Through recycling, composting, using energy efficient appliances, and much more, people are more eco-minded than ever in their homes and daily lives. But with one-third of every day spent at work, it is well worth considering how to create a sustainable office. Green office habits help protect the environment and the company’s bottom line, which is a win-win situation. Read on to learn how to lower your office footprint and get your employees on board to do the same.
How You Can Make a Sustainable, Green Office
Real vs. Disposable Dishes
Office breakrooms typically offer plastic utensils, cups, paper plates, and other disposable items for the employees to use over lunch. But these items contribute to landfills and can take years, if ever, to biodegrade. Our oceans contain more than 8 million tons of plastic, which can harm sea animals and subsequently our food. Take a trip to the thrift store for real silverware, mugs, and plates. Not only will this result in less overall waste, but your company will realize cost savings from not having to order as many one-time use products.
Did you know that the average office worker prints 10,000 sheets of paper a year? Imagine if all your office computers and printers defaulted to double-sided printing. Those stacks of paper would be cut in half! Printing double-sided also saves 30 to 50 percent of paper costs.
Your printer ink can be eco-friendly too! Instead of throwing away empty cartridges, which can take 450 to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill, buy a printer ink refill kit. The packages come with refill accessories and detailed instructions to refill the ink yourself. If you are not refilling your ink, you can at least find the appropriate location to recycle the cartridge so it does not become one of the 350 million old ink and toner cartridges that contribute 254 million tons of trash in the United States every year. After recycling, consider buying remanufactured cartridges, which can cut your ink expenses by 80 percent.
Light and Temperature Timers
There is no use in heating, cooling, or lighting an empty building. People often forget to turn their office lights off at the end of the night, so utilizing timers is a good way to ensure the lights go out. In addition, you can set the temperature a few degrees different than you would during the day, resulting in energy and cost savings.
Remember those 10,000 sheets of paper office workers print in a year? Researchers at Xerox found that about half of the documents printed in a typical office are thrown away within 24 hours. It makes sense since hard copies can be great for proofing, but consider the waste! Now how about adding a recycle bin next to every trashcan? It does not even have to be anything new; use old cardboard boxes that the office supplies get delivered in.
Computers, printers, and other electronics generally have an energy saving mode that comes on when someone is away for a certain amount of time. Set this up as a default setting on office equipment. In addition, encourage your employees to turn off their computers when they leave for the day. This also gives a chance for computers to run through updates that may be vital for security or functionality.
Offering green suggestions is great, but how do you get employees to buy in? Consider creating a wellness committee that reminds your staff to make healthy choices for themselves and the environment, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or carpooling or biking to work. Find out little ways to reward this behavior or make it fun. Perhaps a step counting challenge with prizes for the winners is a good way to get employees to take the stairs. Get creative with it!
By doing the items above, you can lower your office footprint and expenses, while encouraging employees to make greener choices daily. Start with one or two items at a time — even small changes make a big impact. Make sustainability one of your new office initiatives!
Do you have any green office tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below.
Stephanie Figy is a business + marketing writer at an A/E firm by day, and a freelance writer by night. In her free time she enjoys traveling with her husband, drinking craft beer, and taking care of her cats and rabbits. You can find out more about her at stephaniefigy.com or @SKFigy.