Greening your workplace

Most of us spend a decent chunk of our lives at work – but is it a healthy environment to be in? The good news is that there are lots of easy but effective changes you and your colleagues can make. Try this handy checklist to transform your workplace into a happier, healthier and more productive place. 

Here are 4 simple suggestions for starters:

1. Plants. Dirt can sometimes be less toxic than the unseen nasties in a so-called ‘clean’ office, says Mitch Cuevas, former chief executive of Ecostore. In fact, air pollution is often worse indoors than it is outside. Paint, cleaning products, printers, photocopiers, furniture and carpets all leach volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause headaches, loss of concentration, dry eyes, nausea, mental illness … the list goes on. An easy solution? Buy a pot plant for your desk. A few peace lilies, rubber plants or bamboo palms (as well as the bacteria in the potting mix) can drastically reduce VOC levels in your entire office – as well as lifting your mood.

2. Personalise your cup. Turns out that bringing your favourite mug to work is good for your health. Polystyrene may keep your coffee warm, but it’s been linked to infertility, cancer and birth defects. After use, it heads straight to landfill, where it doesn’t biodegrade – just crumbles into fragments. If these tiny bits get into waterways, they choke and clog animal digestive systems. A high price for convenience? If you need something portable, try a KeepCup (www.keepcup.com.au) or one of these ceramic tea mugs (www.ecostoredirect.co.nz).

3. Swap your coffee … Getting your caffeine fix from Fairtrade certified beans isn’t just better for the growers – it’s usually better for you, too. Farmers in the Fairtrade system are encouraged, and enabled, to better care for the environment they live in. For instance, coffee is often shade-grown or cultivated with limited use of toxic chemical fertilisers and sprays. As well as receiving a decent price for their coffee, collectives also receive a ‘Fairtrade premium’ which they can spend on whatever the community needs – such as an ambulance or school textbooks. For more, go to www.fairtrade.org.nz.

4 … and your paper. Those A4 reams stacked by the photocopier? Flip them over and see if there’s a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on the side. This independent, not-for-profit organisation certifies that paper (and wood) products come from trees that were legally cut from sustainably managed forests. The programme also ensures the rights of local people are respected (www.fsc.org).

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