As Kermit the Frog lamented a few years ago, “It’s not easy being green.” Presumably, he was referring to his skin color, but he might just as well have been talking the workplace as an eco-friendly environment.
The paperless office is the greatest myth of the millennium. I previously read that the average office worker consumes 10,000 pieces of copy paper annually, but I admit that I am probably the last person who should be talking about “going green.” A visit to my office reveals that I am knee-deep in paper. I shudder to think of the trees that have died for my cause. One friend, a genuine “tree hugger” (aka environmentalist), tsks at the number of magazines I subscribe to, reminding me I can read the same publications online. Yet somehow, curling up with my laptop doesn’t give me the same comfort level as lounging in a hammock thumbing through my favorite glossies. Still, when an acquaintance recently asked me what I was doing to save the planet for her future grandchildren, she made me pause, think— and, most importantly—change some of the errors of my ways.
One place we can make some improvements is at work. At Lloyd we eliminated styrofoam cups for coffee and issued everyone a corporate mug. I’ve stashed a set of silverware in my desk to replace the disposable plastic version I used to toss out daily. Small changes, if made by the many, can greatly impact the collective good.
After talking to friends and co-workers we discovered that while all of us are pretty good at recycling and conserving energy at home, the workplace doesn’t receive the same kind of commitment. According to Time.com, almost 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions result from heating, cooling and powering office space, and our PCs burn about $1 billion worth of electricity per year.
What can you do at work to create an environmentally friendly workplace?
• Open the blinds and turn off the lights. Use energy-efficient bulbs.
• Power down computers when you leave at night (check with IT to make sure this doesn’t conflict with back-up issues). Note: Screen savers do not save energy.
• Use both sides of a piece of paper and print drafts in black and white, not color. Choose chlorine-free paper to reduce bleach usage.
• Recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy remanufactured ones. (Office Depot reports that almost 700,000 cartridges are thrown out daily, so that metal and plastic ends up in landfills.) Most office supply stores offer customers who return cartridges free recycled paper and/or coupons.
• Recycle newspapers, bottles, cans, plastic and cell phones.
• Carpool with a colleague, or ask your employer about telecommuting options. My employer has hooked up our staff with NuRide (www.nuride.com) to make ride sharing possible.
• Use real plants, not fake ones, bringing oxygen into your surroundings.
• Reprogram the thermostat. According to GreenLiving.Suite101.com, every degree warmer in the summer and every degree cooler in the winter saves between 6 and 8 percent of energy costs.
• Institute a company “Green Team” to promote awareness and get people involved.
Getting “more green” at work used to mean seeing more money in your paycheck. Now, it means preserving the planet for future generations. I think the price is right.