More Work, Less Energy
For many people, a computer is the central tool at work. Optimizing the energy settings for computers and other devices can be more than a modest energy saver. Set computers to energy-saving settings and make sure to shut them down when you leave for the day (“standby” settings will continue to draw power even when not in use). By plugging hardware into a power strip with an on/off switch, the whole desktop setup can be turned off at once. And of course, turn off lights in spaces that are unoccupied.
It does seem a bit strange that in the “digital age” we still consume enormous amounts of paper. The greenest paper is no paper at all, so keep things digital and dematerialized whenever possible. The more you do online, the less you need paper. Keep files on computers instead of in file cabinets. Review documents onscreen rather than printing them out. Send emails instead of paper letters.
Don’t Be a Paper Pusher
When buying printer paper, look for recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content and the minimum of chlorine bleaching. When using the real stuff, print on both sides of the page when appropriate and use misprints as notepaper. Try to choose printers and photocopiers that do double-sided printing. If your office ships packages, reuse boxes and use shredded waste paper as packing material.
Greening the Commute
American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic. This adds up to 3.7 billion hours and 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year. We can ease some of this strain by taking public transit, biking, walking, or a creative combination thereof. If there’s no good way to phase out your car, consider getting a hybrid, electric vehicle, motorcycle, scooter. In developed European countries, some employers are even giving a bonus to bike and carpool commuters and special perks to hybrid drivers.
Work From Home
Instant messaging, video conferencing, and other innovative workflow tools make effective telecommuting a reality. If you can telecommute, hold phone conferences, take online classes, or otherwise work from home, give it a try. It’ll save you the time you would have spent on the trip as well as sparing the air. As a bonus, you get to work in your pajamas. Also, consider the possibility of working four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days (a consolidated workweek), cutting the energy and time spent on commuting by 20% and giving you some lovely three-day weekends.
Use Green Materials
Some paper use can’t be avoided, so use recycled paper and envelopes that have been processed and colored using eco-friendly methods. Pens and pencils can also be made of recycled materials, and refillable pens and markers are preferable to disposable ones. Use biodegradable soaps and recycled paper or cloth towels in the bathroom and kitchen, and provide biodegradable cleaners for the custodial staff. Buy in bulk so that shipping and packaging waste are reduced, and reuse the shipping boxes. Recycling printer cartridges is often free, and recycled replacements are cheaper than new ones.
Redesign the Workspace
Greening the space in which you work has almost limitless possibilities. Start with good furniture, good lighting, and good air. Furniturecan be manufactured from recycled materials as well as recyclable. Herman-Miller and Steelcase are two groundbreaking companies that have adopted the Cradle-to-Cradle protocol for many of their office chairs. Incandescent bulbs can be replaced with compact fluorescents and there is an ever-growing selection of high-end LED desk lamps that use miniscule amounts of energy. Not only is natural daylight a free source of lighting for the office, it has been proven to improve worker productivity and satisfaction (as well as boost sales in retail settings). Workspace air quality is also crucial. Good ventilation and low-VOC paints and materials (such as furniture and carpet) will keep employees healthy.
Bringing lunch to work in reusable containers is likely the greenest (and healthiest) way to eat at work. Getting delivery and takeout almost inevitably ends with a miniature mountain of packaging waste. But if you do order delivery, join coworkers in placing a large order (more efficient than many separate ones). Also, bring in a reusable plate, utensils, and napkins. If you do go out for lunch, try biking or walking instead of driving.
Where to Get Green Office Products
The following links are just a few examples of places to go for green office supplies.
- Ahrend Eco-friendly office furniture http://www.allsteeloffice.com/
- EcoWork eco-friendly office furniture (The amazing feature of the Ecowork EG green office furniture product is its composition of 95% recycled and rapidly renewable materials) http://www.ecowork.com/
- ForestChoice pencils from certified-sustainable cedar http://www.forestchoice.com/
- Geämi eco-friendly packing and shipping materials http://www.geami.com/
- The Green Office http://www.thegreenoffice.com/
- GreenWorks, supplying used furniture to offices and schools in the UK http://www.green-works.co.uk/
- Herman Miller http://www.hermanmiller.com/
- Legaré Furniture, office furniture made with sustainable materials http://legarefurniture.com/
- The Waterless Printing Association http://www.waterless.org/
- Steelcase http://www.steelcase.com
- Treecycle Recycled Paper http://www.treecycle.com/