Lightening our Environmental Load
By Jill Hamilton
25 April 2019
Over the last year all five of our offices in London, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Bristol and Manchester have been aiming high in our attempts to lower our environmental impacts. We are delighted to find that the hard work has paid off, allowing us to meet, and in some cases exceed, the demanding challenges we set for ourselves.
A key target this year was to reduce the overall weight of waste produced per person across the practice by 2% on 2017-2018 figures. The final data shows that we achieved an overall reduction of 4% and within this figure there were some particularly impressive reductions in paper waste, food waste, plastic bottles and single-use coffee cups. For example, the Cambridge office reduced their volume of waste paper by 12% - exceeding their original target by more than 2%. A similar significant improvement was seen in the Edinburgh office which managed to reduce the use of non-reusable coffee cups by 49% on the previous year by providing reusable takeaway mugs in the office. The London office uses a local stationery supplier and over the last year has reduced its cardboard waste by getting the supplier to deliver products in large reusable containers.
Targeting plastic waste at source
Reduction of plastic waste has been achieved by our Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh offices switching to deliveries of milk in glass bottles, which are then collected and reused by the dairies. This measure contributed to Manchester’s dramatic 30% reduction in plastic weight compared to 2017-2018. Manchester has also switched to only buying tea bags without any plastic in the seal, and all other offices plan to follow suit as part of our responsible sourcing policy which considers the environmental impact of products we buy. For example, the policy includes a commitment not to source any products known to contain palm oil, and to source products with the minimum amount of non-recyclable packing possible.
Championing the cause
Reductions in energy use across all offices have been targeted by setting up a group of 'Energy Champion' representatives from each office who meet regularly to set energy use performance targets and develop a programme of continuous improvement for all our offices. Where it is possible to do so, offices have metered and monitored their energy and water use in order to set benchmarks to help us plan for future reductions in resource use and associated emissions and cost.
Getting there greener
Business travel is a significant impact of our operations and we are in the process of finalising a green travel plan to ensure that we travel by as sustainable means as is possible and practical for each journey to reduce that impact. For example, the number of business kilometres travelled last year by people based in Edinburgh was reduced by 22% compared to the previous year, with an associated reduction in travel costs also. This practice-wide reduction in travel has been in part due to our greater use of video-conferencing, Skype and other virtual meeting environments. Data collected on modes of commuting to work by office has shown that 25% of people in the practice now walk or cycle for their daily commute. We encourage this healthy form of travel by providing good facilities in our offices such as showers, ample bike parking and lockers, wherever possible.
Onwards and downwards
We are currently in the process of setting new environmental targets for this year to ensure that through small relatively short term goals we can aim for continual improvement, and achieve our overall objective of further reducing the environmental impacts of all our offices.
Jill Hamilton is the Office Manager in our Edinburgh office and can be contacted on 0131 476 6001 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org