Easy Tips You Can Use to Make Your Office Greener
(this article is reposted under Creative Commons 1.0 license)
by Cheryl Roberts
If you're one of the more than 50 million Americans who work in an office, it may surprise you to learn how great an impact we office workers have on the environment. Whether your office is large or small, whether it's in a large corporation or at a local community group, school, or church, there are plenty of ways you can help the environment in the choices you and your co-workers make every day.
Each day, office workers consume approximately 145 million gallons of fuel while commuting to work and generate some 1.4 million tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas. En route and during the day, we drink about 49 million cups of coffee--mostly from disposable cups--and either recycle or discard some 40 million newspapers. Once on the job, we produce more than our own weight in waste paper each year--about 360 pounds per person, nine million tons in all.
Today, U.S. businesses are generally polluting less and becoming more energy efficient. But there are still many simple steps that offices and workers can take to save energy, reduce waste, and even save money. All the following tips have worked out well at EDF's own offices.
Use Devices That Shut Themselves Off
Installing light switches with motion detectors can save a lot of electricity, since these devices shut off the lights automatically whenever a room is unoccupied. Similar savings come from copiers, computers, and other equipment that can be programmed to turn off after a period of inactivity. Look for the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star symbol as one indication of these power-saving features when buying new office equipment.
Here's an easy idea: Buy a reusable travel mug for your morning commute and to use at the office. You'll save natural resources, conserve energy and landfill space and, if you fill up at home, you'll save some money, too.
If you commute by train or subway, you'll find many stations now have designated bins for recycling newspapers. Use them.
If you drive, consider car pooling, riding a bike, or walking to work or to a nearby mass transit station. If your company permits it, telecommute. More than eight million Americans now telecommute at least one day a week. Telecommuting cuts down on pollution, saves energy, and may even increase staff productivity. In a two-year pilot project, Northern Telecom found that having 500 employees work at home three days a week saved about 200 gallons of gasoline annually per employee and increased productivity by an average of 30%.
Whether you work in the office or at home, reducing paper consumption and recycling used paper is a must. Where possible, use e-mail instead of paper memos. Make sure your business cards have your e-mail address on them, and ask for the e-mail addresses of others. Eliminate cover sheets when faxing. Post or circulate materials whenever possible, rather than making multiple copies. Program your printer and photocopier for two-sided printing. Publish or distribute documents electronically whenever possible. And, before you print a document, always use the Spell Check and Print Preview functions first!
In nearly every community, you can recycle paper, steel, aluminum, glass, and some kinds of plastic. Set up convenient recycling areas in the office and post instructions for recycling each material. You can also reuse envelopes for interoffice mail and cut up used paper for note pads.
If you're in charge of purchasing office supplies, choose stationery and other office supplies with the maximum post-consumer recycled content available, at least 20%. And buy the lightest-weight paper possible for the job.
Look for unbleached or "totally chlorine free" supplies and paper first. If you don't find these in stock, ask your suppliers how to order alternative products. Avoid manila folders and envelopes, which are actually bleached and then dyed to achieve their distinctive color; look for unbleached varieties instead. Whenever possible, avoid deep-hued and neon-colored papers, envelopes with plastic windows, and peel-and-stick labels, all of which can interfere with the recycling process.
Office managers can provide a supply of reusable coffee mugs, plates, and utensils, and encourage their use. When ordering take-out or having an event catered, select establishments that use reusable food service ware.
And of course, don't forget to turn off your lights, computer, and monitor before leaving for the day--and remember to take your travel mug home for tomorrow morning's commute!
from EDF Letter