According to a TIME Magazine article, heating, air conditioning, and electricity for American businesses produce about 40% of our nation’s CO2 emissions and account for around 70% of our power consumption. The following first steps will not only yield a greener office with a smaller carbon footprint, but also promote a happier workplace, and a healthier bottom line. These 10 are just a start. I’ll share more in the coming months
1. Use Power Strips
“Phantom loads” occur when devices that appear turned off still draw electricity — such as appliances with digital clocks and electronics with instant-on capability. Office equipment can be bundled onto one power strip for easy switching off when not in use, but make sure the power strips are accessible and visible so everyone remembers to use them.
2. Kick the Bottled Water Habit
It is estimated that Americans toss out over 35 billion plastic water bottles annually, and workplaces are some of the largest sources of that plastic bottle trash. Consider using a water delivery service or buying a water filter for the kitchen faucet along with a supply of reusable cups.
3. Buy Recycled Paper
Opt for 100% recycled content paper, paper towels, and toilet paper. For printed sales and marketing brochures, investigate alternatives in post-consumer recycled paper. Luckily, many recycled paper vendors now sell high post-consumer content recycled products at prices comparable to traditional paper products.
4. Stop Stapling
Use reusable binder clips or paper clips to join pages, or buy a “stapleless” fastener to avoid buying staples altogether. You will keep tons of steel out of landfills.
5. Go Paperless
Employing a cloud-based project management system as much as possible allows team members access to key information resources, without the need for lots of printouts. Some examples of these systems include Jive, BaseCamp, Google Docs, and Wave.
6. Think Outside the Cubicle
Carpools and public transit benefit both the environment and the employees. Initiate some of these simple ideas if you are the business owner or suggest them to your boss:
- Suggest four-day work weeks or telecommuting. (Working fewer days per week or telecommuting can substantially reduce transportation and fuel expenses.)
- Ask your employer to offer carpool-matching plans connecting employees with co-workers who live nearby or on the same route to the office.
- Provide parking incentives such as prime parking spots for carpoolers.
- Encourage bicycling and walking to the office by conveniently locating bike racks near the workplace.
- Offer financial incentives for these options.
ENERGY STAR qualified computers can use up to 90% less energy than desktop models so, whenever possible, ditch the desktops.
8. Give the Gift of Green
Whether you are buying a special gift for a client or a present for an office baby shower, try to buy environmentally friendly or Fair Trade items to show that you care about your customers and co-workers as well as the planet.
9. Offer Organic Coffee & Tea
This is our favorite. Ask your office manager to stock organic or Fair Trade coffee for the break room. Ask your co-workers to bring in their favorite coffee mug or water glass and get some mugs (preferably with your company logo) for visiting clients to eliminate disposable cup waste.
10. Track and Celebrate Your Success
Last but not least, post explanations of what you’re doing and how much you’ve accomplished near each “greened space” — and include how the changes make sense environmentally and financially. People tend to respond more favorably when they know the reason behind a decision and feel they are included in the effort rather than having it imposed top-down. Share these and any other green office tips you find with your office mates and consider electing a “Sustainability Manager” to oversee recycling, energy usage, and research more green office alternatives.