A Template & 50+ Eco Friendly Ideas To Create Your Charity Environmental Or Sustainability Policy

It's now more important than ever for charities to be environmentally conscious and it can also save and earn you money too. Use this template to create your environmental, or sustainability policy - with 50+ eco friendly ideas to choose from - waste management, recycling, sourcing products, travel and charity environmental regulations.

Why Your Charity Needs An Environmental Policy

None of us can save the planet alone, but all of us can do something and, as charities, we should.  And, it'll not only save you money, it can earn you some too. Is your charity doing its bit, or is it all talk? 

  1. An estimated 13 billion plastic bottles are disposed of each year
  2. It takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastic compared with using ‘virgin’ materials.
  3. On average, each person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every 7 weeks.
  4. Up to 80% of the contents of our dustbins could be easily recycled or composted.

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Environmental Policy - Charity Trustees And Management

Here are some ideas:

  1. Use this template to create an environmental policy or climate change action plan.
  2. Invite people to take on an 'environmental champion' role to encourage everyone to adopt the ideas in your policy and come up with their own.
  3. Carry out an environmental audit or energy efficiency tests.
  4. Include an environmental statement in the Trustees Annual Report. 

Environmental Policy - The Waste Hierarchy

The waste hierarchy identifes ways to be more environmentally friendly, in priority order.   

  1. Eliminate - Avoid producing waste in the first place
  2. Reduce - Minimise the amount of waste you do produce
  3. Re-Use - Use items as many times as possible
  4. Recycle - Recycle what you can only after you have re-used it. 
  5. Dispose - Dispose of what’s left in a responsible way

Environmental Policy Section 1 - Materials and Resources.

  1. Consider installing recycling bins in your office and/or at events.
  2. When ordering stationery, fundraising resources etc, do so in bulk.  It costs less and reduces transport costs. 
  3. Where practicable buy products manufactured from recycled waste. 
  4. For fundraising, you can now buy items such as running vests made from recycled material and poly bags that are biodegradable and;
  5. Rather than printing leaflets, posters, fundraiser packs, etc create digital versions - not only more eco friendly, these are also easier to share and cost less. 
  6. To find eco friendly suppliers, try the Green Providers Directory.
    1. Note - I don't know if this is a commercial company.  
  7. To find charity specific suppliers, or for advice, try the Charity Eco Hub Face Book page. 
  8. If you're working with a commercial partner, you may wish to ensure they've signed up to the TRUST (Trader Recycling Universal Standard) registration scheme.
  9. Unused or single copied paper should be recycled as scrap paper.
    1. For sensitive or confidential information, use a cross cut shredder, then recycle it. 
  10. Double sided printing and back to back photocopying should be undertaken where practicable.
  11. Don’t automatically print e-mails and documents. Retaining them on the hard drive reduces toner and paper usage, and you can find them again, if you need to.
  12. Make use of e-mail in preference to hard copy mail.
    1. For example, for distribution of minutes of meetings. This not only avoids wasting resources, but is cheaper and quicker.
  13. Encourage the use of water in jugs at meetings rather than plastic water bottles. Make your own 'posh water' by adding slices of orange, lemon, cucumber, strawberry, whatever.
  14. If you need a water bottle for car/train journeys, the gym etc make it a re-usable one.
  15. Where water dispensers are provided, consider installing those that draw and cool mains water, rather than bottled supplies.
  16. Where possible encourage the use of fair-trade tea and coffee, and other products.
  17. If it is practicable rechargeable batteries should be used, this is both economical and is far better for the environment.
  18. Don’t buy fruit/vegetables pre-packed – it’s more expensive and creates plastic waste.
  19. When you do buy loose fruit/vegetables, leave them loose and don’t use plastic bags.
  20. Buy UK, ideally local, instead of overseas produced food (and other materials) and try to buy in-season foods – it’s cheaper, healthier, reduces air miles and supports local businesses. 
  21. If you do need to use disposable plates/cutlery at an event, buy cardboard, not plastic.

Environmental Policy Section 2 - Managing Waste.

  1. Where cost effective, every effort should be made to recycle waste, such as cardboard, glass, paper and plastics.
  2. The Hippo ‘Grants Up for Grabs’ scheme awards free waste disposal help to applications from UK charities and community groups.
  3. Mobile phone, and toner and cartridge recycling can generate some income. 
  4. Include energy efficiency in your purchasing of electronic equipment - you'll use less energy, when you use them, and less waste when you dispose of them. 
    1. Some supermarkets have battery recycling boxes you can dump your batteries into and most waste sites will take you elecronics.   
  5. Hazardous items, such as oils, chemicals, fluorescent tubes, batteries etc, and electrical items must be disposed of properly and not simply dumped in the bin.
  6. Encourage the use of effective environmentally friendly cleaning products and other products such as e-cloths.
  7. A guide to minimising water waste in your office.

Environmental Policy Section 3 - Energy Use.

  1. When you next review your utilities, consider purchasing renewable energy. It probably not as costly as you think and, even if it cost a bit more, price isn’t everything.  
  2. Ensure that staff are aware of the benefits of energy efficient systems including benefits to themselves in their own homes
  3. Energy efficient lighting should be used to replace any tungsten bulbs.
  4. People should be encouraged to turn off lights, televisions, monitors and other equipment when not in use.  It's more environmentally friendly, saves money and helps reduce fire risk.  
  5. Where practicable, heating should be turned down or off in unoccupied rooms or areas, with heating reduced to ‘frost protection’ levels when unoccupied; eg Christmas.
  6. Ensure that doors and windows are not left open after cease work to save on heating costs and improve security. 
  7. Doors and windows should be draught proofed where practicable, loft spaces checked to ensure insulation is adequate, and pipes and hot water tanks should be properly lagged.
  8. Want more?  Here are a whole series of office energy efficiency guides from the Carbon Trust. 

Environmental Policy Section 4 - Water Use.

  1. Turn off or repair dripping taps, which can waste up to 10,000 litres of water a year.
  2. Cut down on the amount of water in toilet cisterns by placing a water-filled bottle in there or a bag filled with stones.
  3. In hot weather turning the tap on to gain access to colder water can be wasteful; therefore a jug of the water run should be filled and placed in the fridge.

Environmental Policy Section 5 - Emissions and Transport.

  1. Encourage drivers to not hard accelerate and brake, which wastes petrol. Cruising saves fuel and you get to your destination less stressed. 
  2. Ensure that staff, where practicable, make use of the public transport system.
  3. Encourage shared transport use by staff where it is practicable.
  4. Source goods and services locally, where this is cost effective.
  5. Coordinate meeting timings and locations to minimise travel.
  6. Review the work of meetings to reduce committee sizes and frequency of meetings and use online.  It cuts travel, can save wasted work time and is always popular. 
  7. Avoid automatic attendance at meetings on every occasion and, instead staff should only attend when an active role is required.
  8. If you travel by plane, book a non-stop flight, because these take the most direct route to the destination.
  9. Fly economy - business class carbon footprint is typically double ecomony. Surely nobody flies business class - I know an environmental charity where a director always flew busines class. 

Charity Environmental Regulation & Responsibilities

You can find the official guidance in Charity Commission RS17 (Charities And Environmental Responsibilities). There is also legislation governing waste and the environment, such as the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Energy Performance Of Buildings regulations.   

The Commission found that increasing numbers of charities were responding to environmental concerns, but that some charity trustees opposed this on the grounds it would not be a legitimate use of the charity's resources.  If a charity, not working on environmental issues, wanted to buy an expensive recycling machine, purely to protect the environment, I'd agree.  However, the environment falls within the scope of many charities' objects, many of the ideas above are cost neutral, or very low cost, and some will even earn or save money.  

For charity shops, here's a regulatory guidance note from the Charity Retail Association

Charity Environmental & Recycling Resources

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