MIDWAY: Eco-friendly office

Some employees have all the eco luck. Work for British brewing company Adnams in the east of England, and your footprint will be diminished by virtue of the solar panels, lime and hemp walls and living roof at the company’s new warehouse.

Most work environs, however, are not like this. One friend of mine - she wishes to remain anonymous and therefore in gainful employment - was commanded to remove her pet project recycling bins because they clashed with her company’s aesthetic. You can spot the office worker, not just by their harassed demeanour but by the trail of paper they leave behind. Personal paper usage has tripled from 15 kg of printing and writing paper per person in the seventies to more than 60 kg today. Don’t assume your paper is from a sustainable source either.

Reports by Friends of the Earth trace paper from paper merchants back to illegal timber cut from virgin Indonesian forests. Paper also creates methane emissions when land-filled, Co2 from the energy and water pollution from chemicals in manufacture, so every company should have a recycling system. But this still uses energy and causes pollution, so using less and reusing is key. An audit of offices suggests executives need to be marched to a screening of An Inconvenient Truth. An estimated 70 per cent of computers are left on full time; a PC left running 24 hours creates 716 kg of Co2 a year. Leaving a monitor on overnight wastes enough energy to heat water for 1,000 cups of coffee.

Offices can contain contaminants such as ammonia, toluene and formaldehyde, leached from printers, fax machines, photocopiers and MDF furniture. In a NASA experiment, plants removed 99 per cent of toxins from indoor air. Rubber and spider plants are good at removing formaldehyde, chrysanthemums for new paint and plastic azaleas for irritants in carpets, while bamboo is an all-rounder.

At most workplaces, there is capacity for change. Install a jug of tap water at meetings as a retort to the fact that every 15 bottles of mineral water transported a few hundred miles uses one equivalent bottle of diesel. Or at least make sure your water dispenser is CFC free as an initial eco water-cooler moment.