Green, eco-friendly, sustainable–these are all buzzwords we hear more and more often. With climate change becoming a bigger threat every year, a lot of businesses have started thinking about what they can do to help fight the issue. This doesn’t only mean offering eco-friendly products but having eco-friendly offices and coworking spaces for employees.
Implementing eco-friendly solutions in companies has become important both for helping the planet and retaining customers. Forbes reports that a third of consumers choose to buy from brands that do social and environmental good, and as many as 76% refuse to work with or support companies whose values contradict theirs.
So, how can you make your business and coworking spaces eco-friendly? There are many suggestions online, ranging from scrapping disposable cups, bottles, and cutlery to buying pre-loved furniture, filling the space with plants, and reducing artificial light. The list goes on. However, arguably the most common suggestion is to go paperless.
It may come as a surprise that the paper industry is one of the most damaging industries in the world. If we think about it for a moment, though, it makes sense. Producing paper requires a lot of energy and is a threat to forests. Each tree produces an average of just 17 reams of paper, not to mention production requires a lot of water. Transport and distribution are damaging to the environment too.
Recycling paper isn’t the answer. The procedure requires a lot of processing, during which harmful emissions are released. These contribute to air pollution. Moreover, if the paper isn’t recycled properly and is left to rot, it releases a significant volume of methane gas, which is highly harmful—more toxic, in fact, than carbon dioxide.
The first challenge in digitalizing all your documents is finding the right tools and apps to help you. There are many aspects of your business that will need to be moved online, including signatures, virtual business cards, proposals, inventories, and contracts.
The COVID-19 pandemic was helpful with regard to developing many of these. Businesses being forced to move from in-person to remote working prompted the creation of lots of new apps and software. The work-from-home culture that followed caused the development of digital business tools to boom. Fortuitously, many of these can help to make the transition to paperless smoother.
With the help of Google and some good old-fashioned research, businesses can find everything from organizational tools to video-conferencing apps to use with clients that are geographically distant from them (reducing commuting helps CO2 emissions as well, so two birds, one stone). There are also options like business proposal software to help you send proposals effortlessly.
So, what can we digitize?
A lot of documentation is printed for the purpose of signing a physical document or giving clients copies. However, there are now plenty of options to do this online, including signing documents in your coworking space app, and businesses can research these to find the best digital signature, choosing one that suits their needs.
The question of storage is also easily addressed. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on filling cabinets and stationary equipment, it’s easier to keep documents online in the cloud and grant access to relevant people. This also means there’s no need to tidy or organize files as often, which cuts down on admin.
There are many other things businesses can do without using hard copies. Paperless marketing is one example. The time of printouts, fliers, and letters is long gone. Going digital not only helps the environment but allows a coworking business to reach people all over the world.
Companies that invest time and money in customer onboarding often see a significant increase in revenue. This isn’t surprising considering customer experience is the backbone of a successful business.
However, handing out physical copies of this information is yet another contribution to those paper waste stats. Having a digital customer onboarding process and providing members’ apps helps address this and keep customers happy.
One of the trends resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has been the move toward hybrid and remote working. This has led many companies to decide to minimize the size of their offices or even rent out shared coworking spaces for the days they would work on-site.
Instead of having them sign up on a piece of paper, there are now digital tools available to manage room bookings. You can take advantage of these to help your business go paperless and also provide a more convenient way for customers to book out your space.
The more companies that start to operate this way, the less need there will be for new office buildings, meaning demand will reduce and cities can potentially use this land for green spaces in the future, thus helping the environment even further.
If you offer the chance to book out individual desks as well as rooms, there are tools for that too.
The examples above demonstrate an obvious pattern: going paperless is not only beneficial to the environment but speeds up many business processes. Not to mention, it can lead to a significant reduction in costs. For coworking spaces, it means there’s no need to buy paper, fax machines, printers, filing cabinets, or any equipment that exists for the purpose of keeping or signing documents.
The ability to seamlessly manage many systems digitally proves the efficiency of going paperless, and the new work-from-home culture has brought into existence a lot of organizational tools to simplify various tasks. These range from digital calendars to Trello boards, multichannel inventory management software, and even event management apps.
There are several other easy and enjoyable ways to make your coworking space more eco-friendly. We take a look at a few of them below.
Most disposable utensils are made of either cardboard or plastic, so moving to reusable ones ties in nicely with reducing the paper waste in your office. There are plenty of options for stylish, eco-friendly kitchen products out there, and some brands even support environmental and social causes.
Moving to reusable cups, for example, could have a community-building element too, with members feeling as though they’re supporting a cause they believe in and that aligns with their values. This will create a more positive culture in the workplace.
Having plants in your coworking space is not only helpful for improving the feel of the workplace but also has health benefits. For example, plants can boost cognitive performance and reduce attention fatigue, which can be extremely beneficial in a stressful work environment.
Side note: If you have small or no windows in the premises, try to use some indoor grow tents to create a growing environment for your plants and get the aforementioned benefits while also boosting air circulation.
Being around plants, especially indoors, is good for our mental health too, helping to lower our stress and anxiety levels. Research from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University has shown that being around plants can increase productivity by up to 15%.
Let’s not forget that plants also purify the air as well as looking good!
If your coworking space mainly operates on a digital basis, you won’t need faxes, printers, big computers, or phones. This equipment can be reduced down to laptops and mobile phone plans for business for each member of the team.
As a result, there will be fewer contributions to electronic waste in the long term. E-waste is not biodegradable and is extremely harmful to both the environment and human health. It contains toxic components such as lithium and barium, and if not disposed of correctly, the chemicals released can negatively affect the brain, liver, kidneys, and more.
Having a good water dispenser and water purifier not only helps the environment by reducing plastic waste but has proven medical benefits. Purified water is even better for us than filtered. It aids digestion, clears the skin, and detoxifies the body. That means you’ll be supporting your employees and customers in staying healthy too.
It’s no secret that recycling benefits the environment. It reduces pollution and helps us get one step closer to sustainable living. For a coworking space to be a truly eco-friendly venue, there should be both recycling and compost bins provided.
These serve distinct purposes, as each material needs to be treated differently to ensure it’s being reused in the most efficient way. Both composting and recycling play an important role in the zero-waste hierarchy that defines sustainability.
Many things can be done to make a coworking space more eco-friendly and sustainable. Some of these solutions, like going paperless and using new digital apps, have the added boon of increasing efficiency and making tedious tasks faster too.
Why wait? Become a part of the paperless revolution today!
The article was written by Yauhen Zaremba, the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc, an all-in-one document management tool for almost all types of documents including these PandaDoc house lease agreement templates. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.