While a large share of workers was working from home during the Covid-pandemic, they still managed to use over 200.000 paper cups at their workplace every year.
“The paper cups were a simple place to start, as everyone could contribute by watching their own habits”, says Pia Olesen, buyer and representative for the working environment at Alfa Laval, Aalborg.
“We are considering if all newly employed should receive a starter kit with their own water bottle and cup to avoid using this many paper cups. However, we are still evaluating how this will affect the amount of dishes” Nina Heidelbach throws in, also buyer and HK’s worker representative at Alfa Laval.
Yes, there are plenty of things to consider and facts to check when becoming climate friendly. But for both Nina Heidelbach and Pia Olesen this is a natural task to undertake.
“It is obvious that we should be climate conscious internally, when we work in an enterprise that brands itself by delivering sustainable solutions to our customers”, says Nina Heidelbach.
The trade union plays a role
“Climate Activism at the Workplace” started with an online meeting this spring, and lately the worker representatives have participated at a three days course, where they shared ideas and experiences with the others in the network.
“Everyone knows that we must act. Therefore, we could wait for the politicians to implement the really big initiatives, or we could all take on our individual responsibilities. However, the trade union can contribute to collectivize some climate solutions at the workplaces. We know that our members are engaged in the green transition”, says Esben Hjort, union consultant at HK private, and initiator and project manager for the climate courses.
Almost 8 out of 10 HK Private’s members want to actively participate for the green transition at their workplace. This comes to light in a survey conducted in February 2021, by Epinion for HK Denmark.
“From a larger perspective, measures at the individual workplaces have a limited effect, but everything is headed in the right direction. And if we can get even more worker representatives through these courses, I believe that we can create a certain effect. At many workplaces ideas for climate measures are really easy to sell – who in 2021 would not like to brand themselves by being green?”, asks Esben Hjort.
At Alfa Laval in Aalborg, one of the first steps for Nina Heidelbach and Pia Olesen was to gather a team of relevant workers to reach the goal, with both short-term and long-term plans. Therefore, they have now established a climate committee consisting of themselves, the responsible for the building, the responsible for the cafeteria and the cleaning services, as well as the chairman for the workers’ union.
Green ideas are lining up
The paper cups are just one out of many measures. On the list are also plans to minimize the use of printer paper, to reduce travels by arranging more meetings over Teams, to install charging stations for electric vehicles and to use less meat in the cafeteria.
Other than that, excess heat will be returned to Aalborg Forsyning. The committee is working on putting these measures into system. The committee has also established a site on the enterprise’s intranet, where all the workers can share their ideas.
“When we started, Alfa Laval had already implemented important measures for the climate, but we can accomplish even more. Simultaneously, we should be careful not to implement too many measures at the same time”, says Nina Heidelbach.
“We also dream of promoting biodiversity by creating wild nature in our green areas. Although this is not our first priority right now”.
At the moment, they are presenting their plans for a variety of forums. Most recently in the corporation’s works council, where they were met with large enthusiasm, but later also with the corporation’s management.
“Until now we have only received positive feedback – from both our co-workers and the management. But green initiatives like these are also difficult to oppose”, says Pia Olesen.
“A large part of these initiatives is about shedding light on people’s habits without pointing any fingers, but in an enjoyable way and as a friendly reminder. And to be realistic. We will not completely stop the use of printer paper or forbid meat in the cafeteria”.