White Collar Goes Green: Earth-Friendly Tips for the Workplace

Earth Day has come and gone.  Perhaps you did your part yesterday, planted a tree, staged a blackout to conserve energy, or made that extra effort to walk your Coke can to the recycling bin instead of tossing it in the trash.  But guess what?  The conservation can continue well beyond one day a year, and the perfect area to start is a place that you likely spend a great deal of time on a daily basis: your workplace.

Business offices, abuzz on a 9-5 basis with numerous computers running, florescent lights beaming, and Xerox machines humming, are a perfect opportunity to implement some greener approaches to daily tasks.  Below are some tips on how you could inject your workplace with some green initiatives in spirit of Earth Day!

Cut back on the paper trail.
We know many people still swear by the hard copy mantra, and in some situations it may be necessary to keep hard records or a paper trail, but for the most part, reducing the amount of paper that is printed is one area that many companies can improve upon.  Email documents when possible.  Another possibility is implementing an intranet at your organization.  Having one communal place to share documents and bits of company-wide information can drastically cut back on the amount of Employee Manuals and compilations of the sort that are printed, distributed, and undoubtedly just gather dust in the bottom drawer of an employee’s desk.  And when all else fails and you must print, try the good old eco-friendly “double sided” print whenever you can.  You’ll save half as many trees that way!

An Oldie but a Goodie:  Recycle!
We know you’ve heard this one before.  You might as well think of this as the First Commandment of going green.  Everyone knows they should be doing it, but are YOU?  Most offices are already on board with collecting discarded papers to be recycled, and you can take it a step further by placing recyling bins in your break room or cafeteria to separate glass and plastic from the trash.  There is no shortage of things around the office that can be recycled; for instance, instead of chucking your empty ink cartridges, some companies will actually BUY them back from you.  For certain items such as electronics, computers, etc., there are specific ways you are to dispose of them, so make sure to do a little Google search to see if what you’re about to toss in the trash should actually end up in a land fill or not.

Cut back on electricity.
A LOT of electricity courses through an office on a given day, with all of the machines, phones, lights, machines, etc. humming along to keep the company going.  In areas where people are not there for more than 15 minutes, such as supply closets or break rooms, turn the light off after leaving.  Also, many people leave their computers on when they leave at night.  Unless you have some company updates that are being made after hours on your computers, make sure to shut your computer completely down to reduce on the electricity wasted when not in use.

Watch what you’re eating on.
We know you’ve heard that people should watch what they eat, but they should also watch what they’re eating ON.  Some materials, such as Styrofoam, are hazardous to the environment.  Styrofoam in particular does not break down easily, and can also release harmful chemicals when wet that can contaminate water sources.  Even cutting back on paper products is a good idea.  Bringing in your own mugs and dishes to eat off of is far more eco-friendly than creating more trash with each meal you eat. (Don’t forget your bottle of Dawn!)

Mind your commute.
You can be a green employee even before you step in the office each morning by altering the way you commute.  Dust off the trusty Huffy if a bike ride to work is feasible.  Try carpooling with fellow employees who live nearby.  Take buses or trains when possible. If you are an employer, consider telecommuting options for situations where it is not entirely necessary for an employee to be physically at the office every day. Anything that can reduce the amount of cars emitting pollution into the air for hours every morning and afternoon is a positive thing (and be honest, you didn’t really like sitting in rush hour traffic anyways, did you?)

By just tweaking a few habits we may have during our 9-5, you can truly do your part to boost green initiatives!

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