Today, you don’t have to be a sworn environmentalist to know the serious impact of climate change. While people are adopting ways to reduce their carbon footprint worldwide, it’s interesting how many still don’t consider offices as places where we should take equal action.
This mindset mostly comes from the wrong belief that greening up the office is costly and difficult. However, on the contrary, any office space is full of opportunities to make a positive impact on the environment with minimal effort and we’ve put together this short guide to prove it.
Prepare for Recycling
Everyone is aware of the importance of recycling, but understanding how to do it correctly and developing the right attitude towards it doesn’t happen overnight. To make sure everybody is recycling used office supplies, you need to make it possible by implementing that action into a daily routine. You’ll accomplish that by placing a recycling center in a prominent location. If you don’t have enough room for a complete set of recycling containers, simply place a general recycling box inside the staff room and a paper one near the printers.
Think About Paper
We all know the negative impact of plastic, but we often overlook our paper usage although it equates to millions of cut trees, most of which end up in similarly huge quantities on landfills. Living in the digital age with digital pay stubs and cloud storage almost eliminates the need for paper and printers. But you need to think about it – if the printing of a certain document is truly necessary. All the inter-office communications can be done electronically and asking customers if they want their receipts before printing them you’ll realize that most of them don’t. There’s no need to print and distribute meeting agendas when you can display them via overhead projectors or mobile devices.
Of course, there are some situations when it’s impossible to avoid printing, but there are clever ways to keep things green. Keep it sustainable by using recycled paper, printing on both sides, using multifunctional printers with energy-saving features instead of separate scanning and fax machines, and refill used toner and ink cartridges, or simply recycle them.
Dealing with plastic means putting an end to the use of disposable items such as plastic bottles, cups, plates, cutlery, etc. This kind of thinking should be translated to all office supplies through green procurement, which means you’ll source and purchase only goods that have the least environmental impact. These green products range from natural cleaning products, across recycled materials, to staple-less pens and staplers that can be refilled instead of disposed of after one use. Cut down on the products with no green alternatives (rubber bands and the likes) or eliminate them completely.
Pay Attention to Energy Usage
There’s no need for electronic appliances to be on, all the time. Turn off computers when you’re not using them, and don’t forget to unplug all the appliances during the night to prevent the leaching effects of phantom power. For shorter breaks, you should enable the standby mode in your computer settings. New computers and monitors are more energy-efficient, so keep that equipment up to date. When replacing the older equipment, don’t simply throw it away – drop it off at an electronic recycling facility or donate to a nonprofit or charity.
The same goes for lighting – turn off the lights when you’re not in the room and never leave them overnight. Swap regular incandescent bulbs for LEDs or CFLs as they use about 75% less energy for the same light output. If employees have problems with remembering to switch off the lights, motion-activated light switches are also a good investment since they’ll save energy automatically. Another trick is to go with lighter wall colours that will reflect the daylight and cut down the need for overhead lighting.
Remember to adjust the thermostat up or down when the office is not occupied and make sure air conditioning systems are serviced regularly. Prevent heat loss from doors and windows by applying caulking and weather stripping.
Don’t Forget Water
Water also requires energy to be filtered and heated, so it’s equally important to conserve it. Just one leaking pipe can waste more than 2000 gallons per year, so make sure they can be turned off completely and fix all the continually running toilets. If you have old-style toilets and no means to replace them with new ultra-low-flush models, put soda bottles filled with sand into the tanks. This trick will make the tanks fill with less water instead of using around 7 gallons for a single flush.
As you can see, it’s all about the change in mindset and incorporating simple steps into your routine that will form the relevant building blocks for the future. A little awareness will take you a long way – it will not only benefit the environment but also promote a healthy and positive working ethic and, crucially, save money in the process.