Greening the Office: 22 Ways You Can Green the Office on April 22nd

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I’ve always been troubled by Earth Day. On the one hand, it’s nice to give Mother Earth a day all her own. A day when we all stop to recognize her beauty, and make a more conscious effort to treat her right. Which leads to my trouble with Earth Day. It’s frightening that she only gets one day. ONE DAY?! Surely she deserves more TLC than one day’s worth. She deserves 365 days of TLC. After all, she’s no spring chicken.

That said, whether you’re an eco-conscious employee or a tree-hugging business owner, every little bit counts. But let’s take it beyond that one bleeding heart office worker who is always fighting the good fight alone. Make it a top-down initiative.

If your entire office is chipping in to reduce the ecological footprint, imagine the difference you can make. Large businesses matter. Small businesses matter. Heck, even solo-operation home office workers matter.

Take a look at the list below to see how you can improve your efforts. I’m not asking you to physically hug a tree or make a decision to “live off the land,” but I am asking you to implement at least five things on this list. You can do that…right?

Paper, Products & Supplies

  1. Institute an office recycle program by planting clearly posted bins in high traffic areas of your office for paper, and do the same in your kitchen area for aluminum cans, bottles and cardboard.
  2. Purchase green or recycled products. If you’re interested in seeing how far we’ve come in terms of greening, check out this Wall Street Journal “by-the-numbers” overview.
  3. Attach a “think twice before printing” line to your email signature and follow suit…avoid the “Command + P” or “Ctrl + P” button.
  4. When you DO need to print, set up your printer to print double sided and in draft quality. If you need multiple copies, print one and copy the rest. According to this ZDNet post, it takes about 10 times more energy to manufacture a sheet of paper than to copy an image onto it.
  5. Remember note taking? If you’re an old schooler like me who still uses the occasional pad of paper, reuse the blank side of used sheets of (recycled) paper. Waste not, want not.
  6. Upload all user guides, employee handbooks, benefits packets and any other forms to shared drives or intranet portals.
  7. Use environmentally safe cleaning products. There are loads of brick-and-mortar retailers that carry them, or you can buy online.
  8. Institute laser and ink cartridge recycling programs. You can even make a bit of money by taking them to your local Staples store through their Eco Easy Program. (You might even consider donating the proceeds to a local environmental organization.)
  9. Ditch the plastic ware and stock the office kitchen with reusable dishes, cups and mugs. While you’re at it, keep your caffeine addicts running with fair trade coffee.

    Equipment

  10. Set all office equipment (including computers) to energy save mode. Pretty self-explanatory. Most devices have an energy setting. Find it. Use it.
  11. Disconnect all equipment before leaving for the day. Also, if there’s equipment in the office you only use sporadically, only plug it in when you need to use it.
  12. Place ads for any outdated furniture on recycle sites such as Freecycle or One Work Place.
  13. Be sure to maintain your HVAC systems by replacing outdated equipment and regularly changing ac filters.
  14. In the summer, set temperature controls to 75 to 80 degrees during regular office hours and above 80 once employees have left for the day. The same applies for the wintertime with heat settings.

    Lighting

  15. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights. Also replace incandescent EXIT signs with LED signs. According to Salt River Project, they use about one-tenth the wattage and last 50 times longer than incandescent-lamp signs
  16. Set your lights to function on a timer so they automatically turn off after regular business hours. Also, turn the lights off when no one is in the room (such as the kitchen, meeting rooms, bathrooms, etc.)
  17. Use natural light whenever possible to avoid using unnecessary overhead lights. A little Vitamin D is good for you.

    Transportation

  18. Provide incentives for employees who drive hybrid vehicles, vanpool, carpool, bike or take public transportation to work. Gift cards, extra vacation days and raffle entries are all great ways to entice employees to commute smarter.
  19. Whenever possible, encourage employees to telecommute. In fact, telecommuting can actually increase productivity and lower costs. The White House even conducted a study to support this notion.

    Miscellaneous

  20. Avoid spreading harmful metal contaminants into the environment by recycling batteries. You can even find battery-recycling centers near you.
  21. Either get qualified yourself or send a company representative to a LEED certification course. It could save your company a significant amount of money AND benefit the environment. A win-win, yes? Find a U.S. Green Building Council Chapter near you.
  22. Enlist your office green thumbs and start an office garden. Not only will you and your employees be eating healthier, but you’ll be able to take comfort in knowing you’re doing something extremely innovative and altruistic.

Granted, some of these are merely common sensical reminders, but hopefully some of the tips listed above get you thinking about changing some of your office habits. And not just on the 22nd of every April but year round.

There are probably hundreds, maybe even thousands of ways we can all be better environmental citizens and we’ve only touched on 25 of them here. What are some other ways you’ve found to conserve resources in your business operations? Leave them in the comments below and help us grow the list.

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