Going Green at Work: Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

By DEQ Communications Office

Going Green

Click for larger view

Although many of us make environmentally friendly choices at home, we don’t always stop to consider the many ways we could “go green” in the workplace. Since many of us spend a good portion of our day at work, those small changes can make a big difference. An added benefit: a green workplace is also a healthier and more productive place to work.

Bring a mug, refillable drink cup, or a reusable water bottle to work.

Bottled water leads to a whole lot of plastic in our waste stream. Fill up a reusable water bottle instead. Running late and need a cup of joe to start your day? All those drink cups add up. Don’t skip your latte or cocoa, bring a travel mug for your morning pick-me-up. And if you want to take a soda break, use a refillable drink cup for fountain drinks. Oh, and skip the straw. Keep an extra mug, cup, water bottle, and bowl in your car. If you get take-out, decline the plastic utensils and use ones you bring from home. Use the bowl as a to-go box for lunch leftovers to reduce the number of  Styrofoam containers going to the landfill.

Invest in reusable kitchen products.

Disposable plates, cups, and silverware are a staple of office get-togethers, but did you know that you can actually save money if you invest in inexpensive reusable dishware and cutlery?  Ceramic, glass, metal, and heavy-duty plastic are all good choices. A little soap and water and you’re ready to go for the next event. Bring water carafes and reusable cups to your meetings instead of a case of plastic water bottles. Attendees drink what they need (saving water) and many may even bring their own water bottles.

Set printers to use both sides of the paper.

One-sided copies as the default option on most printers. Conserving paper is easy if you set up your computer to print on both sides. See if you can get the office printer to automatically print on both sides as well. Better yet, avoid printing altogether by becoming a digital (paperless) office. Fifty percent of business waste is some form of paper. Offices in the U.S. use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper a year, and paper accounts for 25 percent of landfill waste and 33 percent of municipal waste. If you don’t really need to make a copy or print a document, don’t.

Turn off your computer at night.

Computers use a surprising amount of energy, even when they’re in standby mode. So turn your computer OFF when you leave the office. You may want to also ditch the screen saver — standby mode uses a lot of energy. Instead, set your computer to sleep or off mode when you’re away from your desk during the day. Consider using a Smartstrip — a combination power strip and energy-saving tool — to turn off your electronics when they’re not in use. Even small adjustments to your computer settings—such as lowering your screen brightness, reducing the number of tabs you have open, or even downsizing how many applications you use—can save electricity.

Turn off lights.

Countless kilowatt hours are wasted each year lighting empty rooms. Just like you do at home, get in the habit of turning off the lights when you leave the room. Consider putting a small label on light switches reminding others to do the same.

Telecommute.

Help reduce pollution and your carbon footprint by telecommuting. Your car or truck emits the most emissions from cold starts. So skip the trip. Telecommuting even one day a week or when the air is bad can make a big difference in air quality. It’s an easy way for you and your company to go green.

Bring your own lunch in a reusable container.

If you’re not able to work from home,  you can still eliminate an unneeded cold start by bringing your lunch and eating in the break room. You’ll keep your leftovers from going to waste, pack healthier meals, and save money by not eating out. Best of all, you’ll have a chance to chat with your co-workers over lunch

Place recycle bins around the office.

You’ve done your part to reduce and reuse. But sometimes you have to recycle. Make it easy by keeping a recycle bin at your desk and setting up bins throughout the office. Want to be even more creative? Set up a compost bin in break rooms for compostable foods. Employees can take the compost home to “season” for use in their gardens or place them in their yard-waste cans.

Think beyond the Three R’s.

We all know the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. But there are other “R’s” that can help us make our workplace a little greener. Repair rather than replace. Refrain rather than acquire. And rethink…because while it may seem easier in the short run to throw something away or buy something new if we rethink our choices, we may discover other ways to “go green.” And that’s good news for us, our workplace, and our planet.

We’d love to hear how you “go green” at your workplace. Please share your ideas with us in the comment section, and we’ll pass them along through our social media channels.