Maintaining a “green” office is not as difficult or expensive as it sounds. There are simple changes, like buying a reusable water bottle, that require minimal effort but make the biggest difference. Practicing these green ideas doesn’t cost a fortune like some might think. In fact, businesses that have implemented these strategies have experienced reduced costs, customer growth, and improved efficiency.
There are many benefits to an eco-friendly office, so what do you have to lose by embarking on a zero-waste lifestyle?
1. Bring Reusable Water Bottles/Coffee Mugs
50 billion plastic water bottles are purchased every year by Americans. Out of these, only about 23% are properly recycled. It’s no wonder you can find a seemingly endless supply of plastic bottles in our streets and oceans. Once in our oceans, the damage these plastics can do is extreme. Annually, plastic waste kills 1.1 million marine creatures, and over 38 billion bottles end up in landfills.
Reusable water bottles are also very durable, and in result will last for years. Whether you’re in the office, biking to work, or even going on a hike, a durable water bottle will serve you much better than a flimsy plastic one.
Switching to a reusable water bottle can save up to 156 plastic bottles per person annually. If one person alone can clear an entire street of plastic bottles, imagine what a whole community could do. Not only will you be cleaning up the oceans and streets, but promoting a very environmentally friendly office culture.
2. Be Bright About Light
Make it a habit to turn off lights when either not using them or leaving the office. The Sierra Club found that “Artificial lighting accounts for 44 percent of the electricity use in office buildings.” To maximize sustainability in the office, consider switching to Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL).
CFL bulbs are slightly more expensive than traditional LED bulbs, however after an estimated 500 hours of use they are able to pay for themselves. Also, they are very energy efficient, using “about a quarter as much energy [as LED bulbs] and last many times longer (usually around 10,000 hours).”
Also, consider maximizing the amount of natural light your office uses. Harvard Business Review found that the one feature of a workplace that employees valued most wasn’t a cafeteria or gym, but natural lighting and a view of the outdoors. By doing this you get to create an environmentally sustainable office space while increasing your employee’s satisfaction at work.
3. Print Smarter
There are many ways to print in an eco-friendly way. For starters, try choosing an efficient printer system. Staples says that printers with the “Energy Star” label on them have already met stringent energy efficiency requirements that enable your office to become more efficient than ever when printing. Another quality of printers your office should look for is the ability to print more with less (toner or ink cartridges). When recycling toner, make sure to consider the following: drop them off at a local store, find a local recycling facility, or refilling your original cartridges. Companies are also turning used paper or misprints into smaller note cards rather than throwing them out.
4. Promote Green Commuting
There are many different ways to make your commute an environmentally friendly one. If you drive to work, consider traveling before or after any heavy traffic in order to decrease the total time on the road. Picking up groceries on the way back from work is also a good way to reduce emissions by combining trips. Businesses are beginning to promote other forms of greener commuting for their employees, such as biking, walking, or carpooling, in order to reduce our carbon footprint.
Since the number of remote workers is increasing in today’s market, consider telecommuting for work. This would give your employees the ability to get work done from the comfort of their home and cuts their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions to zero.
Even if you can only do one of these actions per week, or per month, you can still make a significant dent in the amount of GHG Emissions that are being produced.
5. Go Paperless
The best way to save paper is to not use any at all. Instead of having to throw out copies that need corrections or updates, consider utilizing file-sharing systems that utilize the cloud like DropBox or Google Docs. Google Docs allows users to collaborate on projects through a single network without having to print, share, or maintain paper files. By having all of your documents and files in the cloud, your office won’t need to worry about the overflowing file cabinets or important papers getting lost anymore.
Other environmentally friendly hardwares include your company’s network, cd-roms, zip drives, and external hard-drives, which all allow your office to store documents that you’d otherwise print and file.
6. Separate Recycle and Trash Bins
Having separate bins for recycling and regular trash helps with organization in the initial stages of recycling. If a plastic bottle isn’t put in a recycling bin, it doesn’t get to the delivery truck. If it’s not in the truck, it doesn’t make it to the processing plant and then isn’t used to create new materials. On the other side, only 50% of what people put in recycling bins are actually recycled. That is because half of the trash put into recycling bins cannot actually be recycled. Even putting up signs above the bins with pictures of what can and can’t go into recycling might be beneficial to the environment. Organization of separate trash and recycling bins in the office is an essential step for businesses to become more environmentally aware and efficient.
7. Create a Cleaner Kitchen
There are more ways to integrate eco-friendly products than you would think. When purchasing items for your office kitchen, you’ll find that many items, such as hand soap or all-purpose cleaners, contain either recycled or eco-friendly packaging. Items such as cleaning cloths and sponges allow for less paper use due to their ability to absorb water, release it, and repeat. Also, consider using unbleached coffee filters when making your morning cup of joe. These filters are less processed than bleached ones and more environmentally friendly as well.
8. Establish a Reuse Store
An effective strategy to reduce business costs and increase efficiency is to develop a reuse store. Companies can first eliminate redundant purchases by ordering a single item (scissors, pens, notepads) for each employee. After this, establish a location where all previous and extra materials can be stored. Then, instead of ordering a new shipment every time employees begin to run low on materials, there will be a supply for them to choose from. A reuse store would reduce the overall spending of your office while also allowing for better efficiency in the workplace. Consider implementing one the next time your company is thinking about ordering more materials.
9. Organize Green Challenges
Organizing team challenges is a fun way to establish friendly competition in the office while simultaneously going green. Offices could challenge teams to not use disposable cups, or to only carpool/bike/walk to work for a certain amount of time. The winners of these competitions could get small bonuses like gift cards or free food & drinks.
10. Conduct a Waste Assessment
Before pursuing any of the tips on this list, your office should consider conducting a Waste Management Assessment (WMA). A WMA will highlight the things your office should focus on more than others in order to become the most environmentally friendly. By conducting a WMA, your office will have the essential tools necessary to maximize the effectiveness of any steps you plan on taking to reduce your carbon footprint and create a more eco-friendly and efficient office.
Companies Going Green
Many companies are using this new green initiative as an instrument to reduce environmental effects and help them compete in today’s business world. Their immense size creates the ability to make the largest dent in carbon emissions and pollution. Companies such as Dell, McDonald’s, and Target are making their own strides towards becoming an environmentally sustainable business. McDonald’s for instance has reduced their energy wastage by 25% and have developed hybrid specific parking lots for some of their locations. Major companies have followed these tips, and have proven their effectiveness when implemented into a business environment. Why not join them in a zero-waste lifestyle?