According to a 2009 Gallup poll, the average employed adult works between 35-44 hours a week.
That's a huge amount of time to spend in the office, and yet the same people who change all their light bulbs to CFLs rarely give a second thought to getting their to-go coffee in a paper cup.
It only takes minutes to make your workspace a little more environmentally friendly. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Turn off the equipment when you leave for the day. Yes, even though Billy from accounting likes to stay late. An action as simple as turning off a 75-watt desktop monitor when you leave can save up to as much as 750 pounds of carbon emissions a year. A power strip can make turning all the equipment off easier at the end of the day, including coffee makers and microwaves. Just make sure the printer is powered down properly, as printers need to seal their cartridges before shutting off.
2. Buy green materials. Switching to recycled printer paper could save thousands of innocent trees a year -- and that's not including paper towels, toilet paper, water cups and all the other products that make working in an office a comfortable enterprise. Many offices have already stopped buying the formerly ubiquitous bottled water. Talk to your office manager about stocking recycled printer paper or replacing the break room cookies with locally grown fruit. And nix printing out separate agendas for everyone at the morning meeting -- slides or e-mailed agendas work just fine.
3. Green your duds. If you're not lucky enough to work in an office where jeans and Chuck Taylors are de rigeur, you already know that great thing about office clothes is that they're not supposed to be particularly trendy. Consider buying your crisply pressed trousers and blouses from thrift or consignment stores. Also, avoid dry-cleaning. Most dry cleaners use a chemical known as perchloroethylene, which is dangerous for both you and the environment. "Perc" is a known carcinogen that erodes the ozone layer and can easily contaminate groundwater. Most materials, like silk and wool, can be hand-washed. If you must go to a dry cleaner, look for one that uses green cleaning techniques, such as liquid carbon.
4. Telecommute. E-mailing, instant-messaging and videoconferencing have made working from home easier than ever before. Take advantage of it! Getting off the road even one day a week significantly reduces the amount of gasoline you burn, and you can even use the time you save on the trip to have an extra cup of coffee in your reusable ceramic mug. If telecommuting isn't a possibility for you, consider asking your boss about instituting a commuter credit program for use on public transportation, or putting up a bulletin board for carpooling.
5. Reusable Cups. Avoid using styrofoam cups for anything. Use a mug for coffee and a water bottle for water. If you recycle at home, you can recycle, reduce and reuse at the office too.
6. Recycle Everything. You can recycle everything from your paper and plastics that might come from the vending machines at work, or paper that might otherwise get thrown away. Some companies will even take your old office furniture to recycle the desks and chairs. You could even donate the furniture to a school near by to not only help the community, but also increase the tax write off for the company. Here is a site to reference: Planet Green.
7. Use Recycled Ink & Toner. Printer cartridges can consist of varying amounts of recycled material helping lessen the growth of environmental waste, ie e-waste. Many online companies sell remanufactured and recycled printer cartridges.
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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio