Even the greenest business might run an office that falls short of being considered eco-friendly, but taking the steps to greening your office doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. It’s the effect of all of the little things you do that will generally make the biggest difference in terms of both environmental footprint and cost savings, not necessarily one big project or focus.
It may help to think about running your office as you would your business – thinking lean, green, and efficient, with an eye toward overall impact on your budget and the planet. Start with baby steps, evaluating equipment, furniture, and processes by the criteria of “Do I really need this?” and don’t get trapped into thinking “But I’ve always had/done that.” and thereby missing out on an opportunity to do things more efficiently.
25 Easy, Inexpensive Tips To Green Your Office Now
- Request a free energy audit from your local power utility. A growing number of municipalities offer free audits to help businesses learn how to use power more efficiently and suggest ways to conserve within the office.
- Turn off your lights: Either set your office lights on a timer, so they get turned off after hours automatically, or assign someone to always make sure the lights are off when the office is empty.
- Use fewer lights: Do you need all of those lights on all of the time? Try using daylight to lessen the need for artificial lighting.
- Switch to energy efficient lighting: Buying all new bulbs or light fixtures might be an expensive option, but replacing one light at a time with an energy efficient compact florescent (CFL) or LED unit is an affordable way to transition over.
- Program your thermostat: Installing and programming a thermostat to keep temperatures at energy-saving levels is a painless way to use less electricity or gas while staying comfortable. Set it for at least two different schedules: Daytime, for working hours, and Nighttime, during the times and days that nobody is in the office. With a manual thermostat, simply turn it down (or up, depending on the season) before leaving for the day or weekend.
- Turn off office computers when not in use: Set computers and other equipment to go to sleep after a period of inactivity, and turn them completely off when leaving for the day or for the weekend. Schedule your backups for during the day if you can, and use a file-syncing service to take files with you avoiding the need for remote access.
- Install power strips to cut phantom power usage: Many devices use electricity even when not in use, so put a power strip between the outlet and your equipment so that you can fully shut off anything that doesn’t need to be running. Why power the clock on the coffeemaker or microwave all the time if you don’t have to?
- Replace office equipment with more efficient models: When replacing any piece of office equipment, ask yourself first if you really need it, and then choose models with high energy efficiency ratings. Many times you won’t have to pay any more for a model which has the lowest energy consumption, so it’s not necessary to spend more money for energy savings.
- Recycle old electronics and equipment: Don’t just pitch the old version in the trash – find an office supply store that accepts e-waste and disposes of it properly. Some devices are even worth a small amount of cash in exchange.
- Use passive solar: Arrange your office to best take advantage of any passive solar gains. If you have south facing windows (in the northern hemisphere), the surrounding areas will be warm and well-lit throughout the winter. East and west windows will have morning and afternoon sun, respectively, so arrange your workspace to best use the free solar heating and lighting.
- Choose green power: Many utility companies offer a renewable power option, usually for only a small increase in price, giving you the option to sign up for a wind or solar power option. For a much larger investment, look into installing solar panels, solar hot water, or a wind turbine at your business. Prominently post your renewable energy ‘bragging rights’ with the percentage of energy you use that comes from alternative energy sources, and use those figures in your green marketing campaigns.
- Flush less water down the drain: Put a full milk jug in your toilet tank, or adjust the fill level to use less water for each flush. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. Post an explanation nearby about why using less water makes sense in terms of both the environment and the utility bill.
- Install a water dispenser: Cut out plastic water bottle usage by supplying drinking water and reusable cups. Paying for a water delivery service is a premium that many businesses choose, but in some cases, the water is no different than the municipal tap water. In that case, it can be way more cost effective to install a drinking water filter for the sink and to fill up the water dispenser with that instead.
- Ditch the disposables: Stock office kitchen with cups, dishes and silverware. To go an extra step, buy cloth napkins instead of paper, and take them home to wash every week. A great place for cheap kitchenware is a thrift store, as mismatched coffee mugs and plates, etc., can be bought there for a fraction of the price of new ones.
- Bring your own lunch: Eating out, especially take-out, can generate needless waste, and you often don’t have the choice to recycle or compost leftovers. Plus, it’s almost always more expensive than eating homemade foods. Bring a homemade meal in a reusable container for lunch, and set up a compost receptacle in the kitchen for organic waste.
- Set up a recycle center: Make a designated recycling station, with receptacles for paper, commingled, and compostables, all clearly labeled with acceptable items. Many trash services supply the bins for free.
- Buy recycled paper products: Choose 100% recycled content paper, paper towels and toilet paper. For printed promotional materials, explore your options for using post-consumer recycled paper. Some recycled paper suppliers, such as FutureMark Paper, offer high post-consumer recycled content products at the same price as virgin pulp, so it’s not necessary to spend more to make that choice.
- Purchase refilled toner/printer cartridges: Many of the ink components for printers can be refilled, so choose to buy refurbished cartridges instead of new. Some companies offer a small credit for exchanging old cartridges, making it cheaper for you to buy refurbished.
- Print on the back: If you must print something out, have a receptacle ready for when you’re done with it. Take these used pages, flip them over and put into the paper drawer of the printer so you can print on the back, getting two uses out of one piece.
- Stop stapling: Use reusable binder clips or paper clips to join pages, or buy a staple-less fastener to quit buying staples altogether.
- Work a 4 day week or telecommute: If you can work fewer days per week, or work from home, you’ll save on transportation and energy.
- Use paperless collaboration when possible: Use a cloud based file and project management system to give everyone access to the documents they need, without having to print all of them out for each person. Try Google Docs, Wave, or BaseCamp.
- Use electronic business cards: Having a paper business card can be handy sometimes, but you can also use your website or a memorable internet profile that serves as your digital business card. When receiving a business card from someone else, scan it into your contacts and reuse the card for scratch paper or recycle it.
- Furbish your office with used furniture: Shop around at thrift stores, surplus auctions, or yard sales for your office furniture. A used chair or desk will always be greener than purchasing a brand new ‘green’ model, and you’ll save tons of cash as well.
- Assign a green office coordinator: Giving the responsibility to one person helps to get things done, and makes accountability easy. The coordinator oversees the recycling, energy usage, and gives green purchasing recommendations, along with implementing new ideas for greening the office.
There are numerous points in any office operation where a greener choice is possible, and many green alternatives do not have a higher cost associated with them. Don’t let the idea that going green in the office will hit you where it hurts most – the bottom line – dissuade you from beginning to evaluate your current situation and think about taking baby steps to being more environmentally conscious at work. Many times making the choice for a greener alternative can turn out to have a cost savings for your business, so it makes sound financial sense, too. And choosing to pay a little bit more for a green option can also pay off in terms of your company’s environmental image, if you document and quantify the ecological effects from your actions for your green marketing campaigns.