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Green Tips for the Office

Green Tips for the Office

By Shelby Robinson
©Shelby Robinson
July 19, 2009

Wondering how to turn your office green?  Whether your office is at work or in your home, there are many changes you can make that will help your wallet AND the environment.  Some may even reduce your stress level and give you more free time!

Shop Green

* Purchase products produced with the environment in mind or by companies that are minimizing their environmental impact
* Buy printers that print 2-sided and set to double-sided printing
* Buy in bulk
* Buy products that use less packaging
* To improve air quality and reduce risks to employees AND the environment, use non-toxic cleaners
* Avoid PVC, Styrofoam, and aluminum
* Buy office supplies and furnishings that are made of recycled materials and are recyclable or biodegradable

Miscellaneous Ideas

* Live close to where you work
* Walk, bike, skateboard,carpool, or use mass transit to get to work
* If you drive, get a hybrid or fuel efficient car
* Run errands on your way to and from work. You'll avoid extra trips and will have more free time as a bonus!
* Have at least one day a week be a non-driving day
* Implement a program of incentives for employees who bike, walk, skateboard, carpool, or use mass transit to get to work; do the same for those who recycle and save energy
* Create a team to improve green practices in your office
* If your office is large enough, hire an energy/transportation/environmental coordinator.  The savings could pay for their salary in a short time!

Use Less and Recycle More Paper

On average, each employee generates 1.5 pounds of waste paper each day, most of which is NOT recycled! And 40% of the solid waste in the U.S. is paper!  According to The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the pulp and paper industry is " of the most environmentally destructive industries in the world."  ( Conscientious use of paper can help reduce the impact AND encourage paper companies to change their practices. As an added bonus, you could save approximately 20% on your paper costs; that's $70 per year for each employee! Here are some ways to help:

* Print emails only when you really need a hard copy
* Use email instead of faxes or paper when possible
* Print this message on your emails: "Please consider the environment before printing this email."
* When writing, use both sides of your paper
* Copy documents on both sides
* Go paperless with your payroll
* Keep mailing lists current to cut down on printing
* Print only what you really need. For example, when giving a PowerPoint presentation, don't give everyone a hard copy; email it later to those who want one.
* Re-use one-sided copies in your printer and fax; print on the back side for drafts
* Re-use boxes and envelops. You can include a note explaining why you do this so recipients understand the appearance of their package.
* Buy printer paper with a minimum 30% post consumer recycled content (the more, the better) that is PCF (Processed Chlorine Free)
* Write "Printed on recycled paper" on your documents
* If you need colored paper, use pastels
* Use slightly wider margins and smaller fonts to reduce paper usage
* Work on drafts electronically in word processing programs
* Reduce the number of periodicals you subscribe to.  Work out a system to avoid duplicates and share with co-workers, family, and friends
* Reduce unwanted mail. Send postcards or emails to mailers asking that they remove your name from their lists. The National Waste Prevention Coalition has many other suggestions:
* Set up an account with Catalog Choice to stop receiving unwanted catalogs:
* Help your company create a paper-use and recycling policy

Recycle and Use Recyclables

* Set up recycling bins for paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic. Educate employees and cleaning crews about your system
* Use re-usable glasses for water instead of paper cups or bottled water. Get your own water filtering pitcher if you don't want tap water; you'll make up the cost quickly
* Re-use your own coffee mug in the office AND at the coffee shop (some of them give you a small discount if you BYOM!)
* Recycle cell phones and re-chargeable batteries
* Recycle office equipment, including computers, printers, and monitors. Go to for information on locations in your area
* Re-furbish ink cartridges
* If these aren't available in your area, recycle cartridges and use recycled ones
* Eliminate Styrofoam, plastic, and paper utensils, plates, and napkins.  Use real ones and wash them.

Conserve Water

* Check faucets and toilets for leaks and fix them
* Use low-flow toilets and faucet aerators
* Minimize water use in landscaping

Conserve Energy

Office equipment uses about 16% of energy costs.  Consider this: If every monitor and computer in the U.S. were turned off at night, we could shut down 8 power plants and keep 7 million tons of Co2 out of the atmosphere! 70% of electricity and 40% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. come from heating and cooling offices. Lighting accounts for 29% of the energy used in an office. Here are some ways to help:
* Use compact fluorescent bulbs. You can save 50-80% by switching to energy efficient lighting!
* Replace old T-12 fluorescent fixtures with T-8 ones. They use 20% less energy, flicker less, and produce better color!
* Unplug your cell phone charger when not in use
* Install occupancy sensors in all rooms. It's easy and inexpensive
* Choose equipment with the highest energy efficiency. Check ratings on the Energy Star Website:
* Save about 10% on electricity by adjusting thermostats up (summer) or down (winter) a few degrees
* Use power strips to turn off appliances that don't need to be on at night (they continue to draw energy if plugged into an outlet). You save about 40 watts of energy for each appliance that's plugged into a power strip.
* Turn off lights after hours
* Get a free (or inexpensive) energy audit from your utility company. They'll help you save money AND energy
* Set your computers to automatically go into sleep mode when inactive. Look in System Preferences under the Apple menu in Macs and on the Control Panel in Windows for this and other energy saving features
* Don't replace your old computer; repair and upgrade to save some resources
* If you do replace equipment, make sure it's energy efficient and has expandable memory slots. Use this Electronics Assessment Tool from the Green Electronics Council:
* Searching for new office space? Look for a place close to home so you don't have to drive
* Look for a Green Certified Building.  Contact the US Green Building Council for information on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED):

Natural Resources Defense Council:
Chris Kaucnik:

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