May 23, 2011

Keeping Green at Work

Workplaces account for nearly half of the nation's energy usage. The fact is that many people spend more time at work than they do at home. Even some of the most eco-conscious among us start to let their green ways slide once they get to work. By making many of the same green choices at work as you make at home you can make your working environment healthier, more comfortable, and environmentally friendly.

First consider how you even get to work. If you live close enough, try walking or biking to work. Otherwise, check out public transportation options or organize a carpool.

Rethink how you print. First, consider if something can be read online or emailed rather than printed out. If you have to print, print only the specific text or pages you need and print on both sides of paper. Keep misprints for scrap paper. Print addresses directly on envelopes instead of printing mailing labels.

Keep electronic files, which are easier to organize and backup.

Reuse office supplies whenever possible. Does a paper clip really lose its usefulness after a single use? Paper clips, envelopes, folders, and such can typically be used multiple times.

Make sure to put all recyclables in the correct receptacles. If your company doesn't already have a recycling program, start one. You may even consider composting. Is there a garden nearby that could use the compost you and your co-workers produce?

Save electricity just as you do at home. Turn off lights not in use, take the stairs, and unplug electronics such as cell phones and laptops once they are charged. Change your settings so your computer and monitor automatically go into power save mode when not in use. Before leaving for the day turn off your computer and unplug the adaptor.

Replace the light bulb in your desk lamp with an energy-efficient bulb and it'll use 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer. If you're the only one working in your area, use localized lights instead of lighting up the whole area or entire floor.

Check that all air vents are clear of any furniture, equipment, boxes, or office supplies. Blocked air vents can use up to 25 percent more energy to pump air.

Bring an air-cleaning plant or two into your workplace to improve air quality. NASA spent two years testing 19 different house plants for their ability to remove common pollutants from the air. The most effective plants were proven to be philodendron, English ivy, spider plants, dracaena, weeping fig, golden pothos, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, bamboo or reed palm, and snake plant.

Bring your lunch from home in reusable, non-plastic containers. By preparing your own food you'll be better able to avoid preservatives, reduce waste (think of all those ketchup packets and napkins in take-out bags), and save money. Remember to also bring a reusable mug, cutlery and napkin. Real silverware and a cloth napkin make a meal more enjoyable anyways.

Talk to those in charge of purchasing about switching to eco-friendly office products and recycled paper. Also suggest safer, green cleaning products. By using green cleaning products (check out greencleaning.ny.gov/Products.asp for a full list of EcoLogo or Green Seal products) and equipment (e.g., micro-fiber mops and cloths, HEPA vacuum cleaners your company can vastly improve indoor air quality.

If at all possible, work from home at least once a week. Technology today makes telecommuting a viable option for many workers. You'll save yourself time and the environmental impact of your commute. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, not using your car for just two days a week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1,600 pounds per year. Telecommuting makes employees more productive and saves companies money (on the resources you would have used in the office). Alternatively, consider working a consolidated workweek – four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days.

Finally, make going green in the office a team effort. Gather like-minded individuals together to work on making your workplace a green workplace. Check out Energy Star's posters and tip cards to help you spread the word. You can even strive to make your building an Energy Star qualified building.


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