An Environmental Black Hole? What Can Be Done to Limit Environmental Impact in The Office?

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Incredibly, industry and workplace C02 emissions are still around 2% greater than those from all UK homes combined. Commerce doesn’t usually bring individuals together for ideological reasons after all, so it’s perhaps understandable that many, who do what they can in their own homes, may see the workplace through quite a different lens. Sometimes it’s probably a case of not pursuing environmental issues as vigorously as we should with employers or colleagues, sometimes it’s slipping-up ourselves, being carried-away with a lax office culture. But for those who still want to make a difference and without embarking on a career in politics there are simple measures that can be taken. Canon Copiers brings you the best…

According to the Carbon Trust, when looking at reducing energy use, it is businesses rather than households which stand to make the greatest proportional savings. In total, small and medium-sized businesses spend around £6bn a year on energy, £1bn of which the Carbon Trust estimates could be going to waste. By making simple changes to their energy habits, businesses can apparently cut around 20% from their energy bills. For a smaller or medium-sized company which spends, say £5000 on energy, the savings might not be as dramatic, but could still be around £400. And the lion’s share of those savings may be achieved with measures that are low cost or cost nothing at all.

Office Equipment – Photocopiers, Printers and Scanners One of the fastest growing areas of energy use, by proportion, is office equipment. While many of today’s photocopiers for instance are far more energy efficient than before, the numbers in which they are now deployed in modern offices means overall energy consumption has typically increased quite significantly. Of all office equipment, it’s computers that use the most total energy. Switching off just one computer that would usually be left on 24 hours a day, can cut over £27 a year in energy costs, which is in fact enough to make 35,000 cups of coffee. In terms of shared office equipment, obviously photocopiers, printers, vending machines and fridges consume their fair share of energy. The Carbon Trust recommends that devices like these are used with seven day timers, so they are not left on at night and over weekends. While on the subject of office equipment/photocopiers, different photocopiers will obviously consume more or less energy depending on the size and manufacturer. But it is possible to check energy credentials before parting with any cash. Energy Star for instance who provide accreditation for low emission devices apply strict and rigorous criteria to ensure only the most efficient devices bear its logo. At any one time, no more than 50% of devices in any one appliance market will be Energy Star approved, so you can rest assured you’re in reasonably safe territory as far as energy consumption is concerned.

Office Heating and Air Conditioning Cooling offices with conventional air conditioning systems uses huge amounts of energy, sometimes doubling an office’s total energy use/expenditure. Companies should avoid installing expensive air conditioning systems until they’ve considered the alternatives. Hashem Akbari in California has pioneered has pioneered the extension of a very old ‘technology’ – painting buildings and roofs white. On flat-roofed buildings, painting white can reduce temperatures indoors by as much as five degrees and so reduces the requirement or load for other cooling methods. Painting white is even more effective if other building occupants in an area follow-suit.

More modern buildings have been built with ventilation systems which retain heat in winter and provide natural cooling in summer months. If your organisation does not have a system of this sort in place, it is always worth finding out about these alternatives before your company opts for a more conventional, high-energy, air conditioning system. As natural ventilation is a much greener technology, there are often loans/grants/subsidies on offer from bodies such as the Carbon Trust to help with the costs of installation.

As far as basic energy saving guidelines are concerned, it’s never prudent to be simultaneously heating and cooling an office space, windows should always be close while air conditioning systems are on and again timers and time switches should be used to ensure air conditioning systems are off outside working hours. Heating in areas that do not require warmth, such as store rooms and places of heavy physical work should be turned down as well as over holidays weekends and whenever offices are empty.

Even in settings where there is air conditioning, heating will usually represent somewhere around 60% of energy costs. Turning heating down by just 1 degree can contribute to an 8-10% reduction on annual energy bills, saving enough to power 15,000 standard washing machine cycles. Replacing older, less efficient boilers can make an enormous difference to energy bills. By installing a condensing boiler in a typical office building, enough energy can be saved to heat around four household for a year.

Office Lighting Office lighting typically accounts for around 15-20% of a building’s energy costs. Where natural light is available this should always be used and all workers should take care to turn off lights when leaving empty rooms. A standard fluorescent tube requires 500 times more energy to stay lit for 15 minutes than to switch it on again 15 minutes later. Energy efficient light bulbs use 75% less electricity than conventional light bulbs yet have a life-span around ten times longer.

It’s clear, office energy use and collective impact in the workplace can easily become an environmental black-hole if nobody takes responsibility. This should usually be one person in particular but also, everybody at the office in general. Members of staff should never take it as read that the right policies are in place and nobody at a company which views these issues seriously should mind if a staff member checks-up on their organisation’s policies every once in a while – after all, energy saving doesn’t just look good, it also saves money too.

From choosing the right photocopiers, to heating and lighting, Canon Copiers hopes the advice outlined above will provide anyone within a business the key areas to look out for and encourage them and their colleagues to do what they can to help limit energy wastage and the associated financial and environmental costs.



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