Guides and Resources

Better Lightbulbs Aren’t Enough: Making a Sustainable Impact in Coworking

Sep 19, 2019
Better Lightbulbs Aren’t Enough: Making a Sustainable Impact in Coworking

As a dedicated reader of our blog and an aspiring/avid environmentalist, you probably know that we only have a few years left to make a difference in the path of human habilitability on Earth. The only question now is what we do about it. Two things are true: The first is that the most impactful action to decarbonize will come from government, industry, and the wealthy. The second is that every single person on the planet should leverage what power they have to make a difference.

Where and how we work is revealing itself to be a central question in how to create a sustainable society. To that end, we’ve come up with some ways that have been piloted in coworking spaces to reshape your climate footprint.

Where do you get your electricity?

The carbon intensity of electricity generation varies wildly around the world. But in all cases, you should be seeking out renewable options, lobbying for changes in your country’s grid, and using less energy. Here in Germany, you can opt to move your electricity to a provider that only uses renewable sources. What options are available where you live and work?

Some states and countries have credits and programs available for solar panels, have you looked into available options in your area? Some places allow you to make money even by selling electricity back onto the grid. Solar panels have the side effect of keeping your space cool in warmer months instead of immediately switching to AC, a power hog that contributes extra to global heating.

And of course, the best way to make an impact is to use less energy in the first place.

How do your members get to your space?

Transportation is one of the most visible producers of carbon in the average person’s daily life. The auto industry has done an effective job at convincing us that cars are central to a prosperous society, which has had a disastrous effect on urban infrastructure, general health, and our climate impact. Let’s work to disencentivize this destructive habit.

Start with infrastructure. If you don’t have bike parking, make some, or allow members to bring bikes inside. You can provide community bike tools and an air pump for even more reassurance that if something goes wrong, your members will be able to fix up their ride at work. Find a community member who can lead bike repair workshops, and other “repair-not-replace” workshops.

Subsidizing public transit or cycling is another way to encourage ditching cars. You can offer to subsidize monthly transit passes or offer discounts on memberships if you can prove you don’t use a car to get to the office. Maybe give a fixed amount for a new bike fund that can help ease the up-front financial barrier for your members. Or offer to give a helmet or lights to anyone that starts biking. These are some of the ways that workplaces encourage alternate forms of commuting, there’s no reason they can’t work for you too.

How do you source food?

WeWork made waves when they announced that they would not provide meat in any of their locations or for any of their functions. Are you looking into your food’s impact? Buy local, find farms and suppliers you can work with to provide fresh, healthy food for your members. Are there any local markets? Maybe you arrange to have special offers for local food pickups in your space

What manufactured goods do you purchase?

Eliminating single-use plastics have become a hot topic, but it’s revealed a messy truth: many of the strides we’ve made in accessibility over the past century have been due to plastic and other petroleum products.

That shouldn’t stop us from working to eliminate waste and unnecessary products. Just do it strategically.

Every time you purchase manufactured goods (which is probably quite often), think about its ecological impact and if there are alternatives. Though straws and bags are the most visible examples, they serve a purpose. What are you buying that is pure waste? Think balloons, or plastic cutlery. And then move onto bigger things. What gadget are you upgrading for purely cosmetic or cultural cache? Are you buying a new phone every year? Do you have a way for people to recycle their phones and other devices (like monitors, televisions, etc.)? Think about setting up a program for your members to donate their old gadgets for others who need a new one.

How do you harness your community?

Your best feature is also your best tool in fighting climate change — your community. Individual actions are nice, but they don’t reach the scale of the problem. You should be making it easy for your members to advocate for sustainable policies. Work with local organizations to provide options for your members who don’t know where to start getting involved by giving them starting points like contact info and a schedule of local events. Bring environmental organizers into your space to deliver workshops and provide them with resources to get started. It’s about building networks that can be used to advocate for larger changes.

Activism isn’t easy and there are rarely clear-cut ways to make a difference. But mass action, advocacy, and organization are the best ways we have of making societal changes from the ground up. So go get into the streets and provide resources for your members who don’t know where to begin.

If you aren’t already using Cobot as your coworking management software, give it a go! You’ll find that our features can help you run your coworking space more effectively and grow your community. Just sign up for a free trial or a live demo session. And if you have questions, our support team is all ears!

Happy Coworking!


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