Eco-Friendly Steps You Can Make in Your Office

September 7, 2010 View all articles in Office

Our Short Steps to a Greener Office article gives you a comprehensive look at all the ways an office may be made into an eco-friendly environment. If you can't make your entire office green, you might want to know about some small changes that are equally, or even more, effective and impactful. Perhaps you want to green your office's supply closet, but don't know where to start. Or maybe you just want to green up the way you go about your workday. We've put together some specific tips and instructions that allow you to quickly and easily green both your office space and your 9-5 routine.

BE GREEN AT YOUR DESK

  • Use your computer's power management function or sleep mode to save energy costs. General Electric reportedly saved $6.5 million a year in electricity costs by altering its computers' settings. If just ten employees did this, they would save nearly $500 a year.
  • Similarly, Snap.com has a lightweight software program called CO 2 Saver that can be downloaded from their website for free. The program manages your computer's power usage when it's idle, saves energy, and decreases the demand on your power utility.
  • Try to avoid using a wireless headset for your phone. These require button-size batteries that are full of mercury, lead, and zinc, which can pollute the air and water if they're thrown in the trash. If your job requires you to use a wireless headset, make sure the batteries are taken to a local hazardous waste disposal site.
  • If you usually use your email to send quick, one-line messages, consider using your phone or handheld device instead. Emailing and text messaging from a computer uses more than thirty times the electricity per message that a phone does. That adds up quickly when one considers that more than two hours of the average office employee's workday is used for sending emails and surfing the Internet.
  • If your office has enough natural light for you to see without eyestrain, turn off your desk lamp. One of the biggest office energy wasters comes from lights being turned on in vacant or sunlit rooms.

 

ECO-FRIENDLY IN THE BREAK ROOM

  • American consumers use about $400 million worth of electricity just brewing coffee every year. Encourage your office to use reusable or nonbleached coffee filters in the coffeemaker, or just bring your own.
  • Check the break room cupboard to see if your office stocks a shade-grown, organic, fair-trade brand of coffee such as Peet's, Starbucks, or Tully's. If they don't, bring your own.
  • One study found that 14.4 billion disposable paper cups for hot beverages were used and discarded in 2005; that number is estimated to reach 23 billion this year. If your office uses paper or Styrofoam cups that are thrown away after each use, instigate a strict, ‘bring-your-own-mug' policy to cut cost and waste.
  • Americans throw away 138 billion straws and stirrers each year. You can avoid using them altogether by simply pouring sugar and milk into your mug first, before adding coffee.
  • Try to get your office to stock loose containers of sugar/sweeteners to reduce the packaging waste that individual packets accumulate.
  • Bring your lunch from home to reduce waste and save money. A disposable lunch creates between four and eight ounces of garbage every day, which adds up to as much as one hundred pounds per year.
  • Try to use fewer paper napkins. As many as 2,200 two-ply napkins are used by each American every year.

EARTH FRIENDLY IN THE SUPPLY ROOM

  • Utilize your copier's standby button to lighten its energy load by 70 percent.
  • When sending faxes, forego the cover page as often as possible to save paper on both ends of the transmission.
  • If your office uses a postage meter, encourage them to start printing stamps online to save on equipment, maintenance, and money. Postage meters also use more ink than printing stamps online.
  • Encourage your office to purchase an inkjet printer that uses only ten watts of electricity, instead of a laser printer that uses three hundred watts. Remember to also print double-sided pages and recycle the ink cartridge.
  • Make sure your office has a recycling program in place. Offices can reduce 50 percent of the waste they send to landfills by just recycling paper.
  • Try to use recycled paper: American businesses use over twenty-one million tons of paper each year.
  • Use postconsumer recycled envelopes. It only takes seventeen office workers to go through a ton of paper, including envelopes, each year.
  • Try to limit your use of labels; they can make it impossible to recycle the paper, envelopes, or other materials they're stuck to. Print directly onto envelopes instead.
  • If they don't already do so, suggest that your office stock a water basted correction pen instead of bottled correction fluid. The pen won't dry out as fast and less liquid will be used.
  • Try to use refillable pens, pencils, and markers because the disposable plastic versions are neither recyclable nor biodegradable.
  • Avoid using rubber bands, as they are synthetic and made from crude oil. Rubber bands that are incinerated at the dump can cause significant health effects.
  • Nearly 643,000 metric tons of staples are produced annually in the United States . For this reason, suggest that your office buy an eco-stapler that doesn't use metal staples.

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