Five Simple Steps for Making Your Office or Workplace More Environmentally Friendly

Paper and Printing
Optimize Energy Efficiency
Smart Lighting Choices
Green Your Travel
Eat Smart


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average employed American works 9.3 hours per day - that's more time than dedicated to any other activity. Not surprisingly, offices account for nearly a fifth of all commercial energy consumption. The good news? Greening your workplace can be both simple and cost effective. For following five steps can be used to reduce energy consumption in the workplace:

  • Paper and Printing
  • Energy
  • Lighting
  • Travel
  • Food

Paper and Printing

Not-so-fun fact: the typical office generates 1.5 pounds of paper waste per employee per day. Cutting down on those mountains of paper is a critical step to going green. Bonus: it will also significantly reduce office clutter and free up valuable storage space!

  • Digitize. Create hard copies only when necessary. Having one printed version of a document on file will often suffice.
  • If possible, default your printers to duplex (double-sided printing).
  • Whenever appropriate, re-use one-sided documents from a scrap paper bin in the same area as your printer or copier.
  • Purchase unbleached paper with a post-consumer waste (PCW) content of 30% or more. "Recycled" paper is often made with scraps generated in the paper-making process. It's the post-consumer content that actually matters.
  • Encourage your business to learn more about environmentally preferable paper.
  • Recycle your toner cartridges and buy remanufactured toner cartridges for printers, copiers and fax machines.

Optimize Energy Efficiency

According to the EPA, over 11 billion kWh, equivalent to $935 million, would be saved if the 55 million office computers in the US used Energy Star power management controls. That's comparable to taking 1.5 million cars off the road or planting 2.5 million acres of trees!

  • Look for products that meet credible environmental standards, such as EPEAT or Energy Star. Computers, printers, fax machines, and copiers should have an energy-saving "sleep" mode that kicks in automatically after a period of inactivity. Plus, less heat buildup and fewer operating hours means a longer lifespan for your electronics.
  • Connect your office electronics to power strips and switch them off at the end of the day.
  • Recycle old or outdated electronics. Learn more about recycling options from the EPA.

Smart Lighting Choices

Commercial buildings consume more than one-third of all energy generated in the United States and lighting is the biggest culprit! Because quality office lighting is integral to employee satisfaction and productivity, it is particularly important that employees control the lighting in their workspace, if possible.

  • Switch all lights to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which are three to four times more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs.Try ordering in bulk and negotiating a competitively bid contract.
  • Consider energy-efficient electronic ballasts, which allow employees to control workspace lighting by increasing dimming capabilities and reducing start-up time, noise, flicker, and heat output.
  • Encourage employees to maximize natural lighting and to turn off lights when leaving a room.

Green Your Travel

For most of us, the part of our workday with the greatest environmental impact takes place outside the office: the commute.

  • Offer incentives for employees to commute via public transportation. If public transport is limited in your area, facilitate an office carpool system. If you currently subsidize employee parking, consider charging for the service and offering environmentally preferable perks instead.
  • Make sure that secure bike parking is available, and if possible, provide employees with access to showers and lockers.
  • Consider hybrids for your office fleets.
  • Whenever possible, utilize videoconferencing and conference calls as an alternative to travel.
  • If travel is absolutely necessary, look into green hotels, hybrid car rentals, and purchasing carbon offsets for your trip.

Eat Smart

Strewn with Styrofoam coffee cups and plastic utensils, office kitchens are often a major source of waste.

  • Invest in a set of reusable coffee mugs, plates, and silverware or have employees bring in their own. Provide organic, Fair Trade coffee, tea, and cocoa and try to use only paper towels and napkins with high post-consumer waste content.
  • Save money and protect the environment by replacing bottled water with a tap filter, such as Pur or Brita.
  • Look for environmental certifications on appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, toasters, and coffee makers.

Source: New American Dream

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