Greening your job – how engagement in your workplace can have positive benefits

I read an interesting article recently that suggested that we should forget about our own carbon footprint and focus instead on the places we work.

I don’t entirely agree with the statement; I think our carbon footprint is something we own, and can do something about. By working on our personal footprint we can learn and communicate our experiences, which gives us power through autonomy and is definitely worthwhile. However I do think there much to commend the sentiment that if we influence our places of work, we can potentially achieve more than we would as mere individuals.

Focusing on greening our business has certainly worked for us. Because we own our business (Railholiday, which offers holiday accommodation in railway carriages) we are able to control every element of the business and use our passion for the environment to inspire our guests to follow our lead.

Our core guests are passionate about trains, so are not necessarily looking for a green holiday. When we first started shouting about our green ethos we were a little concerned that being seen as too ardently green might even put people off. Luckily we were proved wrong and have had some wonderful unexpected conversations with guests and have broadened our reach, thus increasing our bookings in the long run.

Taking this approach gives plenty of material for social feeds and blogs, from beach cleans, to gardening or building a story about keeping a washing machine going against all odds. Social feeds in turn influence in a gentle way, creating a ripple effect.

Tourism providers are in a strong position to influence, as people on holiday will often be open to new ideas. If you run one of the many independent tourism business in Cornwall, have a think about what you could do to green your business and influence your guests or visitors. 

You do not have to own a business to have influence. If you work for a small business, I sincerely hope you already have a voice within the workplace. If you are part of a larger corporation can you suggest to your employers that they have a green team drawn from fellow workers? Or offer to have a look at ways they can improve their environmental impact? Most successful businesses are those who involve their employees in decision making. 

Are you in finance? Can you persuade your company to move to green banking, such as the Co-operative Bank, Triodos or Nationwide? If you are in retail a look at ethical sourcing might be what is needed. Perhaps you could see if a change to a renewable energy provider like Good Energy or Octopus might be a possibility. If you are in the office, you could change your web browser from Google to Ecosia, which plants trees every time you use it. Changing a web browser or moving banks are both actions that should not involve punitive costs, so are something any business can do.

Think broad brush strokes; work out what your biggest carbon spend of your workplace is and suggest tackling that first. For example if heating is the biggest energy draw, then increasing building efficiency will be much more effective than changing lightbulbs. If your workplace has a lot of land to manage, looking at improving carbon sequestration through land management would be a good place to start; perhaps certain areas could be left wild, grass could be allowed to grow long through the summer. Think about growing hedges on boundaries, or planting trees on slopes too steep to manage practically.

The phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is very apt. It is important that any changes made are sustainable – and sustainable means affordable. If change requires crippling costs, then in the long run it is not tenable. Work within a budget and be as efficient as possible. It may be a long term plan is needed. But make sure it starts with action now, however small.

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