Green HR Practices: Promoting Sustainability in the Workplace

April is dedicated as “Earth Month” with “Earth Day” held annually on April 22nd. People are shifting their mindsets though to make “every day Earth Day” by committing to Earth friendly efforts. Environmentalism is not only for individuals, but for companies too.  Implementing eco-friendly practices within the work culture confirms a company’s commitment to sustainability which can save money and increase customer loyalty. More importantly, green practices improve the condition of our world. We only have one Earth, and we need it to last!

Sustainability in HR

Creating eco-friendly practices at work might sound daunting, but with planning and communication, those practices can easily become the norm. Every initiative has to start somewhere so start with identifying champions for the cause.  Create a sustainability team with key company leaders and Human Resources along with volunteers and representatives from various levels and departments. These teammates can champion the cause and be resources for learning and strategizing the company’s environmental efforts.

Sustainability Priorities

Before implementing new eco-friendly strategies, the sustainability team or designated personnel should conduct an audit to identify areas of improvement. Thoroughly examine the work environment.   Conduct Waste Walks, similar to the objectives of Gemba Walks, to identify opportunities to reduce or eliminate waste. Check to make sure items are working properly, especially where water is concerned. According to the EPA, one leaky faucet dripping at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year which is enough water to take more than 180 showers! If more than one dripping faucet exists, costs will add up quickly in addition to water waste. Make a list of items to check, and set regular dates for evaluation. 

Once areas are targeted for improvement, the sustainability team can host Lunch and Learns to educate employees on what the company is doing to be environmentally friendly and the benefits to employees for going green.  Create workplace challenges like not using disposable items for a month with those who do that earning company swag or a gift card.  The team can also make sure employees are informed on the proper ways to reduce, reuse and recycle and provide signage in areas on proper recycling. These individuals are the ones who light the fuse on igniting excitement for green practices. 


Here are 8 eco-friendly practices to incorporate within the company workspace:


Save the trees!

According to the University of Illinois, the United States alone, which has less than 5% of the world’s population, consumes 30% of the world’s paper. Take note:  40 reams of paper is equivalent to 1.5 acres of pine forest absorbing carbon for a year. How many reams of paper were in the last company order?  Too many.  If paper must be used, use recycled paper and print double sided whenever possible. There are many ways to eliminate paper consumption.  Save time and money by using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) with a customizable electronic application instead of paper applications. Organize employee documents in onboarding software.  No need to worry about misfiling or losing papers or keeping information confidential when items are saved securely in an electronic format. Going green with employment software will save a lot of green for the company.

Take a Temperature Check

Check the thermostat within the office environment. Is the temperature too hot or cold?  Although OSHA does not mandate companies to keep specific temperatures in the workplace, they recommend companies keep the temperature between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit.  Keep the temperature the range that allows comfort and productivity while being green.

Light the Way

Artificial light can impede productivity in addition to being eco-unfriendly. If office logistics allow, utilize natural light through energy efficient windows as much as possible.  Ensure light fixtures are using LEDs. Set timers on lights to turn on or off automatically when rooms are or are not being used to further promote sustainability.


Offer employees perks to bike, walk, carpool or take mass transit to work.  Consider making roles hybrid or remote, especially when long commutes are the norm. Change can be hard for people, and providing rewards to employees for committing to making progressively impactful change should be acknowledged publicly and with the proper motivators. 

Host Electronic Recycling Events

Partner with local waste management and recycling facilities to host recycling days or create designated recycling areas with recycling bins. Electronic devices such as TVs, cell phones and computers are upgraded frequently. While many of these items are often still in working order, host electronic recycling programs so devices that are no longer wanted can be reprogrammed and repurposed. There are nonprofits and schools who could eagerly use technology devices upgraded after a year or two of personal or company use. 

Keep the Work Area Clean

Local waste management and recycling facilities can help with implementing onsite recycling initiatives. Use environmentally friendly cleaning products. Have plastic, aluminum, and glass recycle areas. Consider having a compost area for food waste.  Eliminate individual trash cans at work stations. Etsy did this, and by eliminating individual trash cans and creating communal trash stations with individual recycling, compost, and landfill sections, Etsy’s waste dropped 18%, while its compost rate jumped 300% and its recycling rate went up 20%.  Where trash cans exist, at least use compostable trash bags. 

Refresh the Refreshment Area

Single use coffee cups for coffee makers can fill a trash can rapidly. Those cups are often made of plastic that does not decompose so replace those with reusable or compostable single use cups.  Ideally, multi use serving options are the best for sustainability purposes. Bring back the coffee pots. Have drink stations for employees and/or customers where drinks are self-serve instead of in plastic bottles, but if plastic bottles are used, ensure there is the opportunity to recycle those plastic bottles.  

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse

Encourage employees to bring their own reusable water bottles.  Gift employees with a quality water bottle with the company logo on it as a motivator. Promote reusable items wherever possible. Stock the company kitchen/snack area with actual silverware, plates and cups that can be washed and reused. Explore installing an energy efficient dishwasher in the area to keep the area clean.  Encourage employees, and customers, to opt for reusable bags instead of plastic bags. 


When we “throw away” something, it does not go away. It goes somewhere. People have the opportunity to be more intentional in their environmental actions through enhanced and in-depth discussions and education. Companies can create a culture of eco-friendly work practices by communicating the need for change and why positive change must occur for our current and future generations.  Being an eco-friendly company delivers cost savings and leaves a positive impact on the Earth by promoting sustainability. Customers’ loyalty increases when seeing a company is making efforts to help the Earth and reduce waste.  Internally, employees’ morale improves, even with small changes, when they see that their actions can make the Earth a better place not just tomorrow, but today.

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