Who says going green starts at home? While greener homes are getting a lot of attention these days, the office or workplace is full of great green opportunities, too. The fact is, many people spend more time at work and commuting than they get to spend at home with their families. It is yet another place where you can have a big impact environmentally, with just a few easy changes.
Probably one of the biggest environmental benefits you can get in the workplace happens before you even get there. Transportation is a key area for reducing your carbon footprint at work.
If you are an employer, consider setting up a carpool service, where you match interested employees with carpoolers in their area. Encourage employees to bike or walk to work. Consider offering a telecommuting option, if possible. Or perhaps an alternate work week such as four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days?
If you are an employee, walk, seek out carpools or utilize public transportation as an alternative to driving into work every day. Ask your employer about the possibility of flex time or the availability of working from home or telecommuting.
Cars produce about 30 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions. It’s simple—less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving gas, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Plus, every gallon of gas you save helps not only your wallet, it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Now that you’ve arrived at the office, it’s time to make the most out of what you do while you are there. Office equipment like computers, printers and copiers account for 16 percent of an office’s energy usage. Save energy by putting computers and printers in sleep mode and powering down machines when you leave the office for the night.
Energy isn’t the only area of the office to see money flying out the window. In a typical office setting, each employee generates about 1.5 pounds of paper waste per day. You can cut down on this waste by viewing documents on your computer instead of printing them out, and making hard copies only when absolutely necessary. Use recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled material and be sure to use both sides of the paper. You can set up printers and copiers to print on both sides of each sheet. Be sure to buy paper and other office supplies in bulk to save on packaging waste.
To keep cutting waste out of your workplace, have reusable coffee mugs at the coffee machine instead of disposable, or encourage everyone to bring their own mug from home. Make available reusable water bottles, perhaps with your company emblem or logo, to employees instead of offering bottled water. If you have a beverage vending machine that uses its own cups, make sure they are recyclable or see if the machine allows you to use your own reusable mug instead of dispensing a paper or plastic cup each time it makes a beverage.
It costs about $225 a year in energy costs to operate an average vending machine. Ask the machine operator about an occupancy sensor for the machine. This reduces the power requirements during periods of inactivity. If the energy saving benefits aren’t enough to persuade you, you can save an average of $100 a year.
Don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave a room and look into replacing those old fluorescent office light fixtures with more energy-efficient lighting and light office signs and exit signs with lower-energy bulbs.
Finally, ramp up recycling efforts at the office by making it easy to do. Place recycling bins in easily accessible, high-traffic areas around the workplace. Get in the habit of recycling everything your office or company collects. Just about any kind of paper you would encounter in an office, including fax paper, envelopes and junk mail, can be recycled. So can cell phones, pagers, ink cartridges, and PDAs.
Have your own green ideas? Talk to your office manager or boss about implementing some of these and other greener workplace policies.