A sustainable office – setting an example for the Canberra community to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
In July 2013, after six years of collaborative planning with the ACT Government, community, as well as our board and member groups, we moved into our new sustainable office space. The office is now a bastion of sustainability with various design features contributing to an environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient working space. Maintaining a sustainable office requires dedication and learning, and the acceptance that there will always be ways in which we can improve, hence we are constantly finding new ways to reduce our waste and energy consumption. We want to share our humble story of sustainability, the tricks and tools we’ve picked up along the way, as well as the lessons learned, as we progress into the future. We hope that this site can function as a space to create more dialogue around sustainability in the home and office, while helping and encouraging you to make your home or office more sustainable. Some of the sustainable features of the Conservation Council office:
- Sustainable design features implemented based on advice from various consultants such as Northrop, including use of open plan areas and north-facing solar thermal elements;
- Sustainable and environmentally friendly materials and products used throughout the office, including recycled timber and plywood floors and energy efficient LED lighting;
- Ethical sourcing strategies for office supplies, food and other materials;
- The encouragement of active transport through the creation of a transport guide, use of bus, cycling and walking paths to the office;
- Office energy management strategy through manual control of thermostat and sensors;
- Office waste, water and compost management strategies based on the waste management hierarchy “reduce, reuse, recycle”;
- Flexible, healthy and productive workplace practices, including ‘standing desks’.
Most of the information on this page can be found in our Sustainable Office 2013 report.
To get a sense of the size of the journey we’ve been on, understand that we’ve come from humble beginnings. Our original office:
And how far we’ve come….
PLANNING & BUILDING | Sustainable from the start
During the planning phase, we made some key decisions regarding the layout of our new office to ensure that we made maximum use of natural light for energy efficiency purposes. Several suggestions regarding making maximum use of the north-facing elements of the office by using open plan areas were taken on board. In regular consultation with the building contractors, Winna Parker, we also made key decisions with regard to the materials used in the office fit-out to ensure that the office utilized energy efficient, sustainable, recycled, low VOC and environmentally friendly materials at every opportunity.
Energy Efficient Lighting
LED lighting was chosen for use throughout the office as the most energy efficient way to light the office. These LED lights were purchased with the help of a generous ActewAGL Sustainability Grant.
Originally, our preference was for the floors to be made from insulated polished concrete due to its ability to maximize solar gain and reduce energy costs of heating the office. However, we identified a major concern with this option in that there already existed a substantial amount of concrete in the building foundations underneath our office that would impact the ability of the concrete flooring to retain heat in winter. One option to remedy this was to use extruded polystyrene as a thermal break between the concrete floor and the foundation concrete below. However, it was determined there was not enough space for this, and hence we learnt our first lesson in sustainable office out-fitting: sometimes the most sustainable add-on won’t necessarily provide the best sustainability.
The next option was to create the office floors using sustainable and recycled plywood with insulation, and we are very happy with the result.
Honeycomb Blinds and doubled glazed windows were chosen to ensure the solar thermal aspects of the office were utilized. The blinds were supplied by Kresta Blinds and we thank them for their generous support of our new office.
Indoor Plants and Living Features
The Conservation Council engaged horticulturists Luke and Sally Viekkanen from local group Green Bean Horticulture to provide us with recommendations for living features in our new office. Green Bean gave us some innovative ideas for creating living walls (plants suspended by wooden structures onto the office walls) to promote a sense of well-being and productivity in the office environment.
While it is important to have sustainability worked into your infrastructure as much as possible, the real work is in the action you take to reduce, reuse and recycle. Achieving effective behavioural change is the key to good sustainability and there are various ways this can be done. From changing consumption patterns to only using cold water when washing your hands, the following list describes a range of actions, from the tiny to the large, that can help you to be more sustainable.
Getting to the office: Transport
The Conservation Council strongly supports and advocates for active and public transport in Canberra.
Our employees and volunteers are encouraged to use public transport or active transport (walking or cycling) to reach our office. We have developed a transport guide, shown below, that features bus stops and bike paths close to our office to assist staff, member groups and the community get to our office by environmentally-friendly means.
The new office has access to the ANU Lena Karmel building bike storage facility and bike racks. We have also included a changing facility and cupboards in our new office bathroom for staff to easily change into and out of work clothing after riding or walking to and from work.
Flexible and healthy working
The Conservation Council fully supports workplace flexibility for our employees and supports the ‘right to request’ flexibility provided in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Workplace flexibility is about when, where and how people work and understanding that this is an essential part of creating an effective organization. Flexibility enables both individual and business needs to be met through making changes to the time, location, and manner in which an employee works to ensure that both the individual and the business benefit and increase productivity.
To encourage both a flexible, productive and healthy workplace environment, the Conservation Council supports its staff and volunteers to take part in group exercise sessions such as yoga and pilates during their lunch breaks. The Conservation Council also takes part in community events such as the Canberra Times Fun Run, and does running training together once a week to keep fit and healthy as well as build a healthy workplace culture that ultimately results in increased workplace productivity.
We use a variety of measures to save energy in the office, including:
- We make maximum use of natural light to minimize on lighting energy by using our open plan space as a working and meeting area;
- The use of LED lights, purchased through an ActewAGL Office Sustainability Grant;
- Our trombe wall seat acts as a thermal mass and heats the open plan area in cooler months;
- Shutting off monitors and/or manually sending our computers into energy-saving modes (standby or hibernate) when not in use, and we turn them off at night;
- We have sleep mode enabled on all copies and all printers after five minutes inactivity;
- All lights are turned off when not in use during the day and at night;
- We send, or will send, an email to our staff and member groups before holidays and breaks containing an energy-saving checklist;
- We have control over the thermostat settings in our office, and we set out temperatures and fan speeds at appropriate levels during both the heating and cooling season (ie we do not overheat or over-cool the office);
- All other office appliances are turned off at the end of the day.
Sustainable and Ethical Consumption
Locally sourced environmentally-friendly stationary, kitchen and office supplies will always be the best option to increase your office sustainability. Consider researching the local, eco-friendly options for the following.
- Recycled toilet paper
- Fair trade and organic loose-leaf tea
- 100% recycled office paper
- Hand soap
- Eco-friendly dishwashing detergent
We will be using Staples as a preferred supplier of stationary, utilising only their Sustainable Earth or Earthsaver range of products. These products can have one or more of the following characterisitics:
- Recycled content
- Have end of life management e.g. compostable, recyclable
- Have a low ecological footprint e.g. organic
- Be from a sustainable source e.g. FSC
- Use less energy/greenhouse emissions than similar products
One of our main purchases is paper. We will have in place strategies to continue to reduce paper use e.g. duplex/reduce printing, electronic filing. The paper we will be using is Nautilus 100% recycled content paper. Nautilus is made in Austria and is imported and distributed by Canon Australia. It is made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste and has process chlorine free bleaching status.
The best recycled paper for office use is not made in Australia. This is unlikely to change until consumer demand compels Australian paper makers to stop sourcing their pulp from native forests and stop chlorine bleaching, as well as embrace the necessity of making paper from post-consumer waste.
Post-consumer waste has been used at least once by consumers, collected and reconverted to pulp to make paper again. It is distinguished from pre-consumer waste, which is the reintroduction of manufacturing scrap (such as trimmings from paper production), back into the manufacturing process.
Canberra Green Clean has been appointed as the preferred supplier for cleaning services to provide non-toxic, healthy, environmentally responsible cleaning services. Specifications are as follows:
- Microfibre technology
- Vacuum Cleaners endorsed by the national Asthma Council
- 100% biodegradable, zero waste cleaning product range that is hypo-allergenic and free of palm oil
There are many environmentally friendly options out there to make sustainable cleaning easier. For our cleaning products we use the Ethical Cleaning Products range.
Waste Management and Recycling
The Conservation Council uses the waste management hierarchy “reduce, reuse, recycle” to improve our environmental footprint in the office. Having recycling measures clearly illustrated through out the office not only ensures that staff are reminded of the appropriate actions, but also ensures that guests to the office can easily understand and comply with the directions.
- We print or copy to both sides of a page whenever possible. Double-siding is set as a default on our office computers and we place a visual prompt on our copy machine to remind members to double-side whenever possible;
- We also double check before pressing print, that we have not accidentally requested multiple copies of a document;
- When printing newsletters or other publications, we are careful to ensure we only print the number of copies that are realistically going to be required;
- We reduce paper margins on documents in order to decrease the length of documents we may print;
- We encourage board members to bring their computer or iPad to meetings and utilize electronic agenda papers rather than printing;
- When we cater for events and meetings, we avoid buying food and drinks that come with extensive packaging;
- Before any large event or project, we create a waste reduction strategy;
- We encourage staff to include a friendly note at the end of our email signatures, to remind people to “think before you print this email”.
- In order to save paper when printing and copying, we reuse paper that has text on only one side whenever possible and appropriate. We keep a scrap paper pile near our printer and/or copier and we use scrap paper for taking notes and writing daily to-do lists;
- We have a designated area in our storeroom for sharing office supplies that can be re-used (file folders, binders, pens, paper clips, etc);
- There is at least one reusable bag in the kitchen for our staff to use in place of plastic bags when shopping or buying lunch, supplies, etc;
- For events, we use cutlery and crockery that can be reused or recycled;
- When we go for coffee, we always take our reusable “keep cup” that the baristas become familiar with!
- There are recycling bins in all common areas where trash bins are present, such as in the kitchen, bathroom, storeroom, and individual offices;
- In our office, recycling signs are clearly posted on or near recycling bins;
- We spent time reviewing proper recycling practices at a recent staff meeting to ensure that all members of our office are aware of the rules and understood them properly;
- We provide recycling bins at events and meetings sponsored by our office;
- When disposing of old office furniture and equipment, we first place outside the office for members of the community to salvage for free, or we recycle them by taking them to a second-hand furniture store;
- Each workstation in our office has a desk-side paper recycling bin;
- When we have electronic waste, we liaise with ANU Facilities and Services and ANUgreen (our body corporate) to recycle properly;
- We recycle inkjet cartridges from our printer by giving them to our provider.
The Conservation Council is dedicated to not only reducing our own waste but also helping the community to reduce theirs too. We do this by offering our office as a collection location for used batteries and printer cartridges. We also regularly advertise this through social media to ensure the community are aware of the importance of recycling such materials.
We partner with others in our building such as the ANU Food Coop to use our compost to fertilise the Lena Karmel rooftop organic garden.
DOCUMENTS & RESOURCES
We have had a range of assessments and reports completed on our sustainability, and we are providing them for you here to be used as a reference for your own office sustainability initiatives.
-Sustainable Office Report 2013 (PDF)
-Sustainability Assessment Audit 2012 (PDF)
-Sustainable Office Systems and Procedures Guide 2013-2014 (PDF)
There are plenty of great resources out there to assist you and your colleagues, family or friends to achieve a more sustainable living and working space. Here are just a few: