Q&A: Sustainable Workplace Solutions with Neill Malone
Is your office using sustainable workplace solutions? Have you switched from paper to electronic? These are questions that people hear more and more lately, but one thing that often isn’t considered is the furniture in your office. What do you do with it when you want to upgrade? Is there a way to get rid of that office furniture in an environmentally friendly manner? Are you considering a company that focuses on sustainability when it’s time to get new office furniture?
Neill Malone, New Business Development team member at Office Revolution, discusses the sustainable workplace solutions of Office Revolution, how sustainability is incorporated into projects, and the shift in environmental best practices and how he sees that process progressing in the years to come.
What sustainable workplace solutions does Office Revolution implement?
Office Revolution does all invoicing electronically to cut down on paper usage, and we have eliminated water bottles in the offices and the company subsidizes Divvy memberships. We strongly encourage the use of public transportation, as cars and trucks are damaging the quality of our air every day. It is our goal to be as green as possible. We partner with companies that keep the environment in the front of their minds because it is possible to make a strong impact, and though sometimes it may cost more, we firmly believe protecting the environment is worth it.
Office Revolution’s entry way
How do you incorporate sustainable workspace solutions when working on new projects with clients?
We try to put this at the forefront of our client’s minds. To do this, we work with manufacturers that utilize environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. We are proud to be the premier Teknion dealer in Chicago. Their priorities as a manufacturer are to minimize the environmental impact of our activities and to provide educational outreach to advance sustainability for our industry. This lines up directly with our goals at Office Revolution. Other companies we often work with that are always conscious of their sustainable efforts are Humanscale, National, Nienkamper, SitOnIt, Allermuir, and countless others.
By utilizing environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, we help reduce the overall carbon footprint we have on a project. We always look for opportunities to save on energy as well. Whether that be capitalizing on an opportunity to use natural lighting or to swap out certain bulbs for energy saving bulbs, we’re always keeping energy in mind.
Have you noticed a shift in the furniture industry towards more awareness of being environmentally friendly and conscious of sustainable solutions?
I have noticed this has become expected rather than a bragging point for manufacturers. A decade ago it used to be a standard question on all RFP responses. Now that manufacturers have paid more attention to the environmental impact of their manufacturing, it has become expected.
Companies are willing to spend more in order to have a more positive impact on the environment. There is always a way to lower your carbon footprint, whether at a personal or company level. As I mentioned earlier, we take great pride in working with companies that value sustainability in the workplace as much as we do. It is our goal to have the smallest carbon footprint that we can.
What simple, sustainable workplace solutions can an office worker, or an office as a whole, use in order to reduce their environmental impact?
Everyone could print less and recycle more. Even offices that consider themselves paperless could still benefit from a new push to recycle more. Don’t forget, you can recycle more than just paper and plastics. “The EPA reported 9.8 million tons of furniture waste in 2011, and our goal is to help decrease that number year after year.1”
Natural lighting is something that can be taken advantage of as well. I understand that not every office space has floor to ceiling windows. However, exposure to natural light affects your immune system, sleep cycle, and studies have linked lack of sunlight to depression. We always look to capitalize on natural lighting opportunities. The LEED certification system doesn’t spend much time on lighting. There are several things you can do to save on energy when it comes to your lighting. You can change your bulbs to energy saving bulbs to have an instant impact. You can also get lighting that’s motion sensitive so energy is not being wasted when no one is around2.
What happens to office furniture when a client no longer needs it, and what does the end of life process look like for furniture?
At Office Revolution, we are fortunate enough to have a great partner in Rework. We utilize their recycling and responsible disposal methods to cut down on landfill waste. I truly believe this helps us differentiate ourselves as we continue to do more for the environment. Rework is a business built on sustainability, and their creative ingenuity helps reimagine workplaces. Since 1993 Rework has been repurposing, refurbishing and refreshing office furniture and “Greening-Up” workplaces all across the country.
How would you like to see this process of removing and recycling furniture change/adapt over the next several years?
I think we have made great progress where sustainable and responsible manufacturing has become the norm. However, we can still cut down on landfill waste. Sustainable packaging will make a great impact as manufacturers can get away from using an abundance of cardboard.
Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S. Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year — about 680 pounds per person. The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Most of it is packaging and junk mail 3. There is always more that we can be doing.
Choosing sustainable, forward thinking manufacturers, and efficient, energy saving lighting, and even taking advantage of opportunities to use natural lighting can all make a big difference when it comes to your sustainable efforts. Encouraging public transportation instead of driving, choosing your materials wisely, and recycling whenever possible can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.
When combining and implementing these efforts on a company level, the sky is truly the limit. We can all learn from each other and help our environment in a time where it needs our help most.
1 “EPA Reports 9.8 Million Tons Per Year in Furniture Waste,” Joanna, Planetsave blog, May 5th, 2011
2 “GREEN BUILDING 101: Indoor Environmental Quality—Clean Air and Comfort for Homes and Office Spaces,” Evangeline, inhabitat blog, May 22nd, 2014
3 “Recycling Cardboard: A Never Ending Task,” Margaret Kemp, Wolf Point News, August 28th, 2013