A greener workplace means a lighter ecological footprint, a healthier and more productive place to work, and good news for the bottom line. Whether you're the boss or the coworker, whether your office is green already or still not quite aware, there are some practical steps you can take to help create a healthy, low-impact workspace. Here are 10 recommendations to creating a green workplace.
1. More Work, Less Energy
If, like many people, a computer is your central tool at work, optimizing the energy settings for your computer and other devices can be a major energy saver. Also, make sure to shut it down when you leave for the day (not just putting it in sleep mode). Plug hardware into a power strip with an on/off switch, and turn off all items at once (make sure to power down inkjet printers before killing the power-they need to seal their cartridges). Printers, scanners, and other peripherals that are only used occasionally can be unplugged until they're needed. And of course, turn off lights in spaces that are unoccupied.
Even in the digital age, we still consume enormous amounts of paper, too much of which gets used once and then tossed or recycled. The greenest paper is no paper at all, so keep things digital whenever possible. The more you do online, the less you need paper. Keep files on computers instead of in file cabinets (this also makes it easier to make offsite backup copies or take them with you when you move to a new office). Review documents onscreen rather than printing them out. Send emails instead of paper letters.
3. Conserving Paper
When buying printer paper, look for recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content and the minimum of chlorine bleaching. Even recycled paper gobbles up a great deal of energy, water, and chemical resources in its processing. When using the real stuff, print on both sides of the page when appropriate and use misprints as notepaper.
Instant messaging, video conferencing, and other innovative workflow tools make effective telecommuting a reality. If your employer allows you to telecommute (even some of the time), hold phone conferences, take online classes, or otherwise work from home. If your employer does not have telecommuting programs, discuss and work with them to initiate one. Also, consider the possibility of working four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days (a compressed work-week), this change cuts the energy and time spent on commuting by 20% and giving you some lovely three-day weekends.
5. Commute Wisely
If you do have to go to the workplace, ease some of this strain of fuel usage and carbon emissions by carpooling, taking public transit, biking, walking, or a creative combination any of these. If there's no good way to phase out your car, consider getting a hybrid, electric vehicle, motorcycle, or scooter or at least a car with an extremely high fuel efficiency rating.
6. Green Your Wardrobe
You might be amazed how sharp work clothes from thrift stores can look. If you buy new, get clothes made with organic or recycled fibers. Avoid clothes that need to be dry-cleaned, and if they so demand it, seek out your local green dry cleaner.
7. Use Green Materials
Some paper use can't be avoided, so use recycled paper and envelopes that have been processed and colored using eco-friendly methods. Pens and pencils can also be made of recycled materials, and refillable pens and markers are preferable to disposable ones.
8. Redesign the Workspace
Greening the space in which you work has ample possibilities. Start with good furniture, good lighting, and good air. Furniture can be manufactured from recycled materials as well as recyclable. Not only is natural daylight a free source of lighting for the office, it has been proven to improve worker productivity and satisfaction and even boost sales in retail settings.
9. Lunch Time
Bring your lunch to work in a reusable container; likely the greenest (and healthiest) way to eat at work. Getting food delivered or going for takeout inevitably ends with a surplus of packaging waste. However, if you do order delivery, join coworkers in placing a large order, which is generally far more efficient than many separate ones. Also, bring in a reusable plate and utensils.
10. Get Others Aware and Involved
Share these tips with your coworkers. Arrange an office carpool or group bike commute. If necessary, trade shifts and job duties so that you can work four long days instead of five short ones. Make sure everyone has a small recycling bin so that recycling is just as easy as throwing recyclable materials in the trash. Ask everyone to bring in a mug or glass from home and keep some handy for visitors so that you reduce or eliminate use of paper cups.