5 Ways to Make Workplace Sustainability Fun (and Not Totally Annoying)

By ETQ on April 28, 2016

Your company sustainability team is probably already on top of things like reducing energy, minimizing waste and preventing unwanted releases. However, what may be missing is the element of fun.

Fun at work can be elusive. Everyone has a job to do, and safety and quality are serious matters. Fun with sustainability may sound even more questionable. In fact, you probably think I’m about to launch into a list of ways you can repurpose your old yogurt containers.

But I won’t bore you with tired ideas that sound like they came from someone’s third-grade art class. Instead, here 5 ways to make workplace sustainability fun, and not totally annoying.

1. Get Employees Involved

You can’t make sustainability fun without participation from your staff. That means instead of taking a top-down approach, you’ll need to involve them in creating and customizing sustainability initiatives.

How can you get them involved?

  • Add sustainability to your departmental meeting agendas, inviting employees to submit ideas. Good places to start include problem-solving inefficient energy practices and ideas for reducing waste.
  • Create employee committees focused on sustainability. It may not be for everyone, but sustainability-minded individuals should have a leading role in spearheading activities, planning ideas or even communicating sustainability efforts in a blog or newsletter.

2. Gamify Sustainability

There’s a ton of talk about how gamification—turning any activity into a game—increases engagement and delivers better results. It works because it turns tedious or difficult activities into opportunities for play. How can this be applied to workplace sustainability?

  • Make achieving your sustainability targets a game. You can set targets for different departments, have them compete against each other, offer prizes like company swag or even throw a party as a reward.
  • Promote sustainable habits with fun takes on corrective action. I heard of one company that passed an outlandishly costumed Halloween skeleton around the office, hung each night on the door of anyone who forgot to turn off their lights and computer.
  • Create a carpool incentive program that rewards ridesharing employees with prizes or preferred parking. Carpooling saves money and reduces your carbon footprint, while also building camaraderie and reducing employee stress. Make it easy for employees to connect via online ridesharing apps like zimride for corporations or a simple sign-up sheet.

3. Allow Remote Work

Working remotely isn’t feasible for all roles or departments, but your company should consider it if possible. Allowing employees to work one day per week from home reduces the environmental impact of their transport by 20%, not to mention bottom-line savings to companies of up to $11,000 per year for employees who work remotely half the time.

With Web-based compliance, quality and environmental management software that employees can access online, it might be easier than you think. Working from home may not sound super exciting, but it’s certainly something most people will look forward to and appreciate.

4. Put the Fun in Fundraising

Think about ways to give people opportunities to contribute to causes they’re personally interested in. One fun way to do this is to hold a fundraiser where the proceeds go to a sustainable nonprofit of your team’s choice.

Ideas for events to host include:

  • An office bake sale
  • A happy hour fundraiser
  • Office Olympics or obstacle course
  • A casino night

If you’re having trouble with the planning part, there are likely plenty of events where you can get involved in the community, like this workplace event centered on Habitat for Humanity.

5. Perform a Coffee Audit

Lots of coffee is consumed in the workplace, and one way to improve sustainability is to move away from coffee that hurts the environment and small farmers. A fun way to do it is to host a coffee audit where employees try different local or fair-trade coffees.

Give everyone a coffee audit checklist with space to score each sample on things like aroma, flavor, body and aftertaste, with room to record an overall score. At the end, use the scores to decide which varieties to stock in the breakroom.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Once you get going, you’ll probably discover new activities and initiatives to help your company move toward better sustainability performance. The key is to get everyone involved, and that means giving new ideas a chance. Who knows, you might be surprised at what your team comes up with.