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Simple, Easy, and Inexpensive Ways to "Go Green" at Work

By Dr. Karnita Golson-Garner, Extension Environmental Specialist

(Photo courtesy of eHow.com)

Green PlugAmericans spend a great deal of their time at work. Some would even argue that they spend more time at work than at home. If this is true, then the question of whether they are as proactive at work as they are at home in implementing “green strategies” is certainly up for discussion. Surely, an eco-friendly work space is just as important for environmental sustainability as an eco-friendly home since most companies, businesses, agencies, and organizations have extremely large ecological footprints, consume a lot of energy, and generate an appreciable amount of waste. Often times “going green” is synonymous with spending money. However, there are a number of simple, easy and inexpensive ways to create a more eco-friendly work environment. Making some “tiny essential changes” can lead to “huge impactful benefits” for the environment. Moreover, adoption of greener best management practices may even lead fellow colleagues to change their habits and administrative leaders to adopt more eco-friendly and cost effective environmental policies (Hattam, 2007).

Here are some tips that can be used to create a greener, healthier, and more productive work place.

1. Apply a “power off, save energy” approach.

  • Replace office incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Turn lights out when you exit your office for an extended period of time and make of use of natural sunlight whenever possible.
  • Unplug small electronics when they are not in use and use “smart” power strips to reduce “phantom” energy use (WI, 2012).
  • If you work in a laboratory unplug equipment that does not require continuous power.
  • Optimize the energy settings on your computer and turn it off at the end of the day.
  • Get a solar charger for any electronics with built-in batteries (Oxenreider, 2010).

Quick Fact: Computers in the business sector unnecessarily waste $1 billion worth of electricity a year (Hattam, 2007).

2. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle as many items as possible.

  • Create an environmental sustainability advisory council in your office.
  • Start recycling office waste such as paper, plastic and aluminum cans.
  • Purchase office supplies that were made from recycled materials (i.e., chlorine-free).
  • Purchase remanufactured ink cartridges or refill original items.
  • Keep your electronics as long as possible and dispose of electronic waste properly.

Quick Fact: Each remanufactured toner cartridge keeps approximately 2.5 lbs of metal and plastic out of landfills (Hattam, 2007).

3. Employ “green” buying and printing strategies.

  • Buy in bulk to reduce shipping costs and packaging waste.
  • Purchase office furniture that is free of chemicals like formaldehyde (eHow, 2012).
  • Purchase energy-saving computers, monitors, and printers (Hattam, 2007).
  • Only print documents if it is absolutely necessary; review them in digital format.
  • Initiate a “paper and ink conservation project” in your office. Start by using both sides of the paper for printing and faxing.
  • Set your printer to grayscale in order to minimize the amount of color printing.
  • Make employee manuals and other huge documents available online.

Quick Fact: The average United States (US) office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year (Hattam, 2007).

4. Make travel-free communication your new method of communication.

  • Make use of video and teleconferencing to reduce traveling costs.
  • Make use of e-mail instead of using hard copy letters.

5. Reduce the amount of waste products you produce.

  • Bring your lunch to work in reusable lunch bags along with reusable dishware.
  • Use your own mug for coffee instead of a different Styrofoam cup each morning.
  • Purchase a reusable water bottle and reduce the number of plastic bottles fated to the environment (Oxenreider, 2010).
  • Donate old educational resources instead of throwing them in the trash.
  • Request to be removed from the mailing list of vendors that mail bulk catalogs and utilize online ordering systems.
  • Reduce the number of telephone directories delivered to your office and utilize online directories.

Quick Fact: Every year Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste (CAC, 2009).

6. Create a wholesome work environment.

  • Place plants in your office to absorb air pollution and to increase the indoor oxygen supply.
  • Replace toxic cleaning products with eco-friendly products.

7. Work to create a healthier you

  • Carpool at least twice a week with friends, family or coworkers to decrease air pollution.
  • Walk more and ride a bike to work instead of driving.
  • Purchase work attire made with organic or recycled fibers.
  • Plan a green vacation (Oxenreider, 2010).

Quick Fact: Eight billion gallons of gas would be saved if every commuter car in the US carried just one more person (Treehugger, 2006).

References

Clean Air Council. (n.d.). Waste and recycling facts. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.cleanair.org/Waste/wasteFacts.html.

eHow. (2012). How to go green at home. home. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.ehow.com/how_2062609_go-green-home.html.

Hattam. J. (2007, April). 10 ways to go green at work. Sierra Club. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/greenlife/green-office-tips.pdf.

Oxenreider, T. (2010, April 21). 40 ways to go greener at home (Besides just recycling). Simple Mom. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://simplemom.net/tips-to-go-green-at-home/

Treehugger. (2006, December 10). How to green your work. How to Go Green: At Work. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from http://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-at-work.html.

Worldwatch Institute. (2011). 10 ways to go green and save green. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.worldwatch.org/node/3915.