The following tips for greening your office is by no means an exhaustive list, but a way to get started in making your workplace more environmentally friendly.
1. Use electricity wisely.
Turn off all computers, printers, photocopiers, and other equipment that doesn’t need to be left on at the end of the day and leave them off until you need to use them again. Check that all computers/monitors are set to their most energy efficient settings (e.g., monitor set to shut off after 15 minutes of no use). When leaving a room for more than a few minutes, switch off the lights. Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones. Take advantage of natural sunlight as much as possible.
2. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle” means more than just throwing old notepaper in the blue bin (though you needn’t stop doing that). Really think about everything you use. Do you need disposable cups at the water cooler? Can you use the other side of the used sheets of paper you’ve thrown in the recycle bin? Australia has added a fourth R – Refuse. Simply put: Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. And, when you do make a purchase, bring your own bags.
3. Use environmentally friendly office products.
On average, they only cost 5% more, which is a small price to pay to cut down on waste and pollution. Start small – 100% recycled paper, refillable ink cartridges, non-toxic highlighters, etc. Check out Frogfile in Vancouver as a great place to stock up on office products that go easy on the environment.
4. Use non-toxic cleaning products.
There are many brands available nowadays, such as Nature Clean, Norwex, Method, Ecover, Orange TKO, and Pink Solution. Encourage your cleaning company to use green cleaning products and if they won’t, switch to one of the many companies that now do use environmentally friendly products. Case study: Novex Delivery Solutions switched to a green cleaning company when their previous supplier refused and they ended up saving money!
5. Make eco-friendly food choices.
Encourage use of the 100-mile diet: local first; organic for high consumption foods. When ordering lunch for an office meeting, how about going vegetarian (or even vegan, if you dare)? Cutting down on meat can have a huge impact on the health of the planet. (See The Food Revolution and EarthSave for statistics and information.)
Encourage working from home, particularly for workers who would normally drive to work. This cuts down on pollution and increases time availability.
For those who do come to the office on a regular basis, encourage (and help arrange) carpooling, use of public transit, biking, or walking.
8. Aim for a paperless office.
Though the paperless office may still seem unrealistic, at least try to cut down on printed material when possible. Read on-screen and only print documents when absolutely necessary. Use only 100% recycled content paper products in the office and when getting promotional material professionally produced, ask your printer for FSC Certified paper.
9. Institute a casual dress code.
Not having to wear suits in hot summer months can help keep cooling costs down (and make for a happier workplace).
10. Fair trade & organic.
Buy fair trade, organic coffee and teas for the office. If employees prefer to go out for their hot beverages, encourage them to take their own mugs. Most coffee shops offer a small discount to patrons who do so. More importantly is the reduction in waste from not having to throw out paper or Styrofoam cups.
Co-Authored by Melanie Bitner, a designer and dynamic entrepreneur with a socially responsible perspective. Melanie uses her many years experience as a designer in various communications agencies to positively shape her community.