Typical resources that we use or consume at work include things such as energy and water. Energy comes in many forms. The most obvious form is electricity, which we use in the workplace to power up our appliances, and our computers. Gas is another form of energy that we may use in our workplace for heating. There is also fuel that workplaces use for their vehicles.
Water is used in many work environments, obviously in the toilets and bathrooms, and also for drinking. Paper is another typical resource used in the workplace. Paper obviously comes from trees, so it comes from a natural resource. Don't forget also that the building we actually work in, is made up of a variety of things such as bricks, metal and glass. Most of these products have obviously at some stage been mined from the ground, so there has been an environmental impact at that point.
There are many environmental issues associated with using resources at work. Many of the resources that we use in the workplace come from non-renewable sources. Oil is an obvious example, and petrol which comes from oil is a non-renewable resource. Coal is another non-renewable resource, and at the moment, most of our electricity in NSW comes from coal.
Renewable sources of energy include solar and wind power and there are many advances in increasing the use of these in society.
Many of the resources we use involve a lot of environmental damage. Paper for instance obviously requires forests to be cut down, and many chemicals are used to give us clean white office paper, so there is quite a substantial environmental impact associated with the use of these resources in the workplace.
In order for you to minimise your workplace environmental impact, you will need to identify the current level of resource usage – so how can you measure resource usage in the workplace? I guess there are two ways of going about it. The first is to use existing records and documents. As an example you might like to look at the electricity usage of your business, in which case you would probably get out the copies of your electricity bills. These bills will not only show you the cost of your electricity, but also the amounts consumed.
The other way that you may want to measure your resource usage, is to actually physically monitor, measure and record the usage of the resources. For instance if you wanted to see how much paper the company was using, you could actually go out and measure the amount of paper being used by the photocopiers, the printers etc.
You may hear the term 'audit' used. An audit could be used to look at your energy, your water and your waste, and audit is basically where you go out and measure all those aspects of your business by calculating the volumes that you will use of those resources.
An environmental hazard is anything that can cause harm to the environment. Environmental hazards may also cause harm to people. They are not necessarily obvious things like poisons and pesticides. They may be things such as emissions to the air, and also waste.
Some workplaces may have chemicals and pesticides used around their premises. These are particularly hazardous. When they make their way into the environment, such as a waterway, they are likely to harm the plants and animals that live there. Oil and chemical spills are two of the worst environmental hazards that a company could face. If these substances wash down into a river or a lake, they can cause major fish kills and the death of aquatic birds and turtles.
Having a sound environmental management plan should ensure that an organisation reduces the risk of such an extreme event.