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Office energy June 13, 2008

Posted by jupiterorbit in Energy conservation, Recycling.
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Through my career, I’ve always worked in large cavernous offices. The sort that have wide open plan floor spaces and rows upon rows of desks with computer, monitors, mobile phone chargers, printers, fax machines, water coolers and all sorts of other gadgets all plugged in and humming away merrily. I’ve always thought to myself that these office spaces must a) be consuming VAST sums of energy and b) be costing companies intense amounts of money in terms of their energy bills. The work offenders fall in to a mixed bag of categories:

a) staff who never-ever turn off their PC/Mac workstation even when there’s no good reason to leave it on over night – sheer disregard and laziness. This includes monitors and TV which are left in “power save” mode or stand by.

b) offices where the air con is not programmed correctly to switch off over night and come on automatically in the morning. Most offices I’ve worked in just leave it running three hundred and sixty five days a year, twenty four hours a day.

c) employees who leech off their company electricity to recharge their various phones and MP3 players but never remember to unplug the charger, therefore leaving a trickle discharge occurring all year round and costing the company and the planet.

d) Lights that are left on all night and weekend, whether the building is open or whether or not there are any staff working there.

e) and finally, atrocious and sometimes non-existent policies on recycling.

I recently visited the offices of one of Britain’s most well known and largest broadcasting companies and was pleased to hear about a new swathe of energy saving initiatives which went beyond mere lip service and actually made a HUGE difference to the companies bottom line. I was pleased to see this happening as this company has, in the past, been one of the most profligate users energy in the most wasteful way. Allow me to list some of the initiatives I heard about and saw already in action:

a) no-one had waste bins next to their desks to reduce the amount of paper waste that just went in to the table side bin. Instead, staff was forced to walk a couple of steps to the recycle point and dispose of their desk waste in the appropriate receptacle. A great idea, as most of my colleagues around me just dump their paper waste in the bin right next to them when they ALL known that the towering grey bin just 5 meters away in the recycling bin.
b) all the kitchen areas on all floors now have extensive waste recycling bins with prominent notices to inform staff and request that they dispose of their waste items in the appropriate manner.

The company I work at also has a number of initiatives on the go which I appreciate and I also hope continue to expand in variety. Amongst the most prominent energy things that they do here is:

a) use wooden disposable utensils instead of plastic – or normal cutlery which can be washed and re-used.
b) the IT department will take batteries and compact disks send them to the local council for recycling.
c) regulated air-con which isn’t left on all night.
d) encourages staff to recycle paper – although we all have desk bins and I see, all too often, many colleagues just dumping perfectly good recyclable paper in to the desk bin instead of the recycle bin.
e) office lights, ARE switched off over night and on weekends – at least the floors owned by the company I work at.

Through pure gut instinct and partially based on experience, I feel that most companies don’t have robust systems in place or company policies to ensure better use of electricity, especially when it concerns the way staff just leave computers, monitors and TV on all night or on stand-by. This must surely be costing companies dearly yet I hardly ever see any companies I’ve worked at doing anything about it!

In conclusion, there’s a hell of a lot more that corporations can do to save themselves money on energy bills which in turn will contribute greatly towards reducing the carbon footprint of many of our cities in the UK and around the world.

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