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Five ways to make your workplace more sustainable 

Author: UNB Sustainability

Posted on Oct 25, 2021

Category: UNB Saint John , Insights , UNB Fredericton

COVID-19 has impacted our lives in inconceivable ways, but it has also shown us how resilient and open to change we can be. We added masks to our wardrobe. We mastered social distancing. We conquered virtual life. Now let’s keep making changes... 

Start making small, sustainable changes to your daily workplace routine and encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same. Your small actions can start a ripple effect that grows into a big wave.  

The UNB Sustainability Centre shares its tips for known and new ways you can transform your workplace into a more sustainable environment.

1. Make your commutes less carbon intensive

Four out of five Canadians commute to work using a car, truck, or van. This causes an increase in traffic and congestion, there are many ways to lessen your impact commuting to and from work. 

  • Carpool with colleagues 
  • Take public transit 
  • Live close? Walk or bike to work! 
  • Drive a Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV): The Government of Canada has launched an incentive program to aid individuals and businesses in purchasing ZEVs (battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, hydrogen fuel cell). The Government of New Brunswick has also launched a complimentary program to add additional rebate opportunities. Find out more information at Zero-emission vehicles and Plug-In NB - Electric Vehicle Rebates  
  • Use Electric Micro-Mobility Options: Emerging technologies such as e-bikes and e-scooters are becoming more popular to get further distances more easily than traditional biking/walking. These new modes of transportation are low-carbon and quick, while requiring minimal physical effort to get to and from work. 
  • Working from home/hybrid offices: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to work from home. By eliminating the daily commute altogether, it helps lower your commuting impacts.  


2. Reduce, reuse and rethink your office supplies 

There are many things we use in the office that has an impact on our carbon footprint. These small changes can help you reduce those impacts. 

  • Reduce the amount of paper you use by printing double-sided or using digital files 
  • Use recycled paper  
  • Recycle ink cartridges when they are depleted 
  • Go paperless: As our workplaces continually move online, consider eliminating paper from your processes altogether, where it is not needed (i.e., paperless work orders, billing, internal notices).  
  • Choose sustainable suppliers: Purchase needed supplies from suppliers who prioritize sustainability.  
  • Clean green: There are many new green substitutes for common cleaning products that can make your workplace greener and cleaner.  


3. Reduce the waste generated from your workplaces

While waste is an inevitable part of any workplace, there are ways you can reduce or eliminate some waste types in your workspaces. 

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle everyday waste 
  • Think circular: A circular economy is an approach of eliminating waste and reusing items to achieve greater sustainability.  
  • Start a composting program for food waste: Composting is one of the most recognizable circular waste technologies that reduces emissions and creates a useful byproduct.  
  • Prioritize purchasing circular equipment/furniture: Instead of purchasing the cheaper office chair or laptop, start prioritizing things that will last longer, can be repaired, and can be sustainably recycled at the end of its life.  
  • Improve recycling practices: Ensure that there is no contamination. Things such as liquids, oil and grease can contaminate a recyclable product, causing it to be landfilled without you even knowing.   


4. Make your workplaces more energy efficient

Energy is what powers our workspaces, however there are many ways to lessen those impacts on the environment. 

  • Turn off the lights/electronics when not needed 
  • Wear weather appropriate clothing to minimize the need for heating/cooling 
  • Replace your lights with LEDs 
  • Upgrade building envelopes: Improving insulating features or replacing aging exterior doors/windows/insulation is a great way to make significant impacts on energy usage of your workplaces. There are federal resources available for some commercial/institutional buildings to improve their energy efficiency at Financial assistance for commercial and institutional buildings. 
  • Perform energy audits: Performing an energy audit provides a means to examine existing building performance and operational processes to identify areas to improve energy performance. This can be done internally or by a licensed professional. For more information, visit the Government of Canada website on Energy Audits at Conducting an energy audit  
  • Fuel Switch: Fuel switching away from carbon-based energy (coal, natural gas, oil) towards low/zero-carbon alternatives (renewable electricity, hydrogen, biofuels) are becoming increasingly feasible for most workplaces. Newer technologies, such as electric heat pumps, can simplify this process further.  


5. Futureproof your workspace 

The world of sustainability and climate change is developing at a rapid pace. It is worth seeing what our workspaces can start to do now to support a sustainable future.  

  • Zero-Emission Vehicles (battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, hydrogen fuel cell): All new car and passenger truck sales in Canada will be zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. Workplaces can prepare for this future by helping employees make the switch. This could include company rebates to help purchase a ZEV and/or installing charging station on company property for workers to charge their vehicles.  
  • More efficient buildings: A new version of Canada’s National Building Codes is due in December 2021. It is reportedly going to incorporate climate change related themes such as upgraded building requirements for extreme weather, rainwater collection, new standards for windows, exterior insultation, and air barriers. Experts anticipate these building codes will only increase its focus on climate change over time. Workplaces can anticipate these new standards in any construction/renovation work now to make sure their spaces will meet these new standards.  


To learn more and keep up to date with sustainability at UNB, follow UNB sustainability on   InstagramFacebook, and Twitter