Nov 22nd
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Eco News Natural Tips How to Green the Office
How to Green the Office PDF Print E-mail
Eco News

grass--keyboard-283pxWork is where the 'green' heart is. Leave a small carbon footprint with 10 easy tips on how to green your office. From paper to coffee, one cup at a time, be it - organic, fair trade, bird friendly, solar roasted brew with hormone-free milk and sweetened with organic sugar or organic alternative. Read on for ideas on how to implement more environmental measures in and around the workplace.


Office workers are calling for their companies to do more for the environment, with only 17 per cent of those polled in a survey believing that their organisation is doing enough from an environmental point of view.

Computers and gadgets stay on day and night; toxic batteries, ink cartridges and old electronics get thrown into the garbage and pretty paper made from old growth forests lands itself in the printer.

Green Office Confusion

The survey, commissioned by Double A paper and conducted by Galaxy Research indicated workers would like their company to implement more environmental measures in and around the workplace.

Overall, 36 per cent of office workers rate the environment as a critical issue, with a further 51 per cent considering it very important. But, while office workers are highly concerned about the environment, many do not have the knowledge to determine which environmental practices their organisations should adopt.

And despite the high profile of the Kyoto Protocol in recent months a huge 70 per cent of office workers have only a vague or no idea at all of what the term 'Kyoto Protocol' means. Only 22 per cent of office workers have an understanding of what the Kyoto Protocol actually is.

Sponsored by the United Nations, the Kyoto Protocol is an agreement between countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It was established in Japan in 1997 but didn't become international law until 2004.

'Kyoto Protocol' was not the only environmental term causing confusing amongst office workers. Check eco words.

Only 27 per cent of office workers surveyed understood the term 'carbon footprint'. While only one in five workers understood 'old growth forest', the term rainforests are classified under, and are still cleared in Indonesia and South America for use in paper productions.

Of those workers with an understanding of the 'carbon footprint' concept, the majority (74 per cent) say they are making a conscious effort to reduce the size of their footprint. Interestingly, women are making a greater effort in this area than men.

The research found that office workers consider reducing paper usage and printing the most critical environmental issue in the office. The next highest issue of concern was reducing office wastage.

While reducing paper usage is the biggest concern, most office workers do not fully understand the varying environmental impacts of the different types of paper on the market. Most companies are yet to embrace the enlightened approach to reducing their carbon footprint their employees would prefer, with an average of only 21 per cent of companies admitting they buy paper from brands aligned with environmental protection.

In contrast to the consideration given to paper usage and despite the publicity surrounding Earth Hour, only 17 per cent of office workers consider turning off lights as an important environmental issue in  the workplace.

Here Are Some Ideas to Help you get Started on Your Own Office Greening

Use less, choose the best, offset the rest  It is all about creating an environment that reflects the company's culture. Simple measures include providing quality work chairs and great coffee.

1. Switch your office paper, supplies, furniture, cleaners etc to the "greenest" available

Did you know that the average US worker uses 12,000 sheets of paper per year? Remember the dream of the "paperless office"? It was a dream, alright. Each year, businesses devour 15 million toner cartridges -- enough to stretch from New York City to Zurich, according to The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time By Elizabeth Rogers, Thomas M. Kostigen

Paper accounts for roughly 40% of all municipal solid waste in the United States. Whether you work in an office or telecommute from home, chances are you use a lot of paper.

Should you use papers with recycled content, tree free (non-wood) fibers, or chlorine free processing? How can you avoid wood-based papers made from old growth timber fibers? Of all the choices, which one is best?  
Use electronic mail rather than paper whenever possible. Email is faster, cheaper, and less resource intensive than overnight mail. Look into free (Windows-compatible) software from GreenPrint  that helps you avoid printing blank or unwanted pages.

Set up a bulletin board for memos instead of sending a copy to each employee.

Use mailer sheets for interoffice mail instead of an envelope.

The most basic of eco-friendly office supplies are paper and envelopes. Again considering the amount of paper and envelopes used on a daily basis, it makes one more aware of resources by using eco-friendly office supplies that are natural, chemical-free, and reclaimed and recyclable.

Try environmentally friendly pencils, such as those made from recycled paper. Alternatives for correction fluid, pens, and other office supplies are found in many environmental product guides. Use recycled fiber padded envelopes, popcorn, and shredded newspaper for shipping. Some vendors will take back bubble wrap or whatever packing materials that you cannot use.

Choose office furniture that is non-toxic and that is used or made from sustainably harvested wood or other renewable resources. Buy services instead of products - such as leasing services for office equipment, so manufacturers will produce durable, updatable products, rather than ones that are obsolete in a few years.

Avoid materials that are highly toxic, heavily packaged, not recycled, or not recyclable.

Cleansers and other everyday materials (insulation, paints, plastics, glues, carpets, fabrics) often contain dangerous chemicals. Alternatives to harsh chemical cleansers (carpet, window, wall, etc.) may be found in environmental directories or in many natural food stores or check out easy DIY recipes using everyday items like vinegar, baking soda and essential oils.

2. Coffee with a Cause + BYOL How to Green Your caffeine addiction with a concern about responsible consumption.

If you’re a coffee drinker. Today, companies large and small are selling coffee and tea with various eco-labels claiming to address social and environmental challenges within the industry. By choosing coffee and teas with the most credible eco-labels, you’ll help to ensure your purchase will make a difference.

For the eco-organic coffee that you buy to go. BYO  mug. Those soft, white cups are made of highly processed petroleum, earth-hostile Styrofoam (polystyrene) to languish in a landfill for centuries, and can actually disrupt your hormones.

Just show the barista your cup and they will know what to do. Just make sure the barista pours the drink into your mug. Inform the local coffee house of using sustainable cups + organic sugar + organic milk along with the fairtrade coffee that most now offer.

BYOL To save money and resources, bring your lunch. Or if you walk or bike to the takeout place, bring your own container and ask the counter person to skip the earth-hostile Styrofoam packaging. When ordering a drink, ask not to be given a straw. And if you're lucky enough to have an on-site cafeteria, try to encourage the manager to invest in local or organic eats.

3. Invest in reuseable plates, cups, and utensils. Ask people in your office to bring in some items from home. Or, check out a yard sale on the weekend to find second hand items for office use.

Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Use cotton hand towels and dish towels instead of paper towels.

Don't get suckered in by bottled water; take your own glass or a reusable (non-polycarbonate bottle) to the water cooler or drinking fountain. That way, paper cups and plastic water bottles do not have to be put in the trash or recycling bin every day.

4. Dishwashing Habits

Don't wash coffee mugs + dishes with the water running continuously.

A switch to ceramic or stainless-steel mugs, will mean extra towels and water in the office??? Using pre-loved ceramic mugs is probably the greenest way to go.

However, when you wash, do it by hand, using phosphate-free soap and cold water. Have a duty roster, so that you do not wash one mug only . Or, another green dishwashing option is to use a separate dishwashing basin and leave for the cleaner to use, or reusing to flush the loo, may be the green thing to do.

5. Reuse + Recycle everything that is possible, even coffee grounds + food

Make sure your office recycles all types of paper, aluminum, glass, toner cartridges, cardboard, telephone books and plastic. 

No paper should ever find its way into the wastebasket. Have a couple of trays on hand for paper piles. One for reuse and one for recycle.

Keep a scrap box for all of your junk mail/papers with one blank side. You'll never need to buy scratch paper again.

Use both sides of paper before you recycle, and be sure that your photocopying is two-sided when possible.

Reuse items like envelopes, folders and paper clips.

Reuse packaging cartons and shipping materials. Old newspapers make great packaging material.

Use Reusable and Recyclable Coffee Materials. All of us can make a difference - one cup at a time.

Old coffee grounds are excellent to add to your composting pile + as a natural fertiliser, add some old grounds to the office plants. Most of them will love this boost of acidity.

Speaking of compost. Keep a sealed compost container in the office kitchen and individual staff members take turns taking the compost home to add to their own compost piles. You can also chip in to get a worm composter for your office kitchen.

Pour any leftover water (from glasses, teapots, jugs, anything) into a watering can to reuse on the office plants.

If your building does not already offer the service, look for an independent recycling firm that can come and pick up your office recyclables on a weekly or biweekly basis.  If this isn’t an option in your area, work with individuals in your office to encourage people to take their recyclables home with them to put in their own residential curbside recycling.

Recycle printer cartridges, mobile phones computer discs. If there’s still life in an old computer or mobile phone then consider donating to an organization that could use one. Refurbished desks are another good way to save resources, if decking out a new office.

6. Retro-fit lights with fixtures using much less energy. Switch office light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. While the initial investment may cost more than conventional bulbs, CFLs last longer. Over time your office will save green ( money +  energy)

If you need a new computer, consider a laptop or one of the new breed of energy-efficient desktops. Use a laptop because it drains less energy than a desktop. You can also make sure to buy one of the newer Energy Star computers.

Flatscreen monitors, or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens, use less than half the energy of traditional CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors. LCD screens are lighter, more adjustable, and cause less eye strain as they don't flicker plus their sharp display makes it easier to read text.

7. Encourage use of green transportation to and from work

Offer incentives to encourage people to take public transportation, walk, bike, or van / car pool. Most transit lines in the U.S. offer discounts and other perks to companies that subsidize or pay for their employees to take the bus or subway. If you need to take a taxi, look for a environmentally sustainable taxicab service. Think of the saving not only on your wallet, but also the air we all breathe.

8. Green Gifts

Whether you are buying a special gift for a client or a present for an office baby shower, make sure you buy green or Fair Trade items to show that you care about co-workers as well as people and the planet. Forego gifts and donate to a favorite green cause or environmental organisation. Gift time is a great time to consider giving gifts that have more impact on somebody's life.

Gifts for everyone - Swap til you drop lunch breaks

Organise a 'give or take' day where you bring items you don't want anymore and pick up some things you do for free. Clothing, books etc.

9. Greenhouse Gases

Heating and cooling systems suck up about 22 percent of energy used in the commercial sector, so if your climate controls are manually operated, turn them off when you don't need them. Open a few windows. Wear a cardigan. Or better yet, urge your office manager to get an automatic thermostat.

Put your PC into 'sleep' mode when you're away from your desk in order to reduce energy use to 5% of full power.

Switch off lights, computers etc when you leave at night.

Use an energy strip.Turning everything off with the single flick of a power bar makes it easy to save energy (and money!). 

Every PC left on 24-7 over the course of a year results in more than 1,000 extra pounds of greenhouse gases.

Have greenery around the office - plants can filter toxins from the air. Try bromeliads, yucca or ficus - will brighten up the office as well.

10. Offset.  Before buying an offset consider whether you are actually reducing your office emissions??

Green Your Green to Work with new online tool

The buildings where we work, shop, play, and learn account for nearly half of the nation’s energy use. With help from EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, find out how you can save energy and fight global warming by making many of the same green choices at work that you make at home.




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