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3 Simple Steps to a Green Office

Thursday, October 23, 2008
By Anne Kramer

Keeping the environment in mind at the office is not just socially responsible; it can also save money. In addition to tax breaks, environmentally conscious businesses also enjoy savings in their electricity bills and supply costs. A few simple steps can turn any office into a “green” office. 

1. Cut electricity usage. This might seem like a common-sense tip, but many people overlook obvious ways to reduce their overall electricity consumption.
  • Skip the “sleep” at night: Instead of leaving computers, monitors, and even copy machines on stand-by at night, consider using a smart power strip. These have a switch, allowing you to turn off everything all at once.

  • Unplug items like scanners and printers that may be used only occasionally. They draw power even when they are off.

  • Put motion detectors in rooms that are used sporadically, such as restrooms, conference rooms, and break rooms. Lights will then cut off automatically when the room is not in use.

  • Install a programmable thermostat for the office. Set the temperature higher for overnight and weekends.
2. Select green office products. From office chairs to light bulbs, a wide variety of furniture and supplies are now readily available.
  • Look for computer and printer paper that contains a high percentage of post-consumer waste. Even recycled paper requires a significant quantity of energy to produce, so make double-sided copies whenever possible.

  • Create lower light levels for employees who spend significant time on the computer. The lower light creates a greater contrast with the monitor, making it easier to read the screen.

  • Choose compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent ones. And open the blinds: natural light is free, and it has been consistently proven to improve employee productivity and satisfaction.

  • Select low-VOC paints, furniture, and carpet. These products not only require less energy to manufacture, but they also emit less chemicals into the air, so employees are less likely to get ill. Companies such as Humanscale and Izzydesign specialize in environmentally friendly office furniture.
3. Reduce the commute. For most people, going to work doesn’t include only the drive to and from the office, but also trips to lunch or off-site meetings.
  • Offer incentives, such as preferential parking or transportation reimbursement, for employees who carpool or use public transit.

  • Provide bicycle racks close to the front of the building, to encourage bike riding.

  • Stay in for lunch. Employees can bring their own lunches, or order delivery as a whole group. If lunch at a restaurant is a must, patronize local restaurants within walking distance whenever possible.

  • Consider restructuring the work-day. Employees may opt to work four ten-hour days, instead of five eight-hour days, which means they have to drive to and from work less each week.

  • Make telecommuting an option, even if only one day per week. This is the most environmentally friendly option, as it reduces the commute entirely.
If you are looking to “get green” at the office, you need only remember three basic steps: reduce electricity usage, buy environmentally friendly office products, and cut down on driving time. These measures will make a significant environmental and economical impact for any business.

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