Beyond Green: Tips for Bringing Humane Choices to Your Office

You’re making positive changes in your life at home in support of a compassionate, healthy, sustainable, just world, and now you’d like to extend your circle of humane choices to your work place. Easy, right? ‘Cause everyone wants a humane world! Actually, not so easy. At work you have to deal with the potentially-conflicting values, knowledge and practices of co-workers, company policies and long-standing traditions of “That’s how we’ve always done it!” and other potential hurdles.

Roberto Giannicola, humane educator and founder of Provokare Presentations, an organization that helps businesses and their employees make more socially-responsible choices, says,

“For a company to be socially responsible, and not fall in the “greenwasher” category, then every member of the organization or company needs to begin to act as a socially responsible person. And being responsible goes beyond recycling the can of soda or reducing paper usage, it means learning about how our lifestyle impacts people, animals and the world, and how we can choose to change that.”

Here are 15 general tips for helping you inspire humane choices at your place of work:

  1. Start with your own circle of control. What can you affect in your daily work life? Can you bike to work? Recycle all your waste? Find creative ways to reuse supplies? Bring cruelty-free personal products? Wear snazzy work clothes purchased at a thrift store? Bring your own tasty, organic vegan lunch (with a bit extra to share)? Model what’s possible to others.
  2. Share your humane messages in a compassionate, subtle way. If nothing else, you can share bits of information about your own choices with curious co-workers. If you have your own office or cubicle, you can put up (office-appropriate) posters or other paraphernalia. Is there a general information board where you can place flyers about upcoming humane events in your community, or veg restaurant guides, or tips about choosing fair trade? Look for logical opportunities.
  3. Begin with small changes. Recommend veg, organic food from a local business for the next meeting. Host a “zero waste” contest amongst your co-workers (from increasing recycling, to using double-sided copies, to only printing when necessary, to using technology to decrease use of paper, to bringing your own mugs and dinnerware from home, etc.). Bring a guest speaker to talk about investing in socially responsible companies.
  4. Find colleagues who share some of the same interests and concerns that you do and team up to work on small changes. Are both of you crazed over the number of plastic water bottles your company uses? Start a campaign to encourage reusable bottles and water filters. Tired of donuts and junk food? Organize a potluck featuring local, vegan, organic food. Want to bring awareness to fair trade? Pitch in together to supply fair trade coffees, teas, sugar and other products.
  5. Increase your knowledge about humane business practices by reading resources such as Cradle to Cradle, Sustainable Industries, and looking for resources such as Sustainable Business and the Rocky Mountain Institute.
  6. Examine every aspect of your workplace (not all at once!) and ask yourself how the company’s policies and operations, and the actions and habits of employees, can be tweaked to do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet. Look for opportunities to introduce positive change a bit at a time. Alternative transportation? Low-tox, cruelty-free office, kitchen and bathroom supplies?
  7. Provide credible data and positive solutions. If you want to replace a product, service, practice or policy, offer several specific positive alternatives that will meet the need as well or better. If you’re trying to change a company policy, write up a proposal, showing how making certain changes will save time, money, resources, etc. – the sorts of criteria that bring joy to the hearts of managers and CEOs.
  8. If your company produces a product or service for citizens to purchase, consider how you can make that product or service more MOGO (Most Good). People are increasingly concerned about the impacts of their choices – and about the practices of the businesses they patronize. If you can provide them with compassionate, sustainable, just alternatives, you could well increase your business.
  9. Network with other businesses and community organizations to investigate how you can share resources and collaborate. Can you go together to buy sweatshop-free uniforms? Recycled or tree-free paper? Establish reciprocal business relationships with local/regional companies, so that profits stay in your communities.
  10. Be ready for “No.” When co-workers or employers tell you something isn’t possible because of x (it’s too expensive/complicated/time-consuming/radical, etc.), challenge yourself to investigate and develop creative solutions that can facilitate a “Yes.” Pull from the expertise and interests of others to help you.
  11. Explore ways that other businesses and employees are bringing the humane philosophy to the workplace and find out which ideas are right for your office. If another business is already doing it successfully, you’re more likely to get a “Yes.”
  12. Volunteer to coordinate a “Humane Office” group to work on steps toward sustainable, just, humane goals.
  13. Provide educational opportunities for your co-workers. Initiate discussion courses, such as those available from organizations like the Northwest Earth Institute, or start a brown-bag lunch series and invite in local speakers to talk about ways to live a humane life. Be sure there’s sufficient interest among colleagues.
  14. Use technology as a strategy for humane choices. Can your next meeting use web conferencing? Is document-sharing or the use of wikis a possibility? How about telecommuting at least part of the week?
  15. Remember to keep the journey toward a humane workplace fun and engaging and empowering for everyone.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of OfficeNow.

(Reprinted from the Institute for Humane Education’s November 2008 Humane Edge E-News.)