Co-working hubs are a relatively new concept which are taking off in many parts of the world. Essentially, co-working involves sharing office space and resources in a collaborative, community environment that typically attracts like-minded entrepreneurs, freelancers and people who run their own businesses. Co-working office spaces are becoming an attractive alternative to individually owning or renting offices as they can save members money, resources and offer a place where people can share ideas, network and interact.
There are a growing number of co-working spaces across Africa, although compared with North America, Europe and Asia, there is still al lot of scope for expansion. By their very nature, co-working hubs tend to have less of an environmental impact, as they facilitate sharing of resources and more efficient use of resources. For example, instead of 100 people each renting, buying or building office space and office resources such as a printers, fax machines and stationery – co-working hubs offer access to shared space and facilities which means fewer resources are consumed and resources are used more efficiently.
Some co-working hubs around the world are taking their commitment to sustainability even further. For example, certain co-working hubs are powered by renewable energy like solar and wind, are built using natural building materials and techniques, encourage waste recycling and minimization, grow their own organic vegetables and have sustainable procurement policies.
Goba Hub in Accra (Ghana) is partly powered by renewable energy which has helped to provide energy security and a competitive edge in times of power outages. In the absence of running water, it has created a rainwater reservoir which is used to flush toilets and Goba Hub encourages quick flushing to minimize water use. Goba Hub also encourages paper re-use and printing to be kept to a minimum.
The District in Cairo (Egypt) is a co-working space, which has started its own organic rooftop food garden, uses energy efficient lights, encourages re-use of waste paper and is introducing the popularizing the concept of upcycling – they recently hosted a wood upcycling workshop.
The Office in Kigali (Rwanda) uses locally sourced resources in nearly all their design and construction elements, as well as reclaimed furniture. They have established themselves as a center for different groups of intellectuals to congregate and share ideas, including the environmental community in Rwanda. They hosted a sustainability-themed event, in which they showed environmental themed TED talks, and invited representatives from a new government-sponsored climate-change fund (FONERWA) to discuss how Rwanda is working to finance and support green initiatives. The Office plans to host similar events in future to engage the community on green issues.
The Hub in Kampala (Uganda) minimizes waste from their restaurant and work space, have a herbal garden which is used is ingredients in their cooking, support local vegetables sellers (mostly organic) to supply their restaurant, and they collect rain water which is used for cleaning and occasional watering of their garden. The HUB Kampala also host some sustainable social enterprises including Solar Sister.
Hubspace in Cape Town (South Africa) uses energy efficient LED lights throughout the majority of their coworking space and switch off all appliances and lights at night to minimize energy usage. They also recycle glass, paper, tin and plastic, which is collected bi-monthly by a local recycling company. This has even encouraged some members to bring their home waste to Hubspace for recycling. Hubspace also helps raise awareness about sustainable lifestyles by hosting monthly films and talks in collaboration with a local sustainability consultancy.