man relaxing at desk in green outside environment

The workforce is getting younger as millennials take over jobs once held by retiring baby boomers. Companies hoping to hire 20- and 30-somethings face increasing challenges in attracting and retaining 20- and 30-year-old workers since they’re competing with startups that have fun work cultures. Not every company is suited for Ping-Pong tables and Beer Cart Fridays and Gallup recently found that only 29 percent of millennials say they are “engaged at work.” 

One important way organizations are appealing to younger workers is by embracing sustainable business practices. Studies have found that 76 percent of the millennial generation is “somewhat to extremely concerned” about what climate change means for the future of the planet. Businesses that make a concerted effort to protect against those negative effects can win over not just millennial workers, but employees and customers of all ages.

Here are eight actions that can help establish your company as a business that cares about the environment. Make a project of involving everyone in these changes so that the whole business is aware of the priority you place on environmental responsibility. Build a culture of conservation!

Provide Filtered Water

If you take a look around your office, chances are you’ll see a beverage on every desk. For many of today’s younger workers, water is the beverage of choice. But plastic water bottles take hundreds of years to completely decompose if they make their way to landfills. Sure, you can offer recycling bins, but the three rules of protecting the environment are, in order, reduce, reuse, and recycle. Issue a reusable cup to each new employee during onboarding.

By adding filtration to your water system, your employees can get fresh water from the tap in the break room. You can also invest in a water cooler service that lets employees fill their own cups with cold, clean drinking water throughout the day.

Reduce Paper Waste

Businesses have made great strides in recent years toward going paperless. However, most offices still have a distance to go. If you still rely on paper-based processes, you may scare off millennials who prefer everything to be done electronically. Encourage staff not to print email and draft documents, offering the ability to send documents to personal devices if that makes electronic review easier.

In addition to setting up collaboration tools, do an inventory of your business operations and update any outdated processes. If you still have a fax machine, for instance, you can switch to a fax-to-email solution that will both cut back on paper use and make sharing and storing faxed documents easier for everyone involved.

Switch to LED Lightbulbs

If you’ve shopped for lightbulbs recently, you’ve probably noticed how complicated the choices have become. Although the federal government mandated all lightbulbs become more energy efficient, some are better at that job than others. You can conserve energy — cutting your utility bills and protecting the environment — by switching every bulb in your building.

changing to LED lightbulb
You can conserve energy — and cut your company’s electric bill — by switching to LED lightbulbs. Image: Adobe Stock

If you still use incandescent bulbs, you can save 70 to 90 percent by switching to LED. If you’re renting your space, ask your property manager if you can make the change if they aren’t willing to dedicate their own maintenance workers to do it for you.

Allow Telecommuting

Telecommuting will help your business attract millennials on multiple levels. Younger professionals have stated a clear preference for flexible work arrangements, including being allowed to work from home at least part of the time.

Revising your HR practices to allow telecommuting also has environmental benefits. You’ll be able to reduce the energy used in your office spaces each day, saving money and cutting your business’s carbon footprint. And you’ll reduce commuter traffic, even if by only a few employees.

As a complement to telecommuting, offer a system to facilitate carpooling by your team, such as and TakeScoop.

Improve Air Quality with Indoor Plants

Few businesses fill their office spaces with plants, but they can dramatically improve the aesthetics. Sure, employees can bring in their own plants, but since open-plan offices have become more prevalent, workers now can see beyond their own desks.

open office setting with indoor plants
Indoor plants are aesthetically pleasing and help improve the air quality. Photo by Marc Mueller from Pexels

In addition to making your office more eye pleasing, indoor plants can improve the general air quality. While all plants can help clean the air, you should also consider plants that have the additional benefit of removing contaminants. Peace lilies, rubber plants, and snake plants are three that can help with that.

Power Off Computers

If you think leaving appliances plugged in doesn’t make a difference, you may be missing a great opportunity to save money and conserve energy. The issue has been so well studied that it goes by multiple names. Vampire power, standby power, and electricity leaking are just three of them.

One way to reduce this unnecessary energy use is to make it mandatory for your employees to power down their computers before they leave the office. Identify any electronics in your workspaces that stay on overnight in standby mode, including printers and copiers, and assign someone to shut off those items at night.

Set Up Recycling Bins in Common Areas

When asked why they don’t recycle, one common complaint shared across all generations is the inconvenience. Although many people will go out of their way to ensure their refuse ends up in recycling centers rather than landfills, others will simply toss items in the nearest waste bin.

Placing recycling bins in each of your common work and meeting areas sends the message to employees and visitors to your offices that you take environmental responsibility seriously. You may have to pay extra for recycling pickup if your building management doesn’t offer it, but it’s worth the extra investment if it improves worker morale.

Reduce Travel

Travel is an important part of doing business. If you want to attend conferences or meet potential clients outside your immediate area, you have to hop a plane or take a long drive. Travel not only cuts into your business’ bottom line, it has a negative impact on the planet.

Technology can cut down on some of that jet-setting. Although there are a few things you can do to reduce the environmental impact of traveling, it can be more effective to switch to tech tools like video conferencing. Instead of going to a conference to network, schedule a webinar and get your customers to join you online, saving everyone money and reducing carbon emissions. Learn to interact with your clients on video chat, since it can bring similar face-to-face benefits as an in-person meeting.

An Eco-Friendly Business

You can make your business more eco-friendly through a few small changes. Since many of them also help cut operating expenses, those changes will help your bottom line while also ensuring you can attract environmentally-conscious employees.

Do you have other ideas to make a business eco-friendlier?

By Drew Hendricks

Drew Hendricks is a tech, social media, and environmental addict. He's written for many major publications, such as Forbes and Entrepreneur.