Practical Steps for a Greener Office

Practical Steps for a Greener Office

Most of us are pretty good at being environmentally aware at home. We dutifully fill our recycle bins each week. We try to conserve our power and water.  We donate our old clothes. But what about at work?  Do you make the same conscious choices? Making a few sensible eco-friendly decisions each day can not only help the environment but can save you more of the green stuff as well.

Steps for a Greener Office

Use less paper.

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According to The Economist, which in an article in 1980 encouraged offices to “reduce the flow of paper, ultimately aiming to abolish it,” the average American uses the paper equivalent of nearly six 40-foot trees each year. Despite the increased use of electronic communication, the average American office worker goes 10,000 sheets of paper every year, according to statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency.

So how can you make a difference? Cut down on the pdfs you send to colleagues. Instead, use online office tools to share documents. Use your scanner to consolidate your paper files with your electronic files; be sure to back up those important files in a separate hard drive.

When you do have to print documents, make double-sided copies or print on the back of old documents. Just mark a line through the wrong side. Recycle unused backs of paper that come to your office in the mail or as flyers for use as notepaper for your office.

Offer employee manuals and guidebooks online rather than in print form. Not only will you save on initial printing costs, but you will save each time updates are needed as well.

Do you get unwanted catalogs in the mail? Many companies have cut down on sending them, but you can ask to be removed from other mailing lists. Visit for more information.

Recycle print cartridges.

Each year more than 375 million empty ink and toner cartridges are thrown away, with most of them ending up in landfills or in incinerators. You can help to reduce this harmful waste by recycling your toner and ink cartridges and by purchasing re-manufactured ones.

According to recent statistics from Office Depot, using a remanufactured toner cartridge can keep about two pounds of metal and plastic out of landfills and save nearly a half-gallon of oil. Many retail stores offer incentive programs if you bring in your empty inkjet cartridges and toner cartridges for recycling. Consider refilling your old ink and toner cartridges yourself to realize substantial savings.

Reuse Packaging.

When you get a package delivery, save the box, bubble-wrap and cardboard to use in your next shipment. Most packaging can be re-used several times.  For boxes that can’t be re-used, be sure to recycle them or take them to a compost pile. Use clean, shredded waste paper as packing material as well.

Turn off what you can.

Use laptops instead of desktop computers whenever practical.  Laptops consume five times less electricity. When you set desktop computers to go into automatic sleep mode during short breaks, it can cut their energy use by about 70 percent.

Check with your IT department first, but if you get the okay, turn off the power strip your computer is plugged into when you leave for the day.  Standby settings will continue to draw power even when not in use. Shut down your other office equipment such as printers and copiers also.

You do it at home, so do it at the office too: shut off lights when you leave a room.  Turn off restroom lights and kitchen and break room lights when those rooms are not in use. Purchase Energy Star-rated light bulbs and fixtures which use less energy and last up to 10 times longer before burning out. Consider installing motion sensors or timers on entranceways.

Make use of natural light whenever you can by opening curtains and blinds during the day. Consider hanging a sign at your main entrance that reads:  “Last one out turns off the lights.”

Use re-usable cups, plates and silverware

We get stuck in the habit of using disposable dishware products at work because we think they save us time. They also waste money! Encourage staff members to bring their own water bottles and coffee mugs. Provide filtered drinking water for employee use.

Have a stash of clean, reusable cups and plates in your break room. Post instructions about where to put them for cleaning. Encourage employees to bring their lunch and snacks to work in re-usable containers.

Place recycling bins in high-traffic areas of your office and post clear instructions about what can and cannot be recycled in them.

Encourage car-pooling and telecommuting.

Think about ways you can cut down on the environmental impact of transportation costs for your staff members. Consider offering telecommuting options for certain projects. Use teleconferencing to reduce travel expenses. Help employees to arrange carpooling or offer incentives for using public transportation to and from work.

Depending on your business and your staff’s needs, you can probably come up with some additional ideas of your own to reduce waste in your office environment. By making some conscious choices, you will notice that you will not only be helping the environment but also helping your bottom line.

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