Is your business confused about how it can “go green”? Initiating an environmental response to the green imperative—whether through a formal RFP or by informal employee practices in the workplace—can be challenging. However, by making small choices and building upon them daily, businesses can establish goals that promote a greener future. Planet wellness is understandably a complex issue, but your company can establish a forward trajectory today and create momentum toward more challenging goals in the future. Here are several choices that can get your business started:
- Maintain energy-saving settings: Optimizing the energy use of office computers and other devices can yield notable savings over time. In addition to setting all office computers to the energy-saving mode, be sure to shut them down when you leave for the day; even on standby, computers continue to draw power when not in use. By plugging hardware into a power strip with an on/off switch (or a smart power strip), your entire desktop setup can be turned off at once. If printers, scanners, and other peripherals are only used occasionally, unplug them until they’re needed. And, of course, turn off lights in spaces that are unoccupied.
- Buy energy-saving products: The government will subsidize part of your purchase for energy-saving products, such as light bulbs, appliances, and replacement windows, further increasing the money you save by using energy-saving devices. Subsidies vary by state, so visit energy.gov to learn how your business can cash in on green savings.
- Recycle: In addition to paper and aluminum cans, many other products can typically be recycled in business environments. If you are renting your office space, check with your building manager to determine your options; many businesses also recycle cardboard, glass, and plastic. Additionally, if you are serious about a zero-waste environment, you can provide an office composting bin where employees can place your lunch scraps and other biodegradable materials. Inside the bins, red wiggler worms living in a layer of soil munch away at your leftovers while you’re doing other things, like reading this blog. Despite the composting magic that’s happening in the sealed container, there is no odor—I promise—and in a couple of months, you’ll have rich, beautiful soil you can use on your office plants or take home to your garden.
- Use recycled paper sources: Limit your paper communications, particularly marketing materials such as direct mail and brochures, and consider using email and social media for customer communications and issuing annual reports as PDF documents. Explore recycled paper options when printing is a must.
- Buy local: Have you thought about how many miles that soft drink can traveled before it reached your hand? How about your office chair? Ask your purchasing department where your office supplies are coming from and how far they are being shipped. The long-distance transportation of goods leaves a huge carbon footprint. If you can find a closer supplier, you’ll be supporting your local economy as well as the environment.
- Telecommute: Here at the PGiGreen blog, we are big believers in the positive, cumulative impact telecommuting has on the environment. Every day that employees work from home and avoid the commute to and from the office, they decrease the carbon emissions that harm our environment. It’s that simple. For more telecommuting tips and insights on the practice and how to ensure success as you work from home, follow my updates as I incorporate this practice in my own work. Employees with more flexible work schedules readily admit to greater job satisfaction and, when empowered with effective virtual conferencing tools, maintain normal levels of office communication and productivity.
- Don’t print unless necessary: Admittedly, studies show that the flicker effect makes reading on a computer screen more difficult for some individuals than reading a printout. However, we often print out emails, reports and white papers by habit. Because I read a great deal as a part of my work, maintaining a paperless office is the most difficult green habit for me on this list. I must consciously refrain from my first reaction and not hit CTRL+P. Some companies have added a line to employee email signatures that asks people to “consider the environment before printing this email.” While I find that this reminder does serve a useful purpose, others feel that in time it becomes invisible. Have you seen this green gesture and, if so, do you feel it makes a difference?
- Bring it from home: Some simple ways to save both waste products and money include using travel/ceramic mugs for your morning coffee or tea, keeping a refillable glass and pitcher nearby to help you stay hydrated, and bringing your lunch from home instead of eating out. By reducing your demand for bottled water and for waste products that are not generally recycled, you can improve your overall carbon footprint and the health of the planet.
- Bring in the green: Don’t forget to add plants to your office or workspace. They not only soften the hard edges of cube environments and create a friendlier more inviting atmosphere, they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
As you finish reading this article, perhaps you’re wondering why I didn’t include a tenth choice; why nine and not a nice round ten? I do have other points to make, but I’d rather hear what you, my readers, have to say. What green choices do you make in your office that are simple and yet make a difference to the planet? Share some tips, and let’s see how long a list we can make.