People often think of “Going Green” as a huge endeavor, a process that is too expensive and too difficult to achieve unless you are a large wealthy corporation. In a perfect world, every office building would be constructed with double paned windows to increase insulation, hand dryers to reduce paper towel waste, water saving ultra-low-flush toilets and solar panels lined on the roof. However, the sad reality is that many office spaces don’t even have a recycling bin. As our world is making significant strides in reducing our greenhouse emissions and our consumption of natural resources, it is imperative that businesses and office spaces, where people spend almost two days’ worth of their time per week, are doing their part. Fortunately, even if your office building was not built to be environmentally efficient, there are still so many small, individual actions that will make a huge difference in your office becoming a more environmentally friendly space, and will save you tons of money along the way.
- Think before you print: According to the EPA, the average American worker prints about 10,000 pages a year, and more than 10 percent of those are wasted pages that many of us throw straight into the garbage. This mass printing has huge effects on the environment, as the United States uses eight million tons of office paper, or the equivalent of 178 million trees. While some documents, agendas and images need to be printed, many of them do not. With the level of technology that we have, especially applications such as Google Drive, documents can be viewed, edited and communally worked on all without using paper. Therefore, encourage employees to bring their laptops to meetings, only print the final versions of documents and remind them to always be conscious of their font size, spacing and margins before printing (think of how many full pages you’ve printed that only have one line of text). Also simple things such as adding a message of “Please consider the environment before printing this email” to your email signature or changing your printer’s default setting to double sided could result in cutting your paper consumption in half! Not only does this help the environment but it saves an enormous amount of money for your company. Efficient printing is truly the ultimate win-win situation.
- Let there be light: If you have access to natural light, don’t let it go to waste! Pull those shades up, let the bright sunlight in and turn off some of those artificial lights. You’re not only helping the environment, but cutting some of those crazy energy costs too. Artificial lighting in offices is often done in excess (to the point where it can cause headaches for workers), so try and get in the habit of turning off at least a third of your installed lights. If you have multiple conference and meeting rooms, always try and pick the one that has the most natural light, on a sunny day you could completely eliminate the need for artificial light in your meetings. Conference rooms are also a great place to install motion-activated light switches that automatically turn off lights when no motion is detected, making sure that all unused rooms are free of wasteful energy. Natural light not only helps save energy, but has been proven to increase productivity, work morale and employee health. The vitamin D we get from the sun boosts our mood, regulates melatonin and can help us to be more creative and productive. Of course if it is cloudy or if you have limited access to windows near your work space, artificial light is a necessity. But when using artificial light, always use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs as they use 75 percent less energy and last up to ten times longer.
- Save some water for the fish: Flushing the toilet is something that we do absentmindedly. Yet, the water used in a normal toilet flush adds up to be the biggest source of water waste in our office buildings. New low-flush toilets can be expensive, but there is a cheap alternative that could have your toilet using only half of the normal amount of water with every flush. Putting a brick in the tank of your office toilets is an easy and creative way to displace water so that when the tank fills, it uses far less water to do so. You can also combine Green movements with employee appreciation. Give your employees nice company branded reusable water bottles to bring to work rather than plastic bottles. Provide employees with a water bubbler or install water fill-up stations at a designated filtered sink. Americans use about 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, reusable bottles are the key to reducing that staggering statistic.