How to Make Green Easy for You and Your Office

Image by Ted Percival
Image by Ted Percival

We spend most of our day at work. And, in most cases, our work involves lots of paper, numerous electronic appliances, even long-haul flights. You might be making an effort to go green at home (and it’s easier to stay motivated when your own wallet benefits) … but are you doing anything at work? Is your workplace set up so that green behavior is almost automatic, or do you end up throwing recyclable paper in the trash? Does your company use environmentally-friendly supplies and services — in fact, do your colleagues even know the answer to this one?

You know that caring about the environment is important. But no one in your office (including you!) wants to be hampered with a lot of extra tasks in order to be more eco-friendly. So here’s how to make being green really easy:

Make It a No-Brainer

I was going to write “make it simple”, but I thought that didn’t go far enough! If you want to get everyone on board, you’ll need to recognize that some people simply won’t care. Most of your office will recognize the importance of being green — but some colleagues won’t see the point of going out of their way to recycle paper, to switch off computer monitors, or to avoid wasting water.

You could spend an impassioned lunch hour explaining why they should care about the environment. But you might end up wasting your energy. Instead, try setting things up so that the green option is a no-brainer. You could:

  • Put a paper recycling box in each office and collect them all each week (rather than asking people to take their recycling to a central location)
  • Buy a water jug to keep in the office fridge (people will appreciate having cold water available — without needing to run the tap until it’s cool)
  • Set all computers to switch into hibernation after 10 minutes of inactivity (this avoids having computers and monitors draining energy whilst people are in meetings or away at lunch)

Use Green Services

Another “no-brainer” technique is to make sure you’re using green service providers. Two big areas to consider are:

Your Printed Materials

The idea of a paperless office might be compelling — but the reality is that most companies still have a lot of paper and card around. This might include:

  • Business cards
  • Complements slips
  • Letter-headed paper
  • Booklets and leaflets
  • Annual or quarterly reports
  • Glossy brochures

Look for a printing company that’s eco-friendly: many will use recycled paper. ┬áIf you’re not sure where to look, one company to try is Greener Printer, the first US commercial printer to become a certified “B” corporation (“a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems” — see BCorporation.net).

Your Web Host

Even if everyone in your company diligently switches off their computer each night, your web site is up and running 24/7. Many web hosting companies are very clued in to the environmental agenda, and you should be able to find a “green” host. Try GreenGeeks — who advertise “300% Green Web Hosting” — or just search for “green web host”.

Use Green Products

As well as looking for green service providers, start switching your office supplies and furnishings to eco-friendly ones. Think along the same lines you would at home, going through different rooms in your company’s premises

Offices

  • Use recycled paper for printing
  • Buy a printer that can double-side automatically, to encourage people to use both sides of paper
  • When upgrading computers, monitors and other equipment, pick green ones
  • Use CFLs for lighting

Kitchen

  • Make sure your office kitchen is green: look for an energy-efficient fridge, coffee maker and other appliances
  • Use eco-friendly brands of coffee or other drinks (look for Rainforest Alliance certification)
  • Invest in “proper” plates and mugs, rather than disposable ones

Bathrooms

  • Stock workplace bathrooms with recycled toilet tissue
  • Minimize water waste by using motion-activated faucets

Meeting room

  • Use jugs or refillable water bottles, rather than buying bottled water
  • Ensure that projectors are switched off when not in use

Develop a Company Policy

Once you’ve started putting some green practices into place, it’s worth considering your company’s policy on environmental issues. Do you even have one? Putting something in writing — especially if everyone in the company has a chance to contribute to it — can help make people aware of eco issues, and encourages everyone to do their part. New employees should be made aware of the policy as part of their induction.

If your company is applying for green accreditation, you’ll need to find out about requirements for your eco policy. Otherwise, it’s best to keep things simple and clear! You might create guidelines about:

  • Preferring eco-friendly suppliers and products over other options
  • Avoiding printing emails and other documents where possible
  • Switching off computers and monitors at the end of the work day
  • What materials can be recycled and how this should be done
  • Incentives to encourage a green commute

People will be more engaged when they have some input into the environmental-friendly methods your company adopts.

Making green behavior easy and quick is one of the best ways to encourage everyone in the office — including you! — to take the green route even when work is hectic.

How does your workplace shape up? Do you have lots of green practices already in place, or is there still a long way to go? Even if you feel like you have no power to alter things, can you start setting an example, or make small changes?

(Image by Ted Percival)

4 Replies to “How to Make Green Easy for You and Your Office”

  1. I started a recycling program at my former workplace. I brought in a bin and would take it home every week and put it out for my curbside pickup. It took awhile to get everyone started using it, but they eventually did and were really happy to finally have started.

    It turns out, after 2 years of running it, the building actually had its own recycling program (no one had bothered to actually look into it). So when I left, they were still easily able to keep it up :)

  2. We currently do the recycling, recycled printer paper and computer hibernation.

    I’d love for my office to not buy bottled water, but how do you get everyone to get over “germs”. Which I’m finding is the #1 reason everyone wants bottled water. They can be sure it wasn’t tampered with or “bad”.(If water can even be that?!) LOL

  3. Good on you for starting something up, Natalie – I think that shows just how straightforward it is! Sadly, your experience also demonstrates how well hidden some offices’ recycling programs are.

    Dan, that sounds like a fab start! I’m not much of a worrier about germs myself (I reckon a healthy immune system will see them off!) so I’m not sure how best to reassure people about that.

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