MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2018

 

Earth Hour first began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 when 2.2 million individuals and 2,000 businesses all went dark to take a stand against climate change. Now, 11 years later, Earth Hour raises awareness each year, not just for climate change itself, but for wider issues caused by climate change that might otherwise fly under the radar.

 

At 8:30pm on March 24th, homes and businesses all across Ontario switched off to celebrate Earth Hour 2018.

 

The province of Ontario reported some impressive stats for Earth Hour 2018. Toronto Hydro reported 2.8% energy saved and a 77 megawatt drop in demand – that’s the equivalent of 31,000 homes off the grid for the hour. Alectra Utilities reported 1.5% energy saved and a 43 megawatt drop servicewide – that’s enough to power 1314 standard family homes for 24 hours. The energy saving winner, however, was Essa Township who reported an astounding 17.4% energy saved for the hour.

 

Since the beginning of Earth Hour in 2007, Toronto Hydro reports that 2,300 gigawatt hours of electricity have been saved in the city – enough to power 780 large condos. Businesses and homes in Ontario are showing an ever-increasing trend towards going green. But going green isn’t just good for the environment, it’s also good for people – workers, individuals, employers, etc.

 

Here are five tips for keeping your workplace both safe AND green:

 

1. Chemicals vs Enviromental Products

The majority of office workers in Ontario are unlikely to come across things that would generally be considered ‘dangerous chemicals’. But that doesn’t mean that this kind of workplace can’t go green. Things like dishwasher tablets or dish liquid, cleaning products and hand soap are all available in environmentally friendly alternatives.

Of course, there are some workplaces where you simply cannot make these kinds of substitutions, such as in the healthcare industry. In these cases, as always, the safety of the workers is paramount.

 

2. Going Paperless

By 2007, between 92-96% of Ontarians were recycling all materials accepted by provincial recycling programs, and 98% of Ontarians were regularly recycling paper materials.

Aside from the environmental upsides to a paperless office – less waste, etc. – there are definite health and safety benefits too. One of the simplest being that printer paper boxes are heavy and awkward to carry – fewer paper boxes mean reduced risk of potential heavy lifting injuries.

 

3. E-Waste Disposal

Leaving broken and unusable electronics around your office doesn’t just create an unsightly workspace, it also creates tripping hazards and – depending on the type of electronics – a potential for chemical hazards.

The City of Toronto, for instance, collects unwanted and unusable electronics for free – ensuring that they are recycled properly, disposed of safely, or, if possible, fixed up for reuse. Electronics can be put out curbside for pick up on garbage day, or dropped off to a depot or Community Environment Day.

But this can also be taken a step further. Why not have a look at the workplace’s electronic consumption habits? Does the workplace upgrade electronics, or buy refurbished products instead of buying all new? Does the workplace make an effort to select products that are energy efficient and built to last? Does the workplace donate old electronics to charitable organizations?

 

4. Redesign the Workspace

Redesigning the workspace to be a safe and healthy environment, such as making it ergonomically-friendly, is already a fundamental part of health and safety management. But how about taking it one step further to make the workspace environmentally friendly as well? Take 3 strategies that are already used in health and safety and ‘up the ante’ to make them green:

  • Furniture: Office workers rely heavily on their furniture to be solid, functional and comfortable, but also ergonomically correct. In an effort to go green, why not also ensure that office furniture is made out of recycled or sustainably-sourced materials?
  • Air:  Most highrise buildings don’t have windows that open to the outside, so unfortunately must rely on HVAC for their ventilation. It is imperative then that the HVAC always be in good working order, and cleaned regularly so there is minimal dust. In an effort to go green, why not also literally go green? Bring natural plants into the office as a way to not just add life and brighten the workplace, but also purify the air.
  • Light: Try and make the switch over to ‘green lighting’ by using LEDs (light emitting diodes) or CFLs (compact florescent bulbs). Both options are only a little more expensive than a regular bulb but can save up to 80% in energy consumption. While you’re at it, try to maximize the use of natural light in the office. Open blinds or angle desks so that the maximum amount of sunlight is taken advantage of throughout the day.

 

5. Green Partnerships

And last but most certainly not least, make an effort to partner with other businesses who are also green. In addition to health and safety practices, make a company’s environmental policies part of your research when considering a partnership.

Green web hosting is a recent development amongst web hosting providers in which the company is built to be not just energy efficient but also potentially ‘carbon-reducing’ – some invest resources into renewable energy, others invest excessive amperage back into the grid, etc. Partnering with tech companies such as these allows your company to be green even at the virtual level!

About PSHSA

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Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA) works with Ontario’s public and broader public sector workers and employers, providing occupational health and safety training, resources and consulting to reduce workplace risks and prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.