5 Innovative Ways to Improve Your Ecological Footprint

save money and the environment with an eco-friendly office

 By Bridget Puszka, BP Architects

 

Want to reduce your ecological footprint? Are you planning to jazz up your office in an environmental way?  Then there are two aspects to consider.  There is your actual building.  And there is how you can make your business more environmentally friendly.  And reduce your ecological business footprint.

This two-part article shows you how you can have a low business ecological footprint.  The first part discusses lowering your ecological footprint by making your office an eco-friendly office.  Then the second part looks at green business systems.

 

five Ways to reduce your ecological footprint

Described in the MacMillan dictionary an ecological footprint is described as:

the amount of land needed to replenish the resources used by something, e.g. to grow enough trees to replace those used to build a cabin

 

The following five practical tips will pay dividends in the long run, and most have very short payback periods.  They may also save you money from the word go so for any business owner; they are all worth considering.  If not now, you can plan for them as your need arises for each of these energy efficient and money saving tips.  These are the five practical tips to reduce your ecological footprint

  1. Renovate your Office
  2. Summer Cooling
  3. Winter Warmth
  4. Paint your office
  5. Colour in your office


Small ecological footprint of West St Kilda Home. Designed by Bridget Puszka, BP Architects
West St Kilda Home with small ecological footprint. Designed by Bridget Puszka, BP Architects

 

 

1. Renovate your Office to reduce your ecological footprint

If you work from home, you already have a reduced ecological footprint.  You can improve your ecological footprint this further if you are planning to renovate your home and home office.

It is always good to upgrade your building so that it works better for you.  If you make it a more energy efficient home and home office, then you will have a comfortable living and working environment.  Your energy bills will be lower, and your working environment will be improved.

 

2. Summer Cooling for a low ecological footprint

Shading your windows will block out the heat from the sun.    If you do this successfully, you can still let the sun in during winter and block out the summer sun.

Each orientation of your house exposes it to different angles from the sun.  On the east and west, you have the low angle of the morning and evening sun.  Vertical screens help block out the rising and setting sun.  On the north side, you have the sun at it’s highest in the sky during the middle of the day.  And on the south side of your home, you might be exposed to the early morning and late evening sun during the middle of summer.

It is best to shade your windows from the heat of the sun on the outside of your window, rather than the inside.  Shading your windows will stop the sun’s heat before it comes into your home office.

If you have a window that is on the east or west side of your house and you want to shade this window, you can strategically plant trees or shrubs.  They will provide vertical shade for your window from the low angle of the rising and setting sun.

Windows on the north side can usually be shaded during summer by the eaves this of your house.  If you do not have eaves, then you might consider external shutters or a sun shading device over your window.

 

Essendon Home Sustainable Accessible Home
North facing windows and sun shading. Essendon Home designed by BP Architects

 

 

Window films and coverings

If overheating is a problem in your office a window film can reduce the heat input into your home office.   Placing a window film on your windows will also block out any direct winter sunlight by the same percentage.

Or you can install a removable perforated reflective sheet to the inside of your window which will reflect the heat from the sun.  The perforations in the sheet still allow you to see through to the outside.

 

3. Winter Warmth with a low ecological footprint

Insulation provides the best return on your investment when looking to make your home and home office warmer.  It also helps to keep the heat out during summer.

Insulation is usually easily installed and the payback period for insulating is typically a couple of years.  Hot air will rise.  So high levels of insulation in the ceiling will work the best for you.

If you have timber floors, you will get drafts coming from the sub-floor, through the gaps in the floorboards and an upward direction.  Insulation such as reflective foil insulation with foam insert, which comes in a sheet, can be installed under the floor to stop these drafts.

Single glazed windows have poor insulation properties.  If you need to replace a window, then you might consider installing a double glazed window.

If you want to insulate your windows, but don’t want to replace them, then you might consider heavy drapes with a pelmet.  Heavy curtains and pelmets will help to keep heat in overnight.

Or you might consider installing or having installed a second transparent acrylic or glass sheet to your window frame.  This second layer on your window will slow the heat flow and will also help reduce any outside noise.

 

4. Paint with your ecological footprint in mind

Painting is the readiest way to jazz up your office for the New Year.  If you use low emission paint, which has low levels or zero levels of volatile organic compounds, then you can paint in an environmentally friendly way.  And reduce your ecological footprint.

You will find that these paints are better to use as there are no toxic chemicals in the air when you are working.  And they are good for the environment as they have low or zero levels of chemicals in their manufacturing.  The paint industry produces more chemical emissions than vehicles on our roads so your choice can have an impact on the environment.

 

5. Colour and your ecological footprint

If you have decided that painting is the way to go to jazz up your office, then you may want to know the impact of colour on your well being.  How the psychological properties of colours can affect how productive you are and have an influence on your judgment.

The colour that will make you feel most productive is an individual choice and different for everyone.  Blue colours affect your mind; yellow your emotions; red your body; and green your ‘balance’.

Research into the effect of colour has shown that the intensity of that colour is what affects you as to how you will respond.  A solid bright colour will stimulate, and paint with low saturation will soothe.

 

colours that stimulate your senses
Colours that stimulate your senses. from http://alifeofproductivity.com/angela-wright-interview/

 

 

If you want to stimulate your mind, then painting your workplace blue would most likely make you the most productive.  All the same, you may want to add a highlight of colour such as orange to add a bit of emotion to your colour scheme.

If you are a designer, you may want yellow colours in your workplace as an ego, confidence and optimistic stimulating tone.   As the interior specialist Angela Wright states in the exact colour to paint your office,

 

“It takes guts to be creative and come up with something new – that’s why yellow works in that environment.”

 

If you do physical work, then red would make you more productive as red is a physically stimulating colour.  If a balance is what you want to achieve, green is your colour.

 

liveable universal design home
Airlock entry to front entrance. Entrance of Essendon Home, designed by BP Architects

 

 

eight ways to Green your Business Systems and reduce your ecological footprint

The second part of making your business more environmentally friendly, and save money at the same time is to consider your business practices.  Ultimately changing your business practices in a green way to reduce your ecological footprint.

The following are eight ways to green your business systems and reduce your ecological footprint.

  1. Reduce Energy consumption
  2. Eliminate Phantom energy
  3. Forget Screensavers
  4. 4. energy efficient Office Equipment & Supplies
  5. Low Energy Lighting
  6. Air cleaning Plants
  7. Photovoltaics to generate your electricity
  8. Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

If you want your office to be an environmentally friendly office, you will want to have your green business system or, more formally known as, business environmental management system.  Your System would include how you rethink the way you run your business in a green way.  Your business operations would consider reducing, reuse and recycling in all practical aspects.

 

1. reduce Energy consumption

The following are some ideas on how you can start saving money straight away.  There are some power plug timers, and power boards with foot switches, that make it easier to implement these energy savings.

 

2. eliminate Phantom energy

Phantom energy is the electricity drawn from outlets when equipment is off but still plugged in.  Switching off equipment when not in use will stop this energy consumption and stop paying for energy you don’t use.

Your home office equipment may include computers, printers, scanner, photocopier equipment, or a combination printer/fax/copier/scanner.  In 2001 the Australia greenhouse office estimated if this equipment is left on continuously you will use approximately $220 worth of electricity.  The Green Office Guide found that when you switch off office equipment not being used this would save you more than half of this electricity.

In the Green Office Guide, it found that from generating annual greenhouse gas emissions of around 1.8 tones.  You can cut your greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60% by just switching off your equipment. By reducing your greenhouse gas emissions by 60% is a significant reduction in your business green footprint.

Office equipment has become more energy efficient since 2001, but energy costs have increased. If you turn off your office equipment when not in use this will save you money, it will also reduce your ecological footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Library and Office overlooking kitchen, sustainable ecohome designed by BP Architects
Library and Office overlooking Kitchen. Ecohome, designed by BP Architects

 

 

3. forget Screensavers

Screensavers on your computer don’t save you energy and consume energy you don’t use.  Turn them off and start any energy efficient mode on your computer such as energy star.

The startup surges for equipment are of very short duration and continue only for a few seconds.

 

4. energy efficient Office Equipment & Supplies

When choosing business equipment, you can include energy efficiency in your criteria.

If your budget is tight, then you could buy second-hand equipment in good working order, or refurbished equipment.

Think about the end of life use of your equipment and toners and printer cartridges.  Can they be recycled?

The Green Office Guide found that if you used recycled paper, then you would use a product that uses 90% less water and 50% less energy when compared to water and energy use if you used paper manufactured from trees.

 

5. low energy Lighting

Artificial lighting can be another big energy user.  If possible use natural daylight.  You could consider motion sensors to turn off lights when not in use.

LED lights are becoming more affordable.  A 100W light bulb is equivalent to an average 17W LED lamp.  There are some local council government schemes where you can have all your light bulbs changed over to LEDs without charge.  Changing your quartz halogen downlights to LEDs is a straight forward way to reduce your energy bills.

 

 

Office views of surrounding Sunbury hills, sustainable ecohome designed by BP Architects
View from Office towards west facing roof terrace and surrounding hills. ecohome, designed by BP Architects

 

 

6. air cleaning Plants

Some plants will clean the air of chemicals as well as provide an environmentally friendly feel about your home office.

 

7. Photovoltaics to generate your energy

The Sun generates photons that stream down to earth as visible light. Solar cells convert the power of light directly into electricity.  When you assemble solar cells in groupings, they become a solar array.  Six or so solar panels are typically put together in a group facing the sun.  A photovoltaic array generates electricity using panels.  The power made from these panels offset your energy consumption.  You can learn how photovoltaics work in this Nasa Science article.

Installing a photovoltaic array may reduce your electricity bills to zero.  Contact your local council to see if they have a bulk buy program where you can purchase a photovoltaic array and have it supplied and installed for you, with assurances from your local council.

 

8. Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

Rethink how you run your business to see if you can improve in these areas of reducing, recycling and reusing.  Changes to your business in these areas will save you money in the long run, as well as helping the environment.

The type of simple things you can start doing to reduce consumption is using both sides of your paper.  You could sort out your waste effectively into different categories and receptacles for recycling.

Considering these three aspects of your green business system will mean that you will run an efficient business with minimal waste.

Going green in your business is not as difficult as it may first seem.   It is a practical, no-nonsense approach to running a streamlined company that is efficient and effective; while saving the environment.

 

 

BP Architects design green homes that allow you to live a premium sustainable lifestyle, which your family will love, your guests will admire and saves you 25% on your energy. At BP Architects we help you realize your dream home.

If you want to have a green home or an eco-friendly office, contact Bridget at BP Architects to see how we can help you.  You can learn more about our architect house design and read how we work with our Clients.