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Top tips

This page gives you tips and advice for improving your environmental performance in the workplace.

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Energy saving tips for offices

  • Light switch offSwitch off the lights in your work area whenever you are the last to leave
  • Switch off lights whenever daylight is adequate.
  • Switch off main lights whenever task lighting is adequate.
  • Turn PCs and other equipment off when not in use. Really off, not onto standby.
  • Turn off your monitor whenever you take a short break from your PC, remember to lock it first.
  • Turn off photocopiers, printers and other office equipment every night and ensure that sleep modes are enabled.
  • Dress appropriately for the season! Then look at the settings on any local control units, ideally only cool to 25°C and heat to 19°C.
  • Check seals on refrigerators and make sure that freezers are defrosted regularly.
  • Only boil as much water as you need for hot drinks.

Example of good practice: Energy is used for heating, and fixing the toner in photocopiers and printers. If a photocopier is left on all day and used for 20% of that time, it will account for about £350 of energy each year. Switch it off overnight and at the weekends when possible.

Energy saving tips for building professionals

  • Organise a night-time audit outside of core hours (for example at 23:00) to identify where lights have been left on unnecessarily or plant is operating when you would expect it to be off.
  • Does your building really operate 24/7? Use the door entry access control records to better understand where the out-of-hours people work and if feasible only heat one zone, persuading out-of-hours working in these areas only.
  • If lights are consistently on in areas with adequate daylight (but aren’t manually turned off) it maybe that new luminaires with built in LUX and proximity detection are cost effective to install (and funding may be available through the ECRP).
  • If you lease vending machines speak to your leasing agent about new machines with built in occupancy controls that turn off/down during periods of low use (whilst maintaining appropriate stock conditions).
  • If your building has BMS controls ask the BMS helpdesk for a copy of the building time schedules to check that these are still appropriate.
  • Check your building’s energy consumption on SystemsLinks on a twice weekly basis to allow you to investigate unusual increases whilst memories are still fresh.
  • Ensure that existing thermal plant equipment is the right size for the job. Over time, research changes and whilst equipment can be reused it may not be sized appropriately to match the demand.
  • Consider replacing existing external flood lights with lower energy consuming LED versions (after ensuring that they will provide sufficient light levels for safety and security).

Energy saving tips for laboratories

  • Shut the sash on fume cupboards whenever you walk away.
  • Declutter fridges and freezers: dispose of redundant samples and make sure those that are left aren’t being stored at temperatures colder than they need.
  • Share lab equipment if practical – avoid having a single sample in each shaker, stirrer or centrifuge.
  • Don’t make excessive use of glassware – it takes energy to heat and treat water to wash it.
  • Only run large equipment such as dishwashers when it is fully loaded.
  • Fit timers to your drying ovens.
  • Only use purified water when mains water really won’t do.
  • Consider upgrading equipment (for example, fridges, freezers, dishwashers and ovens) to more efficient models.
  • Make the most of natural daylight and switch off lights when they are not needed, particularly at the end of the day.

Example of good practice: Remember that the cheapest and greenest piece of equipment is one that you don’t need to buy. Can you run a lab space efficiency audit before authorising purchases, for example? Can enough space be made in existing fridges or freezers by removing out-of-date or unknown samples to avoid a new purchase?

Read more about labs on our green labs page.

Engaging staff and students

  • Hold a launch event to publicise the intent to focus on reducing energy use, explaining the benefits and asking for ideas from the participants. Offering free coffee and cakes is proven to increase attendance at such events. See our guide to running environmental events for more information and ideas.
  • Encourage staff and students to write and sign pledges describing what they personally will do to save energy.
  • Recruit local champions, who will promote energy-saving measures and encourage their peers. Our Sustainability Champions network provides loads of support and ideas.
  • Make it fun – consider running a competition between groups or teams.  Consider offering a prize, perhaps funded by the anticipated savings from reduced energy use.
  • Provide regular feedback on progress, with energy use measured with sufficient detail to show where energy is being used at a local level.
  • Share identified best practice during the campaign.
  • Celebrate the achievements of the campaign and re-invest the equivalent of the money saved through reduced energy use.
  • Incorporate environmental issues into inductions for and presentation to students and staff. Our ready-made resources make this easier than ever!
  • One more word: cake!

One of the best ways to get staff and students involved is through Green Impact

Green procurement

Can you avoid making that purchase? is there an option elsewhere in your Department already, or have a look at the University’s WARPit tool to exchange items between departments and avoid spending money on new things.

  • Look for the highest recycled content possible in your products.
  • Look for items designed and/or produced in the UK.
  • Prioritise energy and water efficiency in your equipment to save money in the longer term.

Example of good practice: Try to source photocopiers which use a low melting point toner. These can save up to 40% of the energy used by reducing the warm up time, which also reduces staff waiting time because copying and printing have a faster recovery time from stand-by mode.

Find out more about green procurement.

Recycling and waste: avoid waste, and dispose correctly

  • Label your bins with posters. People are more likely to recycle if the system is easy to understand. We recommend a clear simple 'recycling' or 'general waste' label on the bin itself, and more comprehensive 'what goes in each bin' posters on a nearby wall or noticeboard.
  • Reduce the number of bins, particularly desk bins, which discourage proper sorting of waste. Aim for one or two bin 'stations' (with well-labelled recycling and non-recycling bins) per office, corridor or floor.
  • Enquire with the Facilities Management team about setting up a food waste collection, particularly in buildings with cafes, canteens or numerous staff kitchens.
  • Ensure that cleaners or other building operatives are aware of correct waste dispiosal procedures, and are encouraged to report common waste and recycling problem areas.
  • Make sure all electrical and electronic waste is disposed of safely and according to University policy.
  • Look at WARPit, our free online tool for swapping items between departments before looking to buy new equipment or furniture: Actively promote this to colleagues using our posters.
  • Let us know what you’re doing, and promote your ideas through Greenlines to the rest of the University!
  • Run a stationary amnesty: open and promote a shared central resource point to reduce the amount of items that get wasted, such as envelopes without stick or dead pens.
  • Download software such as Papercut, and track your paper use.
  • Eliminate printouts by switching lecture handouts, meeting notes and records to electronic versions.
  • Talk to your suppliers to see if they will take packaging back for re-use (especially expanded packing materials, like polystyrene or styrofoam pellets).
  • Think before you order: does your department have excess stationery or equipment? Can you share equipment or split a chemical order?
  • Carry out a simple audit to check your performance, or ask the Sustainability Team for an audit..

For a more comprehensive guide to improving your recycling rates and cutting waste, have a look at our recycling pages, which includes a set of simple checklists for improving your performance.

Travel sustainably – and save money

  • Use your University Card for a significant discount on the Universal bus service (connecting West Cambridge with the station and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus).
  • Sign up to the CamUniShare network to find a car-sharing partner or team. Save money on petrol and meet new people! Find drivers, passengers and cyclists online instantly for free.
  • Sign yourself or your Department up to Zipcar for a reduced membership:
  • Explore the discounts and offers available on the Travel pages.

Water efficiency

  • Label dual-flush toilets. If you have a dishwasher, use a full load every time and run it on eco/ economy mode.
  • When washing up, use a bowl to catch excess water. Keep an eye on the time when in the shower, recommendations suggest showers should last 4 minutes… the perfect time to wash and save.
  • Remove any bottle-fed water coolers and either use tap water instead or replace with mains-fed versions, if possible for your Department.
  • If your Department has any push taps, check the timings of these to ensure that they are not left running for too long.

Labs can consume significant amounts of water, and there is potential for wastage through leakage, oversight or choice of equipment. Often savings can be made at very little additional cost. Ask your lab manager to assess where savings could be made. 


  • Use and adapt the University’s Sustainable Food Policy for your own context – endorsed by experts here in Cambridge, this policy focuses on the highest impact interventions for environmental benefit.
  • Run an event – take a look at our event guidance, recruit some fellow organisers and make it happen!
  • As a customer, speak with staff in your regular haunt and ask what they are doing on providing and promoting sustainable food options.
  • Consider supporting your catering manager to promote the purchase of more sustainable food options. One of the biggest-impact changes is providing and promoting more plant-based options over meat ones:
    • Switch from offering two meat and one veggie option, to two veggie options and one meat
    • Swap beef for chicken, switch lamb for pork
    • Change the ordering/labelling/positioning of options – try putting the vegan and vegetarian options first!
    • Encourage attendance at a course on cooking tasty vegetarian and vegan food
    • Promote a meat-free Monday or get stuck into Vegetarian Week
  • If you are an event organiser, have a chat with your main suppliers to discuss how they can help you provide more sustainable catering. An example that could be adapted is here.
  • Try plant-based cooking - view Cambridge Sustainable Food's collection of vegan and vegetarian recipes, submitted by Cambridge University students, for students.
  • Buy fair trade or other verified sustainably-sourced foods.
  • Request a food waste bin, to improve recycling rates.
  • For Colleges - has your College pledged to serve only sustainable fish? You can check here.
  • Buy a KeepCup or set up a scheme in your college/department.
  • Buy local.