Promoting a Green Workplace
By Samantha Chang
Q. I work in an office with 45 other people and am really appalled by the amount of paper, supplies and energy we waste on a daily basis. I do what I can to recycle paper and plastic but think there’s a lot more we could all be doing to make our workplace more eco-friendly. Do you have any suggestions?
A. This is a major issue now, in light of soaring oil prices (and accompanying skyrocketing energy costs) and a generally weakening U.S. economy. Sadly, the U.S. is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution in the world.
While the manufacturing and industrial sectors are making some strides in limiting their carbon emissions footprints, not enough is being done in the American workplace, according to the Department of Energy. The good news is, we can each do our part and encourage others to help make our workplaces more eco-friendly with these green office tips. These steps can help.
First, approach your office manager or CFO to ask if they’ll consider establishing an office-wide green protocol. Because a green workplace means lower operating costs for the company, they’ll be glad to entertain your suggestions, which should include the following measures, where possible:
- Place recycling bins near printers and in high-traffic areas.
- Replace tungsten filament light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
- Buy recycled paper products and other office supplies.
- Turn off office equipment when not in use.
- Turn off lights and computers at the end of the workday.
- Turn down the thermostat in the winter.
- Avoid disposable cups for water coolers or coffee machines. Instead, use your own mug.
- Decorate the office with potted plants.
An office policy to make double-sided prints whenever possible can also help, since DOE statistics indicate that most offices use about 10,000 sheets of paper per person every year! If your office is serious about limiting its carbon footprint, it may also want to offer a telecommuting option, since than 1/4 of greenhouse gas emissions stem from work-related travel and commuting.
So as you can see, there are many practical business reasons for making this change. But did you know that greener offices also enjoy better employee morale and retention? People who work in green offices are even more productive, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. “If workers are just 2% more productive, or 2% fewer leave within their first year, the savings [to the company] are overwhelming,” according to Doug Holte, a green-office real estate developer.
You and your colleagues can periodically review your progress and share updates with the rest of the staff. It’s a great way to build teamwork, improve office morale and do something good for the environment. Remember: This is the only earth we’ve got, and we’re all in this together.
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