While putting permaculture principles into practice at home is a matter of choice for you and your family, applying them to the workplace can be more difficult. Some permaculturists are able to make a living from their plot or their permaculture skills – such as teaching courses or consulting for individuals or organizations who wish to implement green designs – but for many, their permaculture site at home is combined with working for a conventional business to provide for their family. Of course, with permaculture, we seek to change how economies are run by promoting notions such as local cooperatives, un-hierarchical business structures and efforts to make commerce more environmentally sustainable, but given the way the modern western economy works, it is a fact of life that most people must have a job to secure enough money to live, and typically the businesses at which these jobs are based do not have permaculture ideas at their center. However, the principles and practice of permaculture do not have to remain separated from your working life, only ever to be practiced in your pare time at home – by taking responsibility for certain procedures and talking to your employers, you can bring permaculture to work as well. Even just a few small changes in a workplace that adhere to the ideas behind permaculture can make a difference for the environment, for the wellbeing of the employees and even for the bottom line of the business.
Many local authorities are now aware of the benefits of providing municipal recycling schemes. Not only can it save them money, it also demonstrates to local inhabitants that they are cognizant of an issue – sustainability – that many people are concerned about, and shows they are willing to take steps towards that goal. Companies are also doing so, and having a recycling scheme is often one of the easiest practices associated with permaculture that can be implemented at a place of work, because it simply requires providing suitable containers and arranging collection with the refuse service. Recycling schemes will typically include paper and cardboard from packaging, as well as glass and plastic where appropriate. Many companies have dedicated recycling bins for staff to deposit their recyclable material in from their lunch packaging. It is a simply and effective way to introduce sustainability ideas to the workplace.
Applying permaculture principles to the workplace can also take place at the personal level, with each individual assessing their use of non-renewable resources and seeking to make practical changes to reduce it. Consider, for example, whether every document you need has to be printed. Often, such documents can be circulated as emails or placed on digital share sites for all relevant participants to view. Where possible, ensure lights, heaters and fans are switched off when not required, and turn your computer off (rather than placing it on standby) when you leave at the end of the day to avoid unnecessary electricity usage.
Ask your company to provide well-stocked kitchen facilities, including plates, bowls and storage. This makes it much easier for employees to bring lunch from home, reducing the need to dispose of product packaging, allowing them to either use food that they have grown at home in their permaculture plot, or utilize leftovers which means less food waste, fewer trips to the supermarket and so fewer food miles. Homemade food is also typically much healthier than store-bought ready-to-eat lunches.
Many business premises have outside space. More often than not this space is dedicated to ornamental design and/or paved to make cleaning it easier. Broach the idea of converting at least some of the outside space to a small permaculture plot. This not only provides employees with the possibility of “homegrown” food at their place of work, but the practice of tending and maintaining the plot would provide a sense of community among interested employees, as well as a stronger tie to their place of work. Furthermore, it affords the opportunity to get outside and move, a counterpoint to the sedentary lifestyle many jobs entail.
Are there options at your workplace for flexible working, such as teleconferencing and working from home? These bike-402032_1280will reduce the need to travel and so contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. You could also organize a car-share scheme for employees to collaborate and travel to and from work together rather than in separate vehicles. This will reduce emissions and also save money for all involved in terms of gasoline costs. By discussing flexible working hours with your employers, you also open up possibilities such as starting and finishing later – which could promote public transport use as you could avoid peak hour prices and crowds, and thus reduce car use.
A bigger step would be to lobby the business owners about using a sustainable energy model to produce the energy they need. This is obviously more difficult in energy-heavy industries such as manufacturing, but lots of service industries and office-based companies could explore the possibility of generating some if not all of their energy from renewable sources. When the bottom line is the most important factor, investing in solar panels or a wind turbine may seem like an unnecessary expense to business owners, but usually it will pay for itself over the longer term in the form of lower bills and, potentially by an increase in business as consumers become aware of the “green” developments. It is worth a business considering the effect applying permaculture principles to their operation can have on existing customers and their ability to attract new ones. Consumers are increasingly taking into account a company’s approach to environmental and sustainable matters when making choices about products and services they want to purchase. Indeed, the “votes” that consumers make with their dollars is arguably the biggest factor in influencing a business’s approach. Being able to boast of green credentials, of, say, generating a certain amount of their energy usage from sustainable resources, is increasingly a significant factor in attracting and retaining customers.