Simple tips for going green in the office.
On the corner of my desk, there’s a small and modest plant. I bought said plant to increase the aesthetics and to liven things up a little bit. I also like to think, in my own (very, very) small way, I’m making a positive contribution to the office and environment… and the environment, unfortunately, is something we don’t talk about often enough around the office. Instead, we’re obsessing about important deadlines and billable hours. But maybe it’s time (more than ever) to start the conversation and make an effort to go green in the office and help the environment when we’re on the clock.
You don’t have to install a windmill in the parking lot or line the roof with solar panels to make a positive environmental impact. Of course, that would help, but it might not be entirely feasible. There are simple practices — ones that are easy to do — that can reduce your individual carbon footprint and your company’s carbon footprint. After a quick Google search of carbon footprints and eco-friendly offices, it became abundantly clear that there’s a lot that can be done to make most offices more enviro-friendly. So please don’t consider this a public shaming, but rather an opportunity for all of us to improve our respective workplaces and, in turn, help out the earth a bit.
First, some little things…
Start recycling. This is probably the biggest no-brainer on the list and instituting a recycling plan is super simple, but it can require some heavy-handed enforcement for particularly obstinate employees. Just kidding! Don’t recycle shame… unless it works.
Pack your lunch. Here’s another easy step to help reduce the amount of packaging around the office — it’s also more cost effective than buying lunch every day. Bonus for anyone who packs their lunch in a reusable container.
Purchase reusable water bottles and glasses. This is a pretty straightforward way to eliminate unnecessary waste productions around the office and (again) it’s more cost effective than buying disposable bottles and cups.
Buy an office plant. This is part self-care and part environmental awareness. Plus, plants store carbon and filter the air in the office (duh!). Oh yeah… they look cool, too.
Turn off computers and other office equipment when not in use. This is not a difficult ask and, if nothing else, you have a little more time to sip your coffee in the morning while your system boots up.
The next level for an environmentally-friendly workplace…
Install energy saving lights. How many graphic designers does it take to change a lightbulb? Who cares… as long as they’re energy efficient (the lightbulbs, not the designers — we’re not performing miracles here).
Cut back on the printing. Confession: I’m guilty of a little over printing. I like to proofread and copyedit on hard copy documents. But people don’t say, “you’re killing the rain forest” for no reason. Plus, if you’re honest with yourself and differentiated between what absolutely must be printed and what can suffice in a digital format, you can probably cut back on your printer usage.
Buy eco-friendly office supplies. The cost of office supplies might go up, but so will the positive impact you’re making on the environment. And, if you do a few of the other things on this list, you’re gonna be saving money in other ways so you can allocate additional resources to eco-friendly office supplies. Check out this list of green products. This website is cool, too!
Install hand dryers and ditch the paper towels. Spend now and save money later (and you’ll be saving the earth, too, so there’s also that).
Take it easy on the thermostat. If there’s a bigger point of contention in an office than the thermostat, I’m not sure what it is. But even small changes in the temperature settings can yield solid results and, of course, save your company some money. Oh! And turn the HVAC system off or down lower when the building is unoccupied.
Ready to go wild? Here’s some extreme measures…
Tap into renewable energy. Okay, so this is next level, but here’s where we talk about solar panels and wind turbines. While the initial idea might be met with skepticism, companies are having these two options installed and there are some tax-based incentives for making the commitment. Another option is researching your area’s electric suppliers and choosing one with a green energy plan.
Go paperless. If you thought cutting back on the printing was a tall order, try no paper. Granted, in some workplaces this might be an impossibility, but if you can pull it off, we salute you! Picture and screen quality do make this an option nowadays and some people may appreciate the lack of paper and clutter in the office.
Change your commute. Bike? Carpool? Public transportation (if possible)? Or, depending on company policy, telecommute (but don’t take advantage of it — yeah, you heard me). There are plenty of video/web conferencing tools available to make this happen… even on a limited basis.
Consider changes to your workspace. Big changes (err… small?) can be made with a little honesty and self-assessment. Look at the space your company occupies. Are you using it all? With efficiency? If the answer is “no,” consider downsizing to a space that better fits your needs or industry. If you think right-sizing, your workspace is extreme, New York City is considering laws that require buildings to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit or face fines.
Learn about upcycling. If you’re a creative person, then upcycling is right in your wheelhouse. So, how does one upcycle? It’s fairly straightforward: you take old office supplies and find new purposes for them, particularly for decorating. Is that an old computer? Umm, no, it’s a trendy planter, duh. It just takes a little vision and creativity to find a new use for your defunct office equipment. Plus, it keeps one more thing out of the landfill.
It’s not easy… but no one said saving the world would be.
In a recent news story, a pregnant sperm whale washed up on the shore of Italy. That, on its own, is sad. But what’s horrifying is that the dead whale had nearly 50 pounds of plastic in its stomach. 50. Pounds. Now, I don’t intend to be alarmist or to guilt anyone into recycling or “going green,” but we have whales choking on plastic in our oceans. So, you know, maybe recycle that yogurt container and maybe don’t do any unnecessary printing? Obviously, there’s a ton that can be done to make your office more environmentally-friendly, but even little things make an impact. You know, like recycling your soda can and not throwing it in the stupid garbage (you know who you are). Start there.
This is the place in most blogs where we ask you to contact us if you need help with a project (and, of course, you can contact us here), but instead we’re just gonna ask you to please consider implementing some environmentally-friendly practices around your office. We even said, “please.”
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