10 Ways To Go Green At Work
Greener homes are in the spotlight these days, but what about the other places (like our office) where many of us spend huge chunks of our time? Some simple changes of habit can save energy and resources outside of the home, and these small steps can also be adopted as environmentally friendly policies that can fulfill social responsibility, as well as lower some operating costs.
- Be Bright About Light: Artificial lighting accounts for almost half of the electricity use in public buildings. Make a habit to turn off the lights when you’re leaving any room for 15 minutes or more. You should also utilize natural light when you can. A policy can also be made to buy Energy Star-rated light bulbs and fixtures, which use at least 2/3 less energy than regular lighting. Timers and motion sensors can also be installed that automatically shut off lights when they’re not needed.
- Maximize Computer Efficiency: Computers in the business sector are a huge waste of electricity. Make it a habit to turn off your computer – and the power strip it is plugged into – when you leave for the day. Otherwise, you’re still burning energy even if you’re not burning the midnight oil at work (before you do this, check with your IT department to make sure your computer doesn’t need to be on to run backups or other maintenance). During the day, setting your computer to go to sleep automatically during short breaks can cut energy use as well. Remember, screen savers don’t save energy. Make it a policy to invest in energy-saving computers, monitors and printers and make sure that old equipment is properly recycled with a recycler that does not export hazardous e-waste and follows safety guidelines.
- Print Smarter: On average, a U.S. office employee goes through about 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year. Make it a habit to print on both sides or use the back side of old documents and faxes – as recycled paper. Avoid color printing and print in draft mode whenever feasible. Make it a policy to buy chlorine-free paper with higher percentages of post-consumer recycled content. Also consider switching to a lighter stock of paper or alternatives made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton or kenaf. Recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy remanufactured ones. According to Office Depot, each re-manufactured toner cartridge keeps approximately 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic out of landfills and conserves about a half gallon of oil.
- Go Paperless When Possible: Make it a habit to think before you print. Make it a policy to post employee manuals and similar materials online, rather than distribute printed copies. They are easier to update this way too. In addition, take advantage of paperless billing and make payments online, only printing out statements and checks that are absolutely necessary.
- Ramp Up Your Recycling: Make it a habit to recycle everything your company collects. Just about any kind of paper you would encounter in an office, including fax paper, envelopes and junk mail can be recycled along with old office cell phones, PDA’s or pagers. Make it a policy to place recycling bins in accessible, high-traffic areas and provide clear information about what can and cannot be recycled.
- Close the Loop: Make it policy to purchase office supplies and furniture made from recycled materials.
- Watch What (and How) You Eat: Make it a habit to bring your own mug and dishware for those meals you eat away from home. Make it a policy to provide reusable dishes, silverware and glasses. Switch to organic coffee and tea and buy as much local food as possible for parties and other events. Provide filtered drinking water to help reduce bottled-water intake.
- Reconsider Your Commute: Make it a habit to carpool, bike or take transit to work. Also, take advantage of the modern capabilities of telecommuting when possible. If you need to drive, consider joining a car-sharing service instead of owning your own car. Make it a policy to encourage telecommuting (a nice perk to reward employees with that is also good for the planet and offers overhead cost savings) and make it easy for employees to take alternative modes of transportation by subsidizing commuter checks, offering bike parking, or organizing a carpool board.
- Rethink Your Travel: Make it a habit to take the train, bus or subway when feasible instead of a rental car when traveling. If you have to rent a car, some agencies now offer hybrid and other high-mileage vehicles. Make it a policy to invest in video-conferencing and other technological solutions that can reduce the amount of employee travel.
- Create a Healthy Office Environment: Make it a habit to use nontoxic cleaning products. Brighten up your cubicles and offices with plants, which absorb indoor pollution. Make it a policy to buy furniture, carpeting and paint that is free of volatile organic compounds and won’t gas-off toxic chemicals.
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