12 Ways to Go Green at Work

1) Spend Smart on Green

The purchase and use of environmentally-friendly products can have a big impact, and not just on the environment. Buying green affects everything from worker safety to the bottom line.

  • Products that are reusable, refillable, more durable or repairable create less waste and are more cost-effective in the long run than disposable or single-use products.
  • Manufacturing recycled products uses less energy than goods made from virgin materials. Buying recycled products keeps recycling programs going and saves natural resources.
  • Using energy-efficient and water-conserving products saves money and resources. When making purchasing decisions, it pays to do a little homework. Consider the following:
  • Is the product less hazardous?
  • Is it reusable or more durable?
  • Is it made from recycled materials? Do we really need to buy a virgin product when the recycled version is just as good?
  • What happens to the product at the end of its life? Can it be recycled? Will the manufacturer take the product back? Will it need special disposal?
  • Does it conserve energy or water?
  • Is it made from renewable plant-based raw materials?


2) Leave a Big Mark-Not a Big Footprint

Living and working green means knowing your carbon footprint and taking steps to balance its impact. Offsetting your companys carbon footprint is the fastest and most economical way to help protect critical forests worldwide, which is one of the most effective solutions to climate change. One way to offset your carbon footprint is to support renewable energy (energy generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal) by buying renewable energy credits (RECs). Additionally, utility companies may work with industrial and commercial consumers to implement on-site energy-efficiency measures which can decrease usage or shift a portion of it to off-peak hours and rates. 



3) Be a Star-Buy Energy Star

The next time your office is in the market for computer equipment, printers, fax machines, kitchen appliances or even light bulbs, look for the Energy Star certification. Energy Star products are among the top energy performers on the market. One example of why is that some Energy Star products power down automatically when not in use-conserving up to 75% of electricity compared to standard models. They reduce pollution, lower energy bills, generate less heat and have a longer life span than other equipment. See www.energystar.gov for more information. 


4) Get Energized

Of the $250 billion spent per year on powering computers worldwide, only about 15% of that power is spent computing-the rest is wasted idling. 40% of the energy used for electronics is used while these devices are turned off. Obviously, just because a device is turned off or not in use, it doesnt mean that it isnt eating up electricity. In fact, even when a computer is switched off, the surge protector can still draw energy-up to 75%!

  • Programming your computer to sleep after 30 minutes of non-use can cut power demand by up to 90%.
  • Stepping away for longer than 30 minutes? Turn the computer off and unplug the surge protector. (Booting up again uses the equivalent of only two seconds of run time and wont hurt the hard drive).
  • Monitors are especially big energy drains. Be sure to turn them off after 20 minutes of non-use.
  • Printers, scanners and peripherals that are only used occasionally should be unplugged until needed.


5) Get the Green Light

Making green choices when it comes to lighting not only provides energy efficiency and savings, it also adds to the comfort, productivity and ambience of your workplace.

  • Replace regular incandescent bulbs and fixtures with Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). CFLs cast a warmer, soft white glow. Although initially more expensive than regular bulbs, they use between 60% and 80% less energy and last much longer (between 6,000 and 15,000 hours compared with about 1,000 hours with incandescents).
  • Use task lighting.
  • Install dimmers and timers to extend bulb life.
  • Dont underestimate the power of natural daylight, its free, its pleasant and has been proven to improve worker productivity and customer satisfaction. Also, be sure that walls are painted in a light color to enhance the advantage of that natural light.
  • Lighting accounts for up to 50% of a buildings energy consumption. By simply turning off unnecessary lights, you can reduce the amount of energy used for lighting by up to 45%.


6) Use and Re-use

Reusing products delays or avoids altogether their entry into the waste stream, so think refillable, rechargeable, not disposable, whenever possible.

  • Challenge your associates to think of ways to give new life to used items, for instance, shredded waste paper makes great packing material.
  • Set up an area to store and exchange reusable office supplies such as binders.

If you cant reuse a product, there are usually others who can. Go to www.kab.org (Keep America Beautiful) for suggestions on exchange programs and other reuse strategies. 



7) Clean Conscience Cleaning

Five billion pounds of chemicals are used annually for institutional cleaning. The good news is that the risk of injury from chemicals and environmental damage can be dramatically reduced by replacing the most dangerous cleaning products with safer ones.

  • Opt for solutions that are non-toxic, non-VOC (volatile organic compound), water-based, biodegradable, phosphate-, chlorine- and ammonia-free and those with ingredients derived from renewable resources, not petroleum.
  • Buy in concentrate and bulk so that shipping and packaging waste is reduced.

8) Breathe Easy

Heres what the air in any office setting can potentially contain: ozone generated by photocopiers, dust, allergens, outdoor fumes brought in by the central air conditioning; gaseous chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from furniture, paint and carpeting. And then theres the stuff dragged in on our shoes: oil, antifreeze, particulate pollution, pollen, etc. All combine to create unsafe air quality and contribute to Sick Building Syndrome. What can you do to clean up the air in your workplace?

  • Look for low VOC alternatives in carpets, adhesives, paints, even furniture.
  • Help keep whats on the sidewalk out with quality doormats or entryway track-off systems.

Remember, less dirt also means less sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, which means less work, water, energy and fewer chemicals. 


9) Sitting Pretty

Making environmentally savvy choices in office furniture is getting easier and easier. Whether a piece of furniture is made from wood, cloth, metal or plastic, there are earth-friendly options.

  • Opt for modular office suites. These component-based systems let you reconfigure workspaces and mix and match as your needs change, helping to eliminate the need to buy new.
  • Use flexible interior features, such as movable walls to help reduce waste associated with renovations.

Dont overlook the fact that, even if its initially more expensive, buying quality furniture thats durable and can be readily repaired could easily save money in the long run, plus, lessen the chance that itll end up in the landfill. 


10) Paper 101

How do you choose paper that is good for the environment and meets your needs? Some things to keep in mind: First things first, when looking to make an environmentally responsible paper purchase, youre looking for more than the recycled symbol. Post-Consumer Waste Content (PCW): The single most important factor to consider is the percentage of post-consumer waste content. Paper with post-consumer content contains recycled fiber from paper which has already been used by the consumer and then collected for recycling. The higher the level of post-consumer content the better. Today, more and more products are available with post-consumer recycled content including: file pocket portfolios, hanging file folders, report covers, various storage boxes, file holders, file covers and three-ring binders. By using recycled post-consumer content paper, we save trees, water and prevent the air and water pollution, soil erosion and destruction of wildlife habitats associated with harvesting. 


11) Digitize to Maximize

Did you know that one 2GB flash drive can store up to 20 yards of books? Storing data digitally frees up space, time and money. It minimizes clutter and helps eliminate unnecessary paper waste. Plus, transferring data digitally or transporting digital storage devices is infinitely easier and less costly than transporting files, cabinets and furniture, should your office be moving to a new locale. 


12) Recycle. Recycle. Recycle.

You already know this, so its just a reminder that everything from empty ink and toner cartridges (a single cartridge thrown into landfill can take up to 450 years to decompose) to office paper (115 billion sheets of paper are used annually for personal computers) to plastic bottles (Americans use 3.3 million plastic bottles every hour, but recycle only one in five) is RECYCLABLE. 79 million tons: thats the amount of waste material diverted away from disposal through recycling and composting in one year.




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