With the office world undergoing big changes, now seems a suitable time to reassess the workspace and consider tweaks – no matter how small – that can make a positive environmental difference. Ecosia, the carbon-negative search engine that has planted more than 90 million trees and donated more than 80% of its profits to reforestation, can safely say that sustainability is its bag. We visited its office in a former factory in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district to see the sustainable systems and hacks the company has put in place.
1. Energy waste
The majority of the office power points are set to turn off at night to eliminate energy waste.
In addition to producing its own solar electricity, Ecosia uses green energy provider Naturstrom and is powered by 100% renewable energy. Subsidies are available for employees who also use Naturstrom.
3. Heating hacks
Thermostats are installed on all heaters so that heating turns off at nights and weekends; windows are double-glazed and heat-reflecting foil behind the heaters maximises efficiency.
4. Buying in bulk
The company buys all produce – including coffee, chocolate, nuts and snacks – organically and in bulk to reduce packaging.
There’s a small roof terrace where the company grows vegetables in the summer – for compost the team use containers of the soil ameliorant biochar that quickly compost food waste.
A biophilic design has been created through the use of lots of plants and natural paint colours, while all desks have a view of a window.
7. Bike perks
Employees can have their bikes checked and basic issues fixed on a regular ‘Bike Repair Day’ in order to encourage them to ride to work.
8. Supplier appraisal
The company has a ‘black list’ and a ‘green list’ of producers it purchases from – each month the team look at their orders to see how they can improve.
Plenty of the furniture is from the previous office but has been sanded back, oiled, painted, upholstered or repurposed entirely.
Natural materials are used here, such as sisal, seagrass, hessian, wood and linen. Cork, bamboo, linen, cotton and FSC-certified wood are preferred for new furniture.
Employees work from handmade height-adjustable desks, which are built from scavenged tree trunks and 240-year-old oak trees sustainably sourced from the Lübecker Stadtwald – a local forest that operates on permaculture principles.
A concrete floor was laid and sealed with a semi-gloss finish. This polished concrete – together with the white walls – reflects light, reducing the need for artificial lighting during the day.
All of the office and dining room lights are secondhand GDR-era factory lights. Eco-friendly, dimmable LED light globes are also used throughout.
Most of the chairs are secondhand; many came from the company’s old office where they were either sourced from flea markets or gifted.
The dining table is made from 50-year-old reclaimed floorboards. A high meeting table was made from upcycled scaffolding planks, while scrap wood sourced free from a classified ad was used to create the bistro tables.
Kalklitir and Kreidezeit natural lime paints and eco-friendly wallpapers are used in the soundproofed booths that function as meeting or focus rooms.
All windows can be fully opened so natural air can circulate, while the company has a large selection of purifying plants in the space.
18. The offcuts
All of the oak offcuts from the kitchen countertops are used elsewhere in the office: the whiteboard frames, poster frames, wooden shelves, ledges and ergonomic monitor stands were all made from leftover oak pieces.
The layout is designed to feel airy and open but to retain the sense of zones and offer privacy. Divider walls come with overlight windows, there are soundproof telephone booths, different-sized meeting rooms, a hidden mezzanine loft bed and a large, separated kitchen-dining-social space.
Products used include eco-friendly soap in glass pump bottles, recycled toilet paper and tampons from fellow sustainable Berlin brand Einhorn. Cotton hand towels are used while a non-electric bidet is installed in one toilet.
This article was first published in Courier Issue 35, June/July 2020. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.