Editor’s Note: Each Tuesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program.We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1220pm (central) every Tuesday atWDAY.com or, if you’re in North Dakota or western Minnesota, listen on your radio at AM970 WDAY.
Whether you work at home or in an office away from home, you can find simple ways to save energy, resources, money and the planet all at the same time.
Greener homes are in the spotlight these days, but what about the other places where many of us spend huge chunks of our time–our offices? Some simple changes of habit can save energy and resources at work, and these small steps can be multiplied by persuading the powers-that-be at your workplace to adopt environmentally friendly (and often cost-effective) policies.
- Artificial lighting accounts for 44 percent of the electricity use in office buildings.
- Make it a habit to turn off the lights when you’re leaving any room for 15 minutes or more and utilize natural light when you can.
- Make it a policy to buy Energy Star-rated light bulbs and fixtures, which use at least two-thirds less energy than regular lighting, and install timers or motion sensors that automatically shut off lights when they’re not needed.
- De-Clutter Your Space
- A Study from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute found that having a disorganized work space makes it difficult for people to process information efficiently. Things scatter around your office or cubical compete for your attention and disturb concentration.
- Set up an inbox so your coworkers aren’t adding to your desk’s clutter when they’re dropping something off for you.
- The average desk harbors over 400 times the bacteria, according to WholeLiving.com, of a toilet seat so make sure your dusting and cleaning keyboards along with de-cluttering.
- Computers in the business sector unnecessarily waste $1 billion worth of electricity a year.
- Make it a habit to turn off your computer—and the power strip it’s plugged into—when you leave for the day. Otherwise, you’re still burning energy even if you’re not burning the midnight oil. (Check with your IT department to make sure the computer doesn’t need to be on to run backups or other maintenance.) During the day, setting your computer to go to sleep automatically during short breaks can cut energy use by 70 percent. Remember, screen savers don’t save energy.
- Make it a policy to invest in energy-saving computers, monitors, and printers and make sure that old equipment is properly recycled. Look for a recycler that has pledged not to export hazardous e-waste and to follow other safety guidelines. Old computers that still work, and are less than five years old, can be donated to organizations that will refurbish them and find them new homes. (You may even get a tax deduction.)
- Print smarter
- The average U.S. office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year.
- Make it a habit to print on both sides or use the back side of old documents for faxes, scrap paper, or drafts. Avoid color printing and print in draft mode whenever feasible.
- Make it a policy to buy chlorine-free paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Also consider switching to a lighter stock of paper or alternatives made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, or kenaf.
- Recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy remanufactured ones. According to Office Depot, each remanufactured toner cartridge “keeps approximately 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic out of landfills… and conserves about a half gallon of oil.”
- Go paperless when possible.
- Make it a habit to think before you print: could this be read or stored online instead? When you receive unwanted catalogs, newsletters, magazines, or junk mail, request to be removed from the mailing list before you recycle the item.
- Make it a policy to post employee manuals and similar materials online, rather than distribute print copies. They’re easier to update that way too.
- Make it a habit to recycle everything your company collects. Just about any kind of paper you would encounter in an office, including fax paper, envelopes, and junk mail, can be recycled. So can your old cell phone, PDA or pager.
- Make it a policy to place recycling bins in accessible, high-traffic areas and provide clear information about what can and can not be recycled.
- Buy Recycled Products
- Make it a policy to purchase office supplies and furniture made from recycled materials.
- Watch what (and how) you eat.
- Pack a waste-free lunch – make it a habit to bring your own mug and dishware for those meals you eat at the office.
- Make it a policy to provide reusable dishes, silverware, and glasses.
- Switch to Fair Trade and organic coffee and tea, and buy as much organic and local food as possible for parties and other events.
- Provide filtered drinking water to reduce bottled-water waste.
- Air Quality
- Make it a habit to use nontoxic cleaning products.
- Brighten up your cubicle with plants, which absorb indoor pollution. “Potted plants can filter volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – toxins like formaldehyde and benzene that are released from carpet, paint and the standard-issue pressed wood furniture that is found in most offices – from the air around your work space,” says Bill Wolverton, Ph.D, a former NASA scientist and the author of Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them.
- Make it a policy to buy furniture, carpeting, and paint that are free of VOCs and won’t off-gas toxic chemicals.
My Green Side’s web pick of the week:
GlobalStewards.org has environmental tips and sustainable solutions for a healthy planet. The site was created in 1998 and has information on everything from how to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch to Eco Tips for Your Home and Finances.