Many of us have made strides to become more environmentally conscious in our personal lives — recycling, buying eco-friendly products and cutting back on shower time. The office, however, is often the last frontier of going green. Caught up in the busy-ness of the work day, it's easy to reach for the convenience of a disposable plastic cup, hit “print” when it's not really necessary and leave your computer on as you rush out the door at the end of the day.
But reducing your company's carbon footprint doesn't have to be a chore. By implementing small changes throughout the office, you can make a significant impact on your company's health — and your employees' happiness.
Here are ten simple ways that you can step more lightly:
1. Encourage alternative modes of transportation. Depending on the size of your office, some of the worst environmental offenses could take place outside of work hours — during the commute. If saving gas and reducing emissions isn't enough to inspire your employees to car-pool, use public transportation or ride their bikes, they might need a different incentive. Hold a monthly raffle for the greenest commuters in your office, with rewards like restaurant gift cards or a bottle of wine.
2. Dispose of disposables. Stock your office kitchen with mugs and a basic set of silverware, or encourage your employees to bring their own. After a few weeks, stop buying plastic cups, forks and plates altogether. Some might balk at having to rinse out their coffee cup in the morning, but you'll notice a reduction in your company's waste output right away.
3. Be a paper pauper. Excessive use of paper puts a painful strain on the environment — not to mention it's an unnecessary expense for your company. Challenge your employees to think twice before printing anything. For those documents that you must print, consider going double-sided, widening margins and reducing the font size.
4. Trash trade-off. Cutting back on paper usage is great, but at least it's recyclable when you do have to use it — and you are recycling your paper, right? The real problem is non-recyclable waste like Styrofoam, coated folders and frozen food boxes. Encourage its elimination by offering incentives to the company division that uses the least amount of non-recyclable waste. Keep them on their toes by doing random, informal reviews of wastebaskets, and reward the greenest division with an extended lunch break.
5. Lighten up. Be conscious of how your office uses light. Maximize the sun's rays by opening the blinds and turning off the overhead lights when they're not needed. If no one is using the conference room or bathroom, flip the switch. And never leave the lights on when the office is empty.
6. Be a more conscious consumer. When shopping for office supplies, choose a locally based company to cut back on congestion and pollution. Swap out your toxic, chemical-packed cleaning products for organic, eco-friendly options. And consider investing in fair-trade coffee in the break room.
7. Cut back on electricity use. From computers to copiers to fax machines, office electronics are a huge energy draw, and leaving them on 24/7 results in major kilowatts wasted. Instruct your employees to turn off their computers at the end of the day. Turn down the thermostat when the office isn't in use. If you can, replace your outdated refrigerator, water cooler, microwave and appliances with new, more energy-efficient models.
8. Be a smarter recycler. Think beyond paper, plastic and boxes and consider other items you should be recycling: Batteries, computer equipment, cell phones and other electronics. It might take a bit more research and effort, but these are the items that can be particularly harmful in landfills.
9. Go green — literally. Clear the air by adding some new residents to the office: plants. Adding a touch of green to the landscape has been proven to not only purify the air, but to increase productivity. Choose hardy, easy-to-care-for varieties to avoid having a plant cemetery on your hands. Spider plants, philodendron, peace lilies and many varieties of succulents and cacti are forgiving as well as attractive.
10. Consider telecommuting. Allowing your employees to work from home even just one day a week can significantly cut back on your company's output. Thanks to web-based software, video conferencing and other technological advances, working remotely is easier than ever. It reduces traffic and pollution, saves your employees money and reduces stress, resulting in a happier and more productive workforce.
Do you have tips for making the workplace more environmentally friendly? How do you get your employees excited about going green?
Diana Gomez is the Marketing Coordinator at Lyoness America, where she is instrumental in the implementation of marketing and social media strategies for USA and Canada. Lyoness, an international shopping community and loyalty rewards program, sponsors the Lyoness Greenfinity Foundation, a charitable organization actively involved in sustainably protecting the environment, realizing innovative climate protection projects worldwide, and promoting the use of renewable energies.