Whether you own or manage a
business office, work from home, or simply keep up a work space you like to
designate as your home office, there are many ways to go green, save money and
resources, and most importantly, generate less waste and a smaller Carbon
footprint. Creating and maintaining a green office can essentially be split into
two categories: Saving waste and saving electricity. The electricity part
doesn't have anything to do with green office supplies per say, and accounts for
the quickest and easiest way to start turning your office green.
If you work in an office and spend large amounts of time at a computer, it is important that you use your computer efficiently. Especially if there is intermittent downtime between your working sessions at the computer, a good practice to get into is putting your computer in Standby Mode, or, for longer durations away from the desk, powering down entirely. Contrary to the common misconception that turning on a computer uses increased amounts of energy, the act of putting a computer in standby will nonetheless save more energy than leaving one on. If you don't mind turning it off entirely, go for it!
It will also save your office energy by turning off auxiliary devices like printers, scanners and copy machines when not in use. Always be sure to completely turn off all devices when going home at the end of the day. And for a minimal investment of around $10, buy a power strip(s) to connect all your office machines so that they can be powered entirely off with a single switch. In case you didn't know already, leaving electric devices plugged directly into wall outlets, still uses electricity. It's called phantom power, and can be eliminated with the use of a power strip, consequently saving plenty more than the cost of the strip itself.
Another minimal investment to help make your office green is changing out all incandescent light bulbs with long-lasting, energy saving light bulbs (CFL's). For a larger investment, albeit one that will save more money in the long run, purchase an LCD flat screen monitor for your desktop computer(s) if you don't already have one. These can be purchased for little over $100, and use considerably less energy than bulky CRT monitors.
Another way to save electricity is by installing motion sensor light switches. Although requiring more of an "investment" to install, they are highly effective at using as little light as is necessary and definitely should be considered when refurbishing and/or moving into a new office building - especially one with a community bathroom(s) and conference rooms.
Until this point, we've primarily talked about using less energy befitting of
a green office. Now, our Green Office Guide will cover the saving of waste, and
the use of green office products.
The very first thing you should do to green up your office in this regard is to implement a recycling program. Depending on the size of your office, this could range from setting up various trash bins in the office kitchen break room to designating your own personal, paper-recycling waste basket. At a minimum, designate waste baskets - or at least be mindful of recycling your own paper products (envelopes, junk mail, newspapers, calendars), printer cartridges and other commodities like plastic water bottles and phone books).
In line with paper recycling, it's also a good practice to reuse as much paper as possible. In other words, create a scrap paper bin and stock it with any papers that can either be printed on a blank side or cut in small squares that can be used as post-it-notes. In large offices, it's a great idea to create a "community" scrap paper bin.
Whenever possible, always use email for correspondences, and try incorporating the use of dry erase boards, rather than cork tack boards. Of course, remember to use eco-friendly (water based) dry erase markers. Speaking of markers, if you really want to make your office green, go out and stock up on green office supplies. These can range from recycled printer cartridges with low VOC ink to biodegradable pens and recycled staples. Of course, paper is the most used office product of the whole lot, and should therefore be purchased with pre/post consumer recycled material. The higher the percentage, the better. On a side note, although pre-consumer (industrial) recycled paper is still a good buy, go with a paper that has more post-consumer recycled content, if possible. This helps keep recycling incentives going.
Also, be on the lookout for paper that is FSC Certified. Although less common and slightly more costly, the FSC certification guarantees sustainability from tree to shelf. Admittedly, partially recycled paper generally costs less than 100% post-consumer recycled paper; However, you will find great prices to be had on 100% recycled paper at select online destinations like BuyGreen.com, The Ultimate Green Store and even Staples. For a large selection of FSC certified products, check out ReBinder. For a comprehensive collection of office supplies of varying greenness, check out The Green Office.
Other ways to incorporate the use of green office products into your office operations, is to use green printing services. As you already know, some printing inks are more eco-friendly and less toxic than others. That said, soy-based inks are not necessarily the best alternative, considering that the bulk of Soy is now genetically modified and anything but organic. The green, eco friendly printing service at the Sustainable Group offers the greenest printing service around, and is definitely worth checking for printing post cards, presentation packets, flyers etc.
Other Green Office Guide Tips
Cleaners - Not only are many of the chemicals found in standard cleaning products bad for the environment, they can be toxic to humans as well. Sure, they kill the germs, but they're also killing lots of other things! The solution is to simply keep green cleaning products on hand in your office. There are plenty out there to choose from these days. One of the best (not to mention best priced) we've come across is the Mrs. Myers collection at Our Green House. If you have the luxury of hiring a cleaning service, seek one out that is environmentally conscious and uses green cleaning products as well!
Furniture - While acquiring as much eco-friendly office furniture for your office needs is a great way to green up your office, this doesn't mean you have to go out and buy newly recycled desks and chairs. Using reclaimed furniture is just as good, if not better. Scout going-out-of-business sales, estate sales and auctions. If all you need is a single chair or desk, thrift stores and garage sales should help you out. If buying new, just be sure to look for products with sustainable certifications, whether it be regarding recycled material or sustainable forestry. The Ultimate Green Store carries a good selection of office furniture, including Emeco armchairs, which despite a heftier cost and guaranteed to last over a lifetime.
Beverage Containers - Last but not least, if you work in an office with several employees, stock up on reusable mugs and drinking glasses, rather than styrofoam and plastic cups. If you really want to be eco-friendly, purchase drinking cups made out of recycled glass and the eco-friendly mugs. If it is more feasible using disposable products, we highly recommend the biodegradable cups, dinnerware and trash bags affordably priced at BuyGreen.com
To make a long story short (at the end of the article no less....nice touch eh?), if you incorporate just one of the above mentioned tips into the workplace, your office will be one step closer to be "green" certified. We hope you enjoyed our Green Office Guide, and please let us know of any insight and discoveries you've made and which could make our Green Office Guide even greener!