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A greener workplace can mean a lighter ecological footprint, a healthier and more productive place to work, and good news for the bottom line. Whether you're the boss or the employee, whether your office is green already or still waiting to see the light, some practical steps can lay the groundwork for a healthy, low-impact workspace.
Follow these ten steps to make your workplace a little bit greener:
- More work, less energy. Set computers to energy-saving settings and make sure to shut them down when you leave for the day ("standby" settings will continue to draw power even when not in use). Printers, scanners, and other peripherals that are only used occasionally can be unplugged until they're needed. And of course, turn off lights in spaces that are unoccupied.
- Digitize. The greenest paper is no paper at all, so keep things digital and dematerialized whenever possible. The more you do online, the less you need paper.
- Don’t be a paper pusher. When buying printer paper, look for recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content and the minimum of chlorine bleaching.
- Green up your commute. American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic. This adds up to 3.7 billion hours and 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year. We can ease some of this strain by carpooling, taking public transit, biking, walking, or a creative combination thereof.
- Green sleeves. When you shop for work wear, find clothes made with organic or recycled fibers. Avoid clothes that need to be dry cleaned, and if they so demand it, seek out your local "green" dry cleaner.
- Work from home. Instant messaging, video conferencing, and other innovative workflow tools make effective telecommuting a reality. If you can telecommute, hold phone conferences, take online classes, or otherwise work from home, give it a try.
- Use Green Materials. Like paper, pens and pencils can be made of recycled materials, and refillable pens and markers are preferable to disposable ones. Use biodegradable soaps and recycled paper or cloth towels in the bathroom and kitchen, and provide biodegradable cleaners for the custodial staff.
- Redesign the Workspace. Start with good furniture, good lighting, and good air. Furniture can be manufactured from recycled materials. Incandescent bulbs can be replaced with compact fluorescents and there is an ever-growing selection of high-end LED desk lamps that use miniscule amounts of energy. Workspace air quality is also crucial. Good ventilation and low-VOC paints and materials (such as furniture and carpet) will keep employees healthy.
- Lunch Time. Bringing lunch to work in reusable containers is likely the greenest (and healthiest) way to eat at work. Getting delivery and takeout almost inevitably ends with a miniature mountain of packaging waste.
- Get Others in on the Act. Share these tips with your colleagues. Ask your boss to purchase carbon offsets for corporate travel by car and plane. Arrange an office carpool or group bike commute. Trade shifts and job duties so that you can work four long days instead of five short ones. Ask the office manager to get fair trade coffee for the break room and make sure everyone has a small recycling bin so that recycling is just as easy as throwing paper away. Ask everyone to bring in a mug or glass from home and keep some handy for visitors so that you reduce or eliminate use of paper cups.