written by: Tania Cowling•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 10/15/2011
Today we are emerging on new lifestyles to go green saving the Earth as well as a healthier environment for our children and us. If we do this at home, why not the office?
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Make a Difference
There are small ways that employees can go green in their personal offices or cubicles; however, the most important step to go green in the workplace is to persuade administrators to adopt environmentally friendly and cost effective policies. Here are some ways to go green in your office and reduce the carbon footprint overall.
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Let's start with paper - the use of paper is a staple of the workplace; it’s easy to use and easy to throw away. An effective way to reduce paper waste is through email. When communicating with clients, determine if an email memo would do just as well as the paper version. Set up files on the computer to keep memos in the appropriate places. The use of zip drives and CD-ROMs can store the contents of a room full of paper. Notices to the staff can be paperless and even avoid the email box by placing a memo on a dry-erase bulletin board in the staff meeting room or kitchen. These boards also do well for presentations along with overhead projections or electronic software presentations, like PowerPoint. When distributing manuals to employees, think about using an e-book instead of a paper copy. If it is necessary to have a paper tablet to jot down a message, think reuse. Take old letters, junk mail, etc. cut to size and staple into a homemade tablet.
Always think before you print! If printing is necessary, use both sides of the paper. As far as eco-friendly practices, use recycled paper that is chlorine-free and/or use alternatives made from bamboo, hemp, and organic cotton.
Cut down on paper in the staff kitchen by avoiding paper products and go for real dishes and cups. Set up a schedule for employees to wash the dishes for the day or staff members can bring in their own dishes and be responsible for their own eating utensils.
Last, request to be removed from mailing lists that send unwanted catalogs, newsletters, and junk mail.
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Going back to paper, if your office does have excess paper, think about giving it to schools to use in the classroom or invite employees to take paper home for their children to draw and color on. Shred your important, but unnecessary paper and use it for packing materials. Always give paper a second life!
Your office printers use a lot of ink. Instead of continuously buying new cartridges, think about refilling the ink at office supply stores. It is much cheaper and saves landfills from all those plastic cartridges!
What about the office furniture - can it be refurbished versus buying new products? If you are in need of office décor, think about shopping for remanufactured furniture. Think about real wood instead of products made from particleboard full of formaldehyde and other noxious chemicals. Make sure carpeting and paint is VOC (volatile organic compounds) free to prevent the release of chemicals in the air.
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Cut Down on Energy
Nothing is better than a lower power bill, but better yet feeling a sense of pride when helping to reduce energy waste, which in turn, helps save the Earth. Maintain the office with the use of compact fluorescent bulbs. According to Office Depot, this saves up to 75% energy when using the Energy Star rated bubs. An even greater saving is to use daylight rather then artificial light if possible. Moving a desk near a window saves energy and the environment.
Make it an office policy to turn off lights and computers at the end of the workday. Office Depot states that one 100-watt bulb left on for one hour consumes 36.5-kilowatt hours of energy per year. Multiply that by all the lights you have in your office.
Set computers to sleep mode during the day, during small breaks. It is said that screen savers do not save energy. By plugging office equipment into power strips makes it easy to just flick one button to do this deed at the end of the day.
When buying new office equipment, make it a new habit to look for only Energy Star-rated equipment. These new computers and printers literally power down when not in use.
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Liven Up Your Office with a Little Green
Nothing is more relaxing and healthy than live, green plants in the office. They bring a Zen feeling and clean the air of indoor pollution.
These ways to go green in your office are only a few of the many eco-friendly ideas to help save the environment. If you happen to have a home office or own your own business, take a look at Why Should A Business Go Green? for more ideas.