat it with reusable utensils. To avoid using the office’s coffee machine, you can also brew your own coffee in an eco-friendly way and take it with you to the office in a reusable container. As discussed in my blog post on how to be more eco-friendly while eating at home, another good practice is to use non-dairy milk for your coffee.

6. Combine other activities with commuting to work

In addition to my office, my doctors, gym, and painting classes are also located in Geneva. Many of my friends also live in Geneva. In order to reduce commuting and be more earth-friendly, I try to plan my medical appointments, workouts, or visits with friends over my lunch breaks when working at the office, and I go to painting classes after work in the city. Below is one of my little creations, a take on my garden made during these classes.

painting of a garden

Combining my personal city-related activities with days when I work at the office is another great way of going green at work.

7. More virtual meetings and less work-related travel, virtual missions

This is another area where the COVID-19 pandemic has greened the working world. In my area of work, it is common to travel for a week or two on support missions to Africa or Asia. Or one would sometimes fly from Geneva to London or Brussels for a day for a meeting. The pandemic has shown that what we thought needed to be done in person can, in many cases, be done virtually.

What are your ideas about how to go green at work? What has worked and not worked for you?