An illustration of an employee watering plants in their home office.

4 Practical Things Nonprofits Can Do to Embrace Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is on many nonprofits’ radar, whether or not they work in the ecological space. After all, as Peggy Brannigan, Director of Global Environmental Sustainability at LinkedIn, writes, “every noble effort will be challenged by the environmental destruction and systemic disruptions of climate change.”

“Every nonprofit has a mission that connects to sustainability because sustainability is interconnected with everything we do,” agrees Liz Zavodsky, Executive Director of Ecochallenge, a nonprofit that seeks to educate, entertain, and engage people on ways to drive sustainable habits. “It’s important to take the time to understand your ecological footprint as an organization. Our workplace operations’ impact can really add up.”

If you’re looking for ways to improve environmental sustainability at your nonprofit, here are four simple, practical steps that Liz recommends.

1. Adjust your printing habits

Excessive printing isn’t just bad for the environment — it’s expensive! Encourage staff to share files digitally whenever possible and to minimize the amount of paper and ink used each time they do need to print.

“Consider setting all computers to print double-sided and grayscale only,” Liz says. “Also, why not re-use paper that’s only been printed on one side? Make a tray for it.” 

2. Switch things off

It’s easy to fall into the habit of leaving computers and other equipment on standby at the end of the day. While this might be convenient, it increases carbon emissions — as well as your nonprofit’s energy bills.

“Turn off and unplug equipment and devices that are not in use, and try to avoid leaving lights on when no one is using a room,” Liz says. “When it’s time to replace things, show that you put your money when your priorities are by investing in more energy-efficient equipment.”

3. Keep an eye on the thermostat

You want your nonprofit team to be comfortable at work. But often, workplaces are warmer or cooler than they need to be, leaving employees reaching for sweaters in the summer and peeling off layers in the winter. To save energy, experiment with turning the thermostat up a little in the warmer months and down in the cooler months, then gauge how your team feels about the change.

“Even a few degrees will make a difference,” Liz says.

4. Rethink your workspace

With companies increasingly embracing hybrid work, it’s worth considering if your nonprofit can do the same. Not only is this a desirable perk, but it’s also one that can reduce your organization’s environmental impact.

“Eliminating even one day of commuting a week can add up to huge carbon savings,” Liz says.

If staff are allowed to work from home some or all of the time, you’ll likely need less space as an organization. This opens up the possibility of office sharing, which is a good way to minimize both overhead costs and waste.

“Reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ you have as an organization allows you to focus on the work and rely on fewer finite resources,” Liz adds.

An illustration of a person picking up litter outside in a green space filled with bushes and flowers.
Reducing your ecological footprint leads to big gains

As your nonprofit works to improve the environmental sustainability of its operations, be sure to communicate what you’re doing internally. Getting staff involved and finding out what’s important to them can help you create a culture of sustainability — and improve employee engagement and satisfaction. At the same time, share your efforts externally. No matter what your mission is, acting in an environmentally responsible manner is good for your reputation.

“Adopting sustainable practices and policies gives people reassurance that you are doing all you can to meet your mission and do your important work,” Liz says. “People care about these things. Trust me — it's all connected.”

To find more resources that can help your organization embrace eco-friendly habits, visit Ecochallenge’s website.

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