Eight Easy (and Cheap) Tips for Creating a Green Office
Whether you’re the owner of a small company or an employee, it’s easy to feel like ‘going green’ is something beyond your reach. When it’s tough enough to turn a modest profit in today’s economy, an investment in environmentally-friendly renovations slips down on the priority list.
It’s true; we can’t all be like Seattle’s Bullitt Center, a new $30 million office building designed to produce as much energy as it consumes. Fortunately, there are an almost endless array of smaller, simpler, and (best of all) cheaper changes that you can make around your office.
Even if your conscience tells you to do the right thing but the budget just doesn’t allow it, most of the ‘investments’ suggested below quickly provide a net monetary gain. Whether it’s improvements in worker productivity, decreases in claims on the company health insurance plan, or savings on utility bills, it makes sense to tip the company hat to Mother Earth once in awhile.
- Green Your Clean
Non-toxic cleaning supplies are ubiquitous enough these days to find a place on the shelf at any grocery store or big-box retailer. The mark-up is minimal, but the effects on the earth and air quality can be giant. Switching to products without volatile organic compounds (VOCs) improves air quality and employee health. With asthma rates soaring nationwide, that’s a simple no-brainer that’s easy to implement.
- Bloom Where You’re Planted
Especially for people who work in rooms with little natural light, a few plants can work wonders in improving morale and air quality. House plants like philodendron and pothos are known for their durability indoors, requiring little care and absorbing toxins like formaldehyde from the air. Set one in your cubicle or on your desk (or if you’re the boss, surprise your staff with an array of plants around the office).
- Save a Tree
A typical office worker can go through as much as a quarter ton of materials each year. That’s as many as 10,000 pieces of paper . What’s most staggering about that figure is how easily it can be cut in half. Most industrial copy machines are configured to handle two-sided printing (those that are not can be outfitted with a duplexer, usually about $150). It only takes adjusting your printer preferences on your individual computer to set that up. The next time you print out a 150-page report to take to a meeting, reduce the load in your briefcase and on the planet by going double-sided.
- Save a Tree, Step 2
The added cost of switching from 30 percent recycled copy paper (the common amount in most boxes) to 100 percent is minimal — about $10 per 5,000 sheets. Make the switch and smile every time you walk to the copy machine, knowing that one more tree is left standing in the woods.
- Breathe Deep
When was the last time the air filter was changed at your office? Somehow, this simple switch is often overlooked. Take the initiative and check yours out. The EPA claims that indoor air quality is a bigger public health threat than contaminated drinking water, outdoor air pollution, and hazardous waste sites. For a few dollars, a new filter can catch indoor airborne toxins before they reach your lungs
- Upgrade to Compact Fluorescents
At home, most of us already realize the energy savings that come with switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Even if you’re not paying the energy bill at work, do it for the planet; switch out any incandescent bulbs with CFLs and reduce the amount of electricity your office consumes.
- Kill the Phantom
Imagine if one month a year, you didn’t have to pay your power bill. You can accomplish that goal simply by eliminating ‘phantom power’ — all of the little electronics that suck electricity while they’re not in use. From the light on your phone charger to your computer you let sleep at night, phantom power accounts for 10 to 20 percent of our power use. When you go home from work, shut it down.
- Break Bad Habits in the Break Room
If your office is like mine used to be, you’ve got an endless array of disposable coffee cups, paper plates, and plastic forks and spoons to use. What’s the point? It’s easy enough to bring your own mug from home. Why toss a plate every day when you can bring a reusable plastic container? Most of the changes we can make to green an office start with the employees. Change your own behavior, and your coworkers will catch on.
Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in personalized pens and pencils and other personalized items such as calendars, laptop bags and T-shirts.