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Keeping Your Office Eco-Friendly

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Your office hosts a whole team of people for 40 hours each week – printing things, plugging things in and throwing things away. A few environmentally friendly habits in the workplace can go a long way, and they don't have to take much effort. Reduce your team's collective footprint with some key changes and new routines.

Watch Your Electricity Usage

The typical office is home to computers, printers and copy machines galore, plus lighting and kitchen equipment. Make a point to reduce your office's energy-using habits with new policies mandating that employees turn off electronic office equipment at the end of each work day and set their computers and monitors to their most energy-efficient settings. NRichMedia suggests that office managers switch out their incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent ones, and open the blinds and curtains to take advantage of natural sunlight as much as possible.

Look into adjusting the office thermostat's set temperature to conserve both energy and money, especially if your company is relatively large. Over-air conditioning or heating your office can rack up the energy bill, not to mention kilowatts used. A strategic adviser from Ecova told TechRepublic that when one large retail store set its air conditioning to turn on at 75 degrees Fahrenheit rather than 74 degrees, it ended up saving $3,100 and consuming 30,000 fewer kilowatts each year.

Go the extra mile by committing to renewable energy resources, as suggested by TechRepublic. Your office can choose a green energy plan from its supplier, which would typically generate energy from renewable sources, primarily wind and solar.

Change Commuting Habits

Companies can further reduce their footprints by encouraging (and incentivizing) green commuting methods, such as walking, biking, carpooling and public transit. Encouraging a work-from-home culture can make a huge impact, as well, requiring employees to commute less often. Even meetings can stay close to home – consider video conferencing or conference calling, or holding meetings in venues close to the participants' homes.

Anyone in any office can help change their and their colleagues' commuting habits by organizing a carpool group. You might even start a whole sustainability team for the office to help inform your workplace's decisions regarding green commuter habits, energy usage and waste.

Reduce Your Paper Trail

In the digital age, it's relatively easy to go paperless – or at least mostly paperless. Adobe sustainability strategist Vince Digneo told TechRepublic that revisions, corrections and updates on printed documents make up 90 percent of all office waste in the United States. The remaining 10 percent comprises documents in storage facilities. If your office confines its work to primarily digital spaces, it can help cut down on this waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If going entirely digital isn't an option, consider printing less often (e.g. making all corrections and revisions in digital documents before printing) and requesting digital statements and invoices from vendors and clients rather than paper mail. Set up a digital filing system, as well, as suggested by Greener Ideal. When your office must use paper, consider 100 percent recycled content paper products.

Focus on the Kitchen

Your office's lunch room might stock paper plates and plastic cups and cutlery – ditch them. Opt instead for reusable dishes and cutlery, and bulk portion cream and sugar dispensers. Consider implementing a composting routine in the office. You can contact a commercial composting company to obtain a compost bin to collect compostable waste and reduce your office's overall waste output.

Replace the lunch room and kitchen bins with recycling and compost bins, and consider replacing garbage cans throughout the office with recycling bins, as well. If your colleagues don't exactly love that idea, compromise with smaller-size garbage cans, but emphasize recycling and composting over waste.


About the Author

Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, Calif., and holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.