How to create an environmentally-friendly office

Lower your company's carbon footprint with these steps

Eco-friendly efforts are gaining momentum as more people realize that protecting the earth is important. You can bring your green strategies into the workplace to create a healthy and sustainable environmentally-friendly office. Smart efforts can not only protect the planet, but also trim your operating expenses.

Creating a green office isn’t as challenging as you may think. Whether you take one small step or work through all items in this list, you’ll enjoy the benefits of knowing you have a more sustainable office that’s easier on the earth.

1. Use green office supplies. Rather than stock your supply closet with traditional office staples, upgrade to eco-friendly alternatives. Opt for recycled paper products for everything from your sticky notes and printer paper to paper towels and tissues. Choose compostable cups for coffee and water and 100 percent recyclable binders that lack the hazardous plastic of other binders.

You can also make your office supplies greener by simply reusing what you have. Encourage employees to return used file folders to the supply closet when they’re finished so that others can change the label and adopt them for their own projects. Tear off used pages and do the same with notebooks or notepads that are no longer needed. You don’t need your closet to feature exclusively brand-new items, and you’ll save the environment and supply costs by stretching items further.

2. Discourage unnecessary printing. In the digital office environment, printing is no longer a necessity for many documents. Encourage your employees to avoid printing documents when possible. Instead, maintain a virtual bulletin board for announcements, send memos by email, and head to the cloud for document sharing.

If you’re struggling with excessive waste in this area, consider turning to software programs that will analyze your print consumption, offer suggestions for cutting back, and give you smarter solutions anytime you order a print job. If a user opts to print anyway, the software will direct the project to the least expensive printer in the office for the task.

3. Rethink the traditional office. You don’t need to have an expansive office space to be productive or successful in your industry. If you have empty offices, unused meeting rooms, or spacious lobbies and open areas that serve no purpose, you may find that downgrading to a smaller space will cut your costs and your carbon footprint. Smaller offices need fewer utilities and maintenance.

If many of your workers telecommute, you may find that the best option is to forego the brick-and-mortar office altogether. Shared work spaces such as WeWork offices allow freelancers and entrepreneurs to rent their own desk or office, so space and resources go to the best use possible. Every office is slightly different, so you can find one that fits your personal work style, whether you’re coworking in an office with an eye-catching atrium and arcade, such as 1900 Market St in Philadelphia, or an office with a stocked kitchen and mother’s room such as 1001 Woodword Ave in Detroit.

4. Cut off your energy vampires. Offices have sneaky energy vampires. These items slowly drain energy even when they’re not in use. Computers can pull energy when they’re not in use. Large appliances such as printers and copiers can use energy 24/7 if they’re never turned off. Many types of equipment can also use energy when they’re off entirely. The only solution is to stop energy drain at the power strip.

Choose a smart power strip that has a programmable timer, which signals the strip to turn off every day when the office closes. Others sense occupancy in the room, and shut off electronics when the office is no longer occupied. A current-sensing power strip will turn off the entire strip when one key item gets switched off. You can set this strip to cut off power to everything at your desk when you switch off the computer. Smart power strips will cut your utility bills and make your office more environmentally friendly.

5. Adjust your lighting. Lighting is something you may not think about much in the office, but adjusting your lighting tactics can have a large impact. If your office has large windows, reconsider whether you need lights on during the height of the day. Although your lighting probably stays on by default, you may find that you can switch off lights during the middle of the day. You can also switch ceiling lights for task lighting, so that you’re not lighting unused spaces. Motion-activated lighting is a smart choice for hallways, restrooms, break rooms, and other areas that aren’t used all the time.

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and LED lights are the eco-friendliest picks for the lights in your office. Check your bulbs and make the necessary replacements for a way to create a more sustainable office.

6. Minimize your heating and cooling. How often do you reprogram your thermostat? In most climates, reprogramming is something you should do at least twice per year. During warm-weather months, keep the office slighter warmer during the day to decrease energy use. Turn up the thermostat more during after-office hours when the building is empty. Well-placed ceiling or desk fans create a natural cooling effect in occupied areas. Remember to switch fans off when the room is empty, however, as they only cool people who can feel the breeze on their skin. Fans don’t lower temperatures.

In cool-weather months, adjust your thermostat to keep the office slightly cooler, particularly when the building is empty. Schedule an annual tuneup for your furnace in early fall and one for the air conditioner in early spring. This tuneup will help your HVAC system stay in top condition, using as little energy as possible. Your office manager or maintenance crew should change the HVAC filter once every one to three months for the cleanest air and best efficiency.

7. Replace wasteful paper towels. Do you use paper towels to dry your hands in the restroom and clean up messes in the kitchen? Air dryers are a more efficient choice for hand drying. In the kitchen, you can switch to eco-friendly paper towels made from bamboo and sugarcane, for example. Ask your office supply retailer for recommendations for paper towels.

8. Source snacks locally. If your office serves assorted snacks, replace them to focus on items that sourced locally and produced organically. Get your fruits from the nearest farmers market, and you’ll enjoy outstanding flavor along with a smaller footprint on the earth. If you have a lunch cart or use a lunch delivery service, see if you can partner with a deli or restaurant that focuses on local, eco-friendly ingredients. Enjoy breakfast sandwiches with eggs from local farms or a lunchtime sub with beef from a local butcher and grass-fed cows.

Not only will these practices give your employees better food to enjoy while they’re at work, but they will also introduce them to local producers that they may choose to buy from during their own time. Contact a farm in your area, and ask the owners whether they’ll bring their products to the office one day a week so that your employees can buy snacks and grocery items to take home with them. These efforts can promote more environmentally friendly living practices throughout your community.

9. Educate your employees. Many green strategies focus on the activities of the employees themselves. Implement an office training program that educates your employees on methods to work in an eco-friendly way. This training includes teaching them about mindful paper use and how to stop energy drains from items in the office. If you have an office recycling program, make sure you teach your employees how to use the program correctly. Encourage carpooling, walking, or biking to work. Partner with local transportation providers to offer discounted bus passes that will encourage your employees to use public transportation more often.

While a mindful office manager can offer many opportunities to help an office become more environmentally friendly, the job comes down to employee implementation. If the office staff uses the programs and installations available to them, you can maximize the effects of your green office.

Creating a sustainable office will ease your business’s impact on the earth. You can share your eco-friendly office efforts on your company website and include your efforts as a part of your mission statement or branding strategy. A greener business offers benefits for everyone.

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