You want to live greener, so you get into upcycling at home, sort your curbside recyclables better and start buying your food locally. Meanwhile at work, the computer stays on all night, you use only one side of your printer paper and the AC is running to the tune of 68 degrees. It’s easy to let the green living slide at work, since it’s not technically space owned by you. Or maybe you’re already your office’s green warrior, but you could use some more ideas. Here are 15 ideas to lower your carbon footprint at the office.
1. Measure your carbon footprint
The best place to start is by measuring the carbon footprint of your office. Rather than just going into this with guesswork, you can actually keep measurable data on how well your office is doing in the sustainability realm. You can either hire green consultants or put an internal manager in charge of the green initiatives. You can also find a business’ carbon footprint calculator here to start getting a handle on your footprint.
2. Upgrade your office
This can be as easy or as in-depth as you want it to be. You can start with just switching to LED and other energy-saving light bulbs and see how that affects your building’s energy usage. You can also look into getting better windows to keep the hot and cold air in, getting a tune up for the heating/cooling systems to make sure they are operating at peak efficiency, buying energy-saving machines that are Energy Star-rated or looking into upgrading old equipment like inefficient boilers.
3. Make sure to recycle everything
When your electronics have reached the end of their lifecycle, make sure to recycle them. You can recycle your electronics through e-recycling companies or manufacturer take-back programs. Make sure the option you choose has some sound data-wiping procedures in place to keep your data secure. Look for other items to recycle like plastic components, paper, donating used office furniture, etc.
4. Turn off everything
Make sure to turn off all lights at the end of your day and keep lights off in unused rooms. You can also make the most of power strips by plugging several computers into them and just turning off the power strip at the end of the day. Computers should also have power management options you can activate.
5. Watch your paper usage
One of the easiest things an office can do to reduce waste is to keep an eye on paper. Only print if absolutely necessary, use a printer’s two-sided print feature and use the back of one-sided paper as scrap paper.
The idea of going paperless is still a future reality for many places. It’s been touted for decades as the way business is going, but offices are still littered in papers. Try to reduce paper by keeping communications and records digital, if possible.
6. Focus on employee education
Make sure everyone in the business is on board from the start. Include green initiatives in memos and newsletters, and instruct employees to turn off computers and lights after meetings. A fun option is to set up interdepartmental goals and rewards systems for the department that reduces the most waste.
7. Participate in Green Office Week
Every May has a Green Office Week. This is actually a British event, but there’s no reason you can’t get involved in the states. It’s a great idea for mobilizing the workforce and communicating green objectives. The week is divided into theme days like “Motivation Monday” and “Think About it Thursday.” You can find out more at the official website.
8. Keep recycling bins around
Here’s another easy one: Keep recycling bins easily accessible, if they are not already. Put them near water coolers, lunch areas, at key points in hallways and around large groupings of tables or cubicles. As a related note, make sure the company has a recycling system in place so all the waste doesn’t just get mixed together. Don’t be that place that just has recycling bins out to keep up appearances.
9. Adjust the thermostat
Have you ever turned up the thermostat in summer by one degree and had your energy bill go down enough to warrant an extra trip to a decent restaurant? If you haven’t, try it sometime. You can either adjust the thermostat by one degree or set it back 10-15 degrees overnight when no one is around. Energy.gov rates the difference as annually saving 1 percent on the energy bill for each degree if your thermostat setback time is eight hours long.
10. Focus on heat conservation
It’s not just for the home. Try to seal windows and doors so heat or cold air is not escaping. Seal gaps in floorboards. Look into double-glazing your windows to make sure heat stays in. Energy.gov has a good guide on heat conservation that you could apply to the office.
11. Look into alternative transportation
Another great option is looking into how your staff gets to the office and home again. Options include offering electric cars to major transportation hubs, supporting cycling programs, helping employees coordinate carpooling, offering to pay for public transportation (or at least offering discounts on it) and educating employees about choosing fuel efficient vehicles.
12. Try telecommuting
Another good option is to consider telecommuting, since it reduces the emissions of driving back and forth to the office each and every day. Work that can be done solo at a computer can easily be accomplished by remote access to desktops or just over email and phone. Meetings can take place a couple times a week at the office, if necessary. Obviously, this doesn’t work for all business types (like a doctor’s office), but it’s worth evaluating in more project-based environments.
13. Assess business travel
Since we live in a world with video conferencing, flying half way across the world to a meeting isn’t as mandatory as it used to be. Make sure to assess whether business trips are really necessary. Some can’t be avoided, but if you can avert the emissions of flying across the country or world by hopping on Skype, it’s certainly an option to keep in mind.
14. Keep an eye on deliveries and errands
This is also on the simple end: just make sure all trips outside the office are coordinated well. Cut back on extra trips by waiting a bit to compile more items that may need to go to the post office if there is not an immediate rush on anything. Try to work with suppliers to get your shipments in as few trips as possible.
Make sure the deliveries your company makes are organized so everything is getting dropped off in a certain area in one trip instead of several.
Also, make sure items are not over-packaged, and use reusable containers, if possible.
15. Keep measuring
Make sure to keep measuring your progress as you go along. As you make a major change, review energy consumption reports of the building, re-evaluate using carbon footprint calculators or continue to work with a consultant. It’s easy to get gung-ho about being greener in the office, only to have the efforts fall by the wayside when a busy time hits. Make sure one or two people have the green duties worked into their schedule and keep it a priority.