With designers a crucial ingredient in almost every product that gets made, our potential impact as a force for change is enormous. And the first place to start, when thinking about how to be more sustainable, is with your own studio. If you can’t bring yourself to be motivated by the climate crisis, then perhaps you can by potential cost savings, and by new business possibilities that may emerge. An increasing number of reports are demonstrating significant commercial benefits to business from adopting more sustainable approaches – through efficiency measures, as well as enhanced image and reputation, which attracts customers, good staff and investors.
So, how do you begin to Green your studio? First, it is essential to have engagement and leadership from the top. Once you have that, the next hurdle is buy-in from key stakeholders in the company – in a small studio, that means everybody. It may not take a huge amount of work, but it will involve a significant mind shift and it’s something you have to keep addressing – there’s always room for improvement.
You may need a sustainability consultant to assist you with the change and to monitor what you do, but the following categories should help you focus.
A systematic waste-minimisation programme could save 1 per cent of your turnover. With this as motivation, think about the waste in your studio and what you could do to reduce it, such as re-using envelopes or using electronic formats where possible. The average UK office worker prints 22 pages every working day, and research suggests that 44 per cent of this is easily avoidable, such as printing drafts, e-mails or Google maps of where your next meeting is. Don’t throw away a sheet of A4 that is printed on one side only – put it back in the printer and print on the other side.
Start to sort your waste. It is estimated that approximately 70 per cent of office waste will be recyclable, but on average only 7.5 per cent reaches a recycling facility. Remove individual bins and have centralised ‘normal’ and recycling bins. Many offices have paper recycling schemes in place, but few also recycle plastics, drinks cans, tins and glass. In many parts of the country, specialised companies will come and collect all recyclables, along with hazardous waste such as batteries and electronics, for the same price your local council charges for taking away normal rubbish. ‹ If you have any outdoor space, you can compost your food waste, – the only things that then go in the normal bins will be composite materials such as coffee cups with plastic linings.
You can save both money and carbon emissions by reducing your electricity usage. Instigate a switch-off policy where all computers, monitors and printers are switched off at night and at the weekend. Where possible, change your light bulbs, prioritising lights with energy-guzzling halogen bulbs. The single most important thing you can do is to switch your energy supplier to one that uses renewable energy.
Think about all the people and goods that travel to and from your studio. Use public transport when you can, or a Green-accredited taxi company, and use bikes and motorcycle couriers when practical.
Replace your water cooler with a filter tap so that lorries full of water bottles don’t have to chug up and down the country. Shop local – if you can use a local printer, why choose one that is 300 miles away? Encourage staff to use bikes. Set up a ‘ride to work’ scheme in your studio where you can buy your bike through your employer in monthly instalments and save up to 45 per cent on the cost of the bike through tax savings.
Purchasing and procurement
Re-evaluate all your studio purchases, including recycled paper/ envelopes/toilet paper, refilled inks and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Think about your supply chain and encourage your suppliers to source better materials. Check out the credentials of your printer and ask them about their environmental policies. There’s a guide to choosing a printer on the Lovely As A Tree website, www.lovelyasatree.com/choose_print.htm.
Awareness and communication
Create an environmental policy and keep amending it and adding to it. Display it so that people can read it and add to it. Make sure everyone understands it and how he or she can make it relevant to your business. There is a good guide explaining how to write an environmental policy on the Business Link website, www.businesslink.gov.uk.
Once you have reduced your impact as far as possible, the next thing to consider is offsetting. Many companies offer an easy way to buy carbon offsets on-line. Look for companies that invest in projects that reduce emissions and, at the same time, have some benefit to local populations and ecosystems. The Gold Standard is the strictest available standard currently available. It is independent, transparent and internationally recognised. Two companies that fulfil these criteria are Emission Statement (www.emissionstatement.co.uk) and Sustainable Travel International (www.my-climate.com).
The bigger picture
Individually ‘Greening’ our companies is a good start. To effect real change, we need to integrate sustainable thinking into the design process, so that everything we produce is considered through a Green lens. We need to advance the understanding of environmental issues from a design perspective by contributing actively to a communal knowledge base for sustainable design.
Nat Hunter is managing director of Airside and a founder of Three Trees Don’t Make A Forest, the not-for-profit organisation that helps the design industry to change its carbon habits (www.threetreesdontmakeaforest.org)