Greening the office does not mean spending a lot of money or eliminating creature comforts in the name of sustainable living. In fact, many green choices can save the company money instead of being a fiscal drain. For the most part, greening the office requires conscious choices, choosing reusable over disposable, and conservation over immediate convenience. Given how much time people spend at work, greening the office is a logical extension of people wanting to find eco-friendly solutions elsewhere in their lives.
Items you will need:
- Eco-friendly coffee
- Recycling bins
- Green cleaning products
Replace the office coffee with a fair-trade, shade-grown or organic version. Fair-trade coffees are produced and purchased from farmers with livable wages for both themselves and their employees. Shade-grown coffee was grown under the canopy of trees, which means that rain forests were not cut down to grow the coffee beans. Organic coffees are grown without treatment from toxic pesticides and herbicides, lowering both the consumers' and the earth's exposure to toxins (see References 3).
Replace disposable paper cups with washable, reusable mugs. Have everyone in the office bring their own mug from home instead of using paper cups for water, tea and coffee every day. An office of 15 people replacing their three paper cups a day each with a washable, reusable mug would save 11,250 paper cups from being purchased and tossed. This step saves the company money and space in the local landfill.
Use the energy-saver settings on all electronics and turn them off when you leave for the day. Have the computers set to go into sleep mode if untouched for 10 or 15 minutes. Use motion sensors or timers on overhead lighting to prevent lighting empty rooms. Power down printers, fax machines and computers at the end of the day to save electricity and lower the power bill.
Use 100 percent recycled paper for all of your printing needs. It takes a lot of resources to cut, produce and bleach virgin wood for paper. Recycled paper takes postconsumer waste and recycles it into paper to conserve resources and make use of materials that would have otherwise been waste in a landfill (see References 4).
Purchase eco-friendly office supplies. Many retailers now offer green options for traditional products, with items made from reclaimed or recycled materials as well as those that use less resources and material to make. Some items are reusable themselves such as refillable ink cartridges or pens.
Go as paperless as possible. Do not print an email if you don't have to: instead, archive and save it. Send contracts via email and electronically sign them if possible instead of printing and faxing. While few offices can go totally paperless, most can cut down a majority of their printing projects to just the essentials.
Offer recycling options in the office. Have bins set up to hold paper, plastic, metal, ink cartridges and even batteries. Recycling helps conserve natural resources by reusing materials from broken, worn and discarded items.
Encourage eco-friendly transportation. Offer incentives to employees for carpooling or public transportation use. Allowing even part-time telecommuting cuts office costs, makes a lighter ecological footprint and can improve employee morale.
Run the air conditioning and heating a little less. During the winter, set the temperature to no higher than 68 degrees Fahrenheit and no lower than 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. This act alone will save most offices hundreds of dollars over the course of a year (see Reference 5). With these thermostat settings, people can dress more to the weather instead of how hot or cold the office will be.
Use eco-friendly products to clean the office. Many of the toxins people are exposed to regularly come from the toxic cleaners sold to clean, sanitize and deodorize homes and businesses. With so many brands now offering effective and affordable nontoxic, eco-friendly cleaners, cleaning green is a viable option.
- Greener Computing; Three Steps to Green Your Office Printing Practices; Michelle Price; Aug. 4, 2010.
- NEERG; Green Your Office with 7 Simple Steps; Apr. 25, 2011.
- Organic Consumers Association: Fair Trade & Shade Grown Organic Coffee -- A Growing Movement
- Treecycle Recycled Paper: Use Post Consumer! It is the Goal!
- Energy Star.gov: Programmable Thermostats for Consumers
Based in Southern California, Daniel Holzer has been a freelance writer specializing in labor issues, personal finance and green living since 2004. His recent work has appeared online at Green Your Apartment and other websites. Holzer studied English literature at California State University, Fullerton.
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