Edit: Updated “Green Your Office Tips” for Earth Day – 4/22/2013.
Happy Earth Day 2013!
There are several ways to go green. Several months ago, I discussed special services that can help your business go paperless. While some environmentally-friendly tactics can seem daunting, such as using vegetable oil instead of gasoline for your car, ChooseWhat’s administrative assistant Emilea Belaire gives a few pointers on how you can more your office more green with very little effort.
ChooseWhat has also put together a SlideShare presentation on “Why Go Green” for easy viewing and embedding on your own site.
Belaire got her environmental drive from watching her parents’ business, an environmental consulting business that helps companies reconstruct land on the Texas coast after a build in order to bring the environmental surroundings up to specific standards. “Seeing how they started out making a difference with just two people and watching them grow with their team and make an even bigger difference to their surroundings is inspiring,” Belaire says.
It can be difficult to be green at the office because, as Belaire points out, “it’s harder to do because someone has to take the initiative to set up green practices.”
Learn what you can do to help your office become more environmentally-friendly:
Conduct a Waste Audit
The first thing your company should do is conduct a waste audit. This can be as simple as doing a walk-through of your office operations and see what and how much is being thrown away. Once you have a better idea of what is being tossed out in your office, you can look for opportunities to reuse these items or even reduce waste. The Environmental Protection Agency even has a Waste Audit worksheet you can download to help you with this process. You will probably be able to easily see where you can implement simple environmentally-friendly practices. They also have a program called WasteWise that helps companies identify areas they could reduce their negative impact on the environment and save money through these reductions. In this success story, the WasteWise program saved a small business almost $300,000 in reduced disposal fees.
According to SolidWasteDistrict.com, waste audits typically take 1-5 hours for an office with a staff of 20 employees or less. Companies with 20 or more employees typically take anywhere from a full day to a full business week.
Even though your office doesn’t have a yard, you can still participate in composting. Composting is the decomposition of organic matter to make substance this is beneficial to houseplants or enriching soil. It is an easy way to reduce the volume of garbage sent to landfills. If you’re willing to give up a little bit of space under the sink or on top of the fridge in your office’s kitchen, your company can keep its food scraps out of the landfill too. And, if you get the proper bin, your compost collection doesn’t have to smell. Look into Bokashi bins, which is full of effective microorganisms. You can donate your compost to a farmer’s market or community garden. Learn more about office composting.
If you manage your office’s landscaping, establish a composting pile in a far secluded corner of your company’s land, or look check out your local municipal waste program. Many local waste programs include commercial composting services or tips.
Recycle the Lazy Way
Recycling can be such a hassle sometimes if your office building doesn’t recycle. Someone has to take it upon themselves to initiate a recycling program and take the recyclables to the center. It’s hard to want to be green when it’s a hassle, right? So feel free to lazily recycle by hiring someone to come pick your recycling for you! Companies like Trusty Pickup will haul off your recycling for a small fee.
This site has a recycling solution locator on their home page: http://www.earth911.org/. Just enter your zip code and they will provide a list of programs in your area.
Buy Sustainable Products
There are also many options to buy products that are sustainable and made by companies using sustainable practices. The Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment is an excellent site that highlights a lot of green office products, such as printers that meet Energy Star requirements or toner cartridges that can be refilled or recycled.
Typically green office products cost about 5% more than traditional office supplies, although the EPA has a program called, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) that helps companies save money when purchasing green office supplies.
Implement Easy Green Practices
Like I said before, going green doesn’t have to be difficult. There are always a ton of simple and small ways you can make your office more environmentally-friendly.
- Set your printer margins wide and print double-sided documents to reduce paper waste.
- Better yet, switch to an online fax service
- Studies have shown that companies can reduce their paper and hardware costs by 50% by switching to an online fax service
- Provide employee incentives for those who ride their bikes to work.
- Encourage public transportation or carpooling.
- Consider a 4 day work week
- Turn computers and appliances off (not in hibernation mode) when leaving the office.
- Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Use coffee mugs and Nalgene bottles instead of paper cups or plastic water bottles.
- Take your own Tupperware to restaurants instead of getting to-go boxes.
- Turn off all the lights.
- Unplug the toaster and microwave when not in use.
- Buy organic snacks in sustainable packaging.
- Hand wash dishes instead of using the dishwasher, or at least make sure the dishwasher is full and not set to Heated Dry.
“There are many different reasons to be environmentally-friendly, not just in the office but in your everyday life as well,” Belaire says. “The environment surrounds us; it’s the air we breathe, the food we eat and the ground beneath our feet. Making more environmentally conscious decisions is an easy thing to incorporate into your daily life. Our decisions and habits today can help future generations.”
NPR’s Wendy Kaufman recent highlights the world’s greenest office building, the new Bullitt Foundation Center. Check out the story for innovative ways other offices are going green: http://www.npr.org/2013/04/22/177455916/this-building-is-supergreen-will-it-be-copied
Fast Facts for Earth Day 2013