Going green in the workplace involves taking steps, from how you use products on a daily basis to decisions you make on your lunch break. A green workplace starts with conscious efforts that, one by one, lead to a powerful impact.
Think Before Printing
10,000 sheets. That’s how much copy paper the typical office worker uses in one year in the United States. Before you print, ask yourself how necessary it is; will an online version serve the same purpose? Being green means being digital as much as possible; when you really can’t avoid printing, choose recycled paper and print double-sided copies.
Working from home cuts the commute. Advances in technology have transformed the way in which we work and communicate. Through digital communication—phone conferences and email—many jobs don’t require people to physically commute into the office. If you’re unable to work from home five days a week, consider speaking with your boss about working from home one day a week or reshaping your work week to four, 10-hour days.
Computer Settings & Equipment
At the office, the computer is the keeper of files and the means of most communication. Along with its accessories (printers, scanners, etc.), that’s a lot of power being used on a daily basis. At the end of the day, shutting down the computer (as opposed to logging off) saves energy and ensures that your computer takes a rest at night. And remember to turn off the lights too—artificial lighting sucks up 44 percent of electricity in offices.
Make the office green by using products that display the Energy Star approval for energy efficiency. These products use 30 to 75 percent less electricity, compared with other office equipment on the market. Energy Star cites promising results in recent years: “Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2010 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 33 million cars—all while saving nearly $18 billion on their utility bills.”
Green office supplies, from eco-friendly furniture to shipping materials and pencils, can be found at the following locations:
- Ahrend (office furniture)
- EcoWork (office furniture)
- ForestChoice (writing supplies)
- Geämi (packing materials)
- The Green Office (office supplies)
- GreenWorks (cleaning supplies)
- Steelcase (furniture, lighting, and worktool solutions)
- Treecycle Recycled Paper (office and cleaning products)
- Wilkhahn (office furniture)
What You Eat
Several browsers are open on the desktop, one hand mindlessly scrolling the mouse, while the other robotically stuffs whatever available snack you could find into your mouth. If this sounds all too familiar, maybe it’s time to do some green thinking concerning your food. Take advice from writer Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food. He warns against the dangers of digital surfing or other such distractions during mealtimes, pointing out that the “food” most of us are eating is anything but. Multitasking and hectic schedules sidetrack us from making healthy choices, and more likely to grab packaged snacks.
Lunch—and all other meals, in fact—deserve a time and place set aside for one thing, and one thing only: to eat a meal. Not to hurriedly stuff anything in your face while scanning the Web, but to thoughtfully savor the food before you. Pollan’s thinking follows that conscious eating comes from conscious meal-planning.
How You Eat
Go green with an updated twist to brown bagging. Nylon lunch sacks (available online at The Container Store) mimic the look of the classic brown bag but provide a reusable—and stylish—option. Bringing a homemade lunch to work or school in reusable containers is not only healthier, it also eliminates waste.
Keep a water bottle handy for hydration—and waste-saving—and use a coffee mug for caffeine refills (all those trips to the corner café contribute to heaps of empty coffee cups). Instead of plastic utensils, opt for utensils provided in the office kitchen or keep a set of your own that you can reuse. On the days when you do eat out, take a stroll instead of driving to your lunch spot.
The determination to go green at work is important, but so is how you choose to get there. Whether you live in a major metropolis, teeming with public transit options, or a suburban area, you have many options to conserve energy—carpool, bike, walk, or take the subway.
Are there other people in the office who can help form a shared commute? Organize a carpool or a group bike commute. It may not seem like much of an impact when you consider only your single effort. But creating a combined and growing effort can save eight billion gallons of gas per year in the United States if every car carries one extra person.
More Green Tips
- Recycle: Locate local recycling or donation services for paper, bottles, cans, compost, and printing cartridges and other electronic items.
- Choose Fair Trade: Select fair trade suppliers for your office’s coffee and tea, as well as other products like tote bags or T-shirts.
- Keep it Fun: Implementing changes will take time. Encouraging office colleagues to go green and maintaining office pride in your efforts will keep your green campaign a rewarding path toward success.