As a business you can cut waste and save money by applying the principles of the circular economy to your office. But what exactly is a circular office? Here’s our guide – plus practical tips for introducing circularity into your building now…

You’re probably familiar with the concept of the ‘circular economy’. It’s an alternative to the traditional linear economic system where something is taken or made, used and then disposed of. In a circular economy resources are kept in use for as long as possible, so that the maximum value is extracted. Then materials and products are recovered and reused, feeding back into the loop. Maintenance, repair, recycling and remanufacturing are all designed into the system.

The ‘circular office’ applies the principles of the circular economy to physical workspaces. Businesses can save money, reduce waste and improve sustainability by keeping materials in use for as long as possible, and by being creative about work practices and reusing assets.

In 2017, the organisation Business in the Community (BITC) launched its Circular Office Campaign to encourage companies to bring circular thinking into their buildings and systems. It’s something we’re fully behind at Rype Office. Here’s why…

Why have a circular office?

Introducing a circular approach to your office can:

  • Save costs – by cutting spending on new resources
  • Create new revenue opportunities – by turning waste materials into assets
  • Improve staff wellbeing and satisfaction – especially if employees are empowered to implement their own ideas
  • Enhance your business’ reputation – with customers and suppliers who are also committed to sustainability

And of course the wider social and environmental benefits – such as local job creation and waste reduction – mean that it’s also the right thing to do. Each individual business making a small difference can lead to a change in the overall culture, helping us to get to a circular economy.

Six practical ways to introduce circularity into your office

An ideal circular system is designed at the macro level: it’s about changing our thinking and approach to a whole business structure. But in reality, it’s not possible for most businesses to transform their entire systems overnight.

Instead, you can take steps towards a circular office by starting with some simple, small changes. Here are some ideas:

1) Aim for a ‘zero-to-landfill’ culture

If you challenge yourself and your staff to imagine nothing can go to landfill, you may not hit zero but you’ll come up with ways of diverting all sorts of waste – food, paper, plastic, equipment etc – to recycling or reuse. A great way to start is by conducting a waste audit. Use transparent rubbish bags for a week or two to see what your team is throwing away. The results of the audit will help you to plan how to minimise waste.

2) Source ‘circular’ products

When procuring, seek out products such as recycled paint (e.g. from Paint360), recycled paper & plastic, compostable packaging, recycled ceiling tiles (e.g. Armstrong Ceilings) and remanufactured photocopiers (e.g. from Ricoh). There are some amazing, creative products out there if you look. At Rype Office we have created a stylish meeting table whose top is made from recycled yoghurt pots!

3) Remanufacture your office furniture

Office furniture is perfect for remanufacturing because it uses long life components such as steel bases which can be reused while the softer, less durable parts are replaced with new elements. Rype Office’s remanufactured furniture is typically half the cost of new, with no loss of quality.

4) Bring plants into the office

Plant clean indoor air by absorbing VOCs as well as toxic ozone from photocopiers. They release phytochemicals that suppress mould spores and bacteria by as much as 50 to 60 per cent. Plants also regulate humidity, especially in winter when central heating sucks moisture from circulating air. Read more about the benefits of plants at Office plants – the science behind workplace greenery.

5) Choose a renewable energy supplier

Renewable energy has never been cheaper and thus the prospect of switching to a 100% renewable energy provider has never been greater. Unlike homes, businesses can’t switch energy suppliers at any moment. They need to wait until their fixed costs contracts expire. Make sure that you know when your contract period up and leave yourself plenty of time to save money and carbon with a greener supplier.

6) Appoint a Circular Office Champion

Empowering your staff to think up and implement their own circular office ideas can improve their satisfaction and wellbeing – and can also provide significant cost savings for your business as they change their thinking about waste and spending habits. Try appointing someone to champion the concept of the circular office and lead the way.

Four great organisations leading the circular office revolution

Business In The Community (BITC)
Also known as The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, BITC is a membership organisation made up of progressive businesses of all sizes. It is the driving force behind the concept of the circular office, and you can read practical advice and tips in their Circular Office Guide.

Ellen Macarthur Foundation
Charity and global thought leader the Ellen MacArthur Foundation was launched in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. You can find a wealth of information and resources on its website.

The accountancy and consultancy giant is committed to the circular office concepts and has developed an organisational framework which is available to all businesses and organisations. See more here.

JLL UK buys, sells and invests in industrial, commercial, retail, residential and hotel real estate. It is also at the leading edge in circular office thinking. Read an article on their approach by Sophie Walker, UK Head of Sustainability, here.

At Rype Office we use remanufacturing and rational principles to make wonderful workspaces, typically with a third of the environmental cost and half the financial cost of a traditional refit. We call it ‘the science of beautiful offices’. Contact us here to find out more about what we do.