Most of us spend at least a third of each weekday in an office environment – so it makes sense to look at some of the simple steps we can take to make our workplace a greener one.

Instead of just suggesting some changes, we thought we’d ask around to see what inspirational initiatives people were undertaking in their workplace. We found ad agencies with bike fleets and a stocked bike-tool wall and a design agency that resembled a lush green garden. We also uncovered a reusable cup revolution at a city law firm, and a worm farm making a change at a local cafe.

Check out our gallery below to see all the innovative changes:

Object Gallery uses environmentally friendly stationery, green cleaning products, and has recycling bins in the kitchen and at each desk. But food waste was their biggest concern. The City gave them a worm farm as part of the Smart Green Business program to help them out.   “We use the worm juice to feed the plants on our back deck. The worms have now settled in so well that they’re producing more juice than we need, so staff take the extra home to nourish their own gardens. People are also bringing in food scraps from home and we’ve had a couple of staff who’ve now set up their own worm farms.” Sophie Harrington, Object Gallery, Surry Hills
"The team at Holler has always supported sustainability and eco-friendliness in the workplace. When one of our fellow cyclists discovered an old bike rack in the streets, we immediately pounced on the idea of recycling it for our own use here in the office. It came at no cost and now provides our employees with a safe, dry place to store their bikes. This has encouraged more of our drivers to make the switch from four wheels to two. " Mike Hill, Holler, Redfern
Holler’s bike rack (cont.) "By creating a bike-friendly workplace we are taking the steps to create a happy, healthy and sustainable workplace - and that’s what Holler's all about.” Mike Hill, Holler, Redfern
“We had a roof area that was underused, and I was keen to introduce some greenery into our very urban environment. What started as an idea for a garden to beautify the office environment soon evolved into what it is today. We worked with Sarah Brill from Grow.Eat.Enjoy to build the garden. We have built planter boxes and an A-frame stacker from recycled boards to house our plants. We've focused mostly on herbs and salad greens as they get used most often. But we also grow tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, midgen berries, dwarf citrus, beans and chokos.” -  Simon Rush, Razor, East Redfern
Razor’s rooftop garden (cont.) “Our staff looks after the general watering, care and maintenance with Sarah popping in monthly for overall advice on any issues and seasonal replanting. We now do quite a lot of "eating meetings" and Friday afternoon drinks. As the weather gets cooler, we’ll involve our staff and clients in cooking and sharing meals together using ingredients from the garden. ” Simon Rush, Razor, East Redfern
“Working in our own little mini-Amazon makes for a more pleasurable day. Our plants provide us with clean air, natural space and a feeling of connectedness to Mother Nature amid the concrete jungle that is our city. Picking fresh herbs from our garden to accompany our lunchtime bites is a real treat, and being able to compost our scraps helps minimise our impact." Tess Robinson, Smack Bang Designs, Chippendale
Smack Bang Designs' lush green office (Cont) "Since the courtyard overhaul, our studio inhabitants eat and sit together much more often, delighting in the sunshine, greenery and friendly neighbourhood stray cat. Urban Growers  helped install the project and helps us maintain the garden." Tess Robinson, Smack Bang Designs, Chippendale
Two businesses in Newtown – Boost Juice and Soffritto – took part in a City of Sydney worm farm trial to help curb their food waste. “We love contributing to the worm farm. It saves on costs and minimises landfill from our restaurant. This is good for our business and for the environment.” Matthew Green, Soffritto, Newtown
"Some of my colleagues and I tried to get everyone in the office to stop using disposable coffee cups. We went around the office and asked each coffee drinker whether they wanted a reusable cup. We spruiked the benefits, explained how much paper and plastic it would save, showed them the choice of colours, and either plastic or porcelain material, then took care of the order. In the end most of the office got on board – there was only one coffee drinker that refused. I've also heard of some people negotiating a discount for using reusable cups at their local cafe." Katie, lawyer, Sydney
“At Digital Eskimo, we’ve converted our single car space into a bike parking station and repair shop. We offer a range of tools for basic maintenance, from pumping up the tires, degreasing and cleaning to fixing punctures and minor adjustments. By setting aside space for this purpose, we support the staff who are keen cyclists and allow them to share tools at work so everyone doesn’t need to buy their own. This is a great way to save resources while supporting Sydney’s cycling culture.” Stephanie Lee, Digital Eskimo, Surry Hills
“The three worm farms at Digital Eskimo are a part of our multi-stream waste management system and they take care of our organic waste to keep it from ending up in landfill. The worms break down our food scraps and the by-product of this process, worm juice, is used as a fertilizer to give our office plants a nice growth spurt. Aside from having a few food dislikes (they won’t eat citrus or onion), the worms are easy to care for. We make sure they receive a good feed twice a week from the organic waste that ends up in the kitchen compost bin.” Stephanie Lee, Digital Eskimo, Surry Hills


Larger scale changes, like lighting and water retrofits, are hard to achieve by only one person. Put your facilities or sustainability manager in touch with a CitySwitch Green Office representative for these sorts of changes. They’ll be able to get free one-on-one consultation about making buildings more efficient.

If you aren’t able to make some of the changes shown in the gallery, here’s a few you can do on your own steam:

1. Leave the car at home

Catch public transport, ride or walk to work. If you have to drive, set up a travel roster with workplace living in your area. Each person you take with you is one less car on the road – and who knows, you might discover a shared love of 80s hits!

2. Bring a cup

Each day in Australia an estimated 1.3 million cups of takeaway coffee are consumed – which adds up to an enormous amount of waste. Bring your own cup or invest in a reuseable one –you’ll find that coffee often tastes better when it’s not drunk from a disposable cup.

3. A home-made lunch

And while you’re at it, packing your own lunch is also a good green choice, and often a much healthier option than takeaway. Not to mention the reduction in packaging from less plastic knives and forks!

4. Greenery for greening

A few office plants not only make the workplace a much nicer place to be, they also improve air quality. There’s nothing like a little pot plant love.

5. Less bins, less waste

Reduce the number of bins in the workplace – one for recyclables at each desk with all other waste to go in a central bin. If you have to walk to throw away your rubbish, you’re more likely to think about the waste you’re creating.

6. Get composting

Up to 20% of office waste is compostable, or green waste. Set up a green waste bin, or even a worm farm if possible. If you can’t use the waste onsite, a keen gardening workmate may take it home.

7. Turn off at the end of the day

Make sure you turn off all lights, computers and printers at the end of the day – also when you finish using a meeting room. We’re all forgetful, so a few well placed signs will do wonders, or your workplace might be willing to invest in timing devices that make the savings automatic.

8. Green printing strategies

Think about what you’re printing before you print – do you really need a hard copy? If you do, print two-sided black and white whenever you can and use recycled paper. Investigate print cartridge recycling in your office.

9. Re-use, recycle

Use scrap paper to make scribble pads for meeting notes, and re-use postage boxes, envelopes and packing material when you’re sending parcels from work. Investigate local charities to see if they are interested in taking old office furniture and equipment.

10. Work together!

Set up a green committee – by working together, you’re bound to come up with new ways to make your workplace a greener environment. Involve someone from management, and someone from accounts who can work out the cost savings – as well as anyone else with an interest or enthusiasm. The more the merrier!

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