Tips for Going Green at Work

With the growing popularity and necessity of “going green” at home finally beginning to take root, the focus is now shifting to the work place. Both small and large businesses alike are searching for practices that will help to cut down on excessive waste and needless energy consumption. Implementing more environmentally friendly habits at work not only helps the environment but it also helps the bottom line, by “greening” up the office companies save money. As a result, more companies than ever before are seeking ways to conserve…they’re looking for easy, cost effective ways to “go green” in the workplace. It takes just a few simple steps and changes, along with some changes in habit. Before you know it, your business will be “green” and will be saving and making more of the green ($$$).

Here are some Top TIPS to help businesses “green” themselves up:

1. Think before you print:

Did you know that the average U.S. office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year? First, don’t just mindlessly print every thing out…question whether or not what you’re reading or working on actually requires printing; can it be stored online, archived on the hard drive or sent via email etc…? For instance, company memos and manuals can be made available online. Additionally companies should make it standard practice to purchase office supplies and equipment/furniture that is recycled. Starting with paper (that’s an easy one) buy only recycled, lighter stock paper and recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy only remanufactured ones. For all other office needs there are many companies now that provide ONLY recycled materials; consider companies like Green Earth Office Supplies (http://greenearthofficesupply.stores.yahoo.net/).

2. Recycle, Recycle & Recycle Some More:

Seriously, recycle everything! Almost every single paper product (copy paper, faxes, envelopes, soda cans, junk mail, catalogs, ink toners, old computer hardware, software, furniture etc…) can be recycled in some capacity. For instance, you can either unsubscribe yourself upon receipt of junk mail and/or unwanted catalogs, or there are online services now like Project Green at Catalogs.com that will do all the work for you for FREE - visit www.catalogs.com. For old cell phones and other electronics you can simply drop them off at your local Staples store. CollectiveGood (www.collectivegood.com) and Staples now offer a nationwide Mobile Devices Recycling program in all Staples stores that makes it easy to recycle used cell phones, PDA’s, pagers and rechargeable batteries. Also, make recycling bins easily accessible and educate employees on appropriate recycling habits and offer incentives such as restaurant gift cards or free pair of free movie tickets once a month to both the “greenest” employee, as well as the “most improved-green” employee.

3. Turn Off The Lights…

Conserve Energy & Save Money: Businesses are major energy suckers. According to the Energy Information Administration (http://eia.doe.gov), which provides official energy statistics from the U.S. Government, office buildings use 198 billion kWh (or 676 trillion Btu) of site electricity (electricity consumed within the building) each year. The majority of this electricity is used for lighting and office equipment (such as computers, printers, faxes and photocopiers).  Both lighting and office equipment produce heat, requiring more air conditioning—another predominantly electric end use—to cool the buildings. It’s simple really: make a habit of turning off the lights when you are leaving a room for more than just a few minutes. Companies should also replace regular lighting with energy efficient bulbs and/or fixtures. Replacing office lighting with ones that have earned the government’s ENERGY STAR, you can help preserve energy resources and svae money! ENERGY STAR (www.energystar.gov) lighting uses about 75% less energy than standard lighting, produces 75% less heat, and lasts up to 10 times longer. You can also install timers or motion sensors that automatically shut off lights when they’re not needed.

4. Make Your Computers Work Smarter:

Computers are the worst culprits when it comes to excessive energy consumption. Clearly, none of us can operate a business or do our jobs these days without our computers, so what can we do? Well, it starts with simply turning your computer off at the end of the day (TIP: make sure that your computer does not have to be on for auto updates during the night). You should also have all your employees set their computers to sleep mode (not screen savers) when on breaks or away from their desks, even for short periods of time. This can save up to 70% of energy usage a year. Again, recycle old equipment with reputable hardware recycling company (www.computertakeback.com) and/or donate equipment to schools etc…

5. Think Before Flying Solo On Your Commute: 

Most of us wake up in the morning and without even thinking get into our cars, solo, for the commute to work. Tomorrow, take note of all the other cars around you…you’ll notice that almost everyone else is flying solo too! What a waste of energy and money. Consider carpooling with a few people from work if possible or search for online carpool groups in your area, the Sierra Club offers a search tool online (http://sierraclub.typepad.com/greenlife/). Or if possible, take public transit. As a business owner you can encourage telecommuting, which saves you money in energy usage and productivity loss, which is common in the workplace. BONUS, it saves the environment big time! Also, encourage your employees to choose alternative transportation by providing credits to carpoolers or free transit passes.

6. Ban Plastic Throw Away Products:

There’s absolutely no need to use disposable paper and/or plastic plates & utensils anymore. Each employee is more than capable of bringing his or her own washable/reusable utensils, dishware and mugs. Alternately, you can provide reusable items for your employees. Also, stock your company’s kitchen with healthful options such as locally grown fruits & vegetables. You should also switch from bottled water or dispensers to filtered water. This minor change not only provides the cleanest, freshest quality water, it simultaneously saves reduces the estimated 30 billion throwaway bottles we contribute to landfills each year, as well as saving some of the more than 10 million barrels of oil used in manufacturing bottled water.