Green Your Office

Become a responsible citizen of the earth — even at work

May 13, 2013

The sustainability movement has come of age, but most workplaces still operate like it’s 1999. Maddeningly inefficient office spaces abound: over-conditioned iceboxes buzzing with wasteful electronics. There are easy ways to minimize waste and optimize resource use at the office, and most workplaces just need someone to get the ball rolling. And that person could be you! Whether you’re a Prius-driving, calculator-wielding eco-geek, a Six Sigma management guru or just a harried cubicle-dweller with a conscience, you can make your office a greener place. Here’s how. ANDREW EIL (FOR EXPRESS)

For Eco-Geeks

Start by focusing on what you can measure in your office: electricity, waste, paper, water and transportation. Then roll up your sleeves, get in touch with you inner quant and make each category run more efficiently. Calculate what your current resource use is and identify areas to reduce. (You don’t need a doctorate in econometrics, just a passing familiarity with Excel.) Work with your office manager and maintenance staff to tackle entire categories:For electricity, address air conditioning and thermostats, computers and light bulbs. Shut down computers overnight; use blinds strategically to let in light but reduce warming in summer; and use motion-sensing fluorescent or, even better, LED lights for maximum efficiency.

-For water, get your landlord or building owner to use graywater and low-flow toilets, urinals and sinks.

-For paper, make sure to print only what you need, use double-sided recycled paper, and reuse and recycle.

-For transport, consider public transit, carpooling, biking and walking — they beat solo driving any day.

-For more guidance, check out the American Institute of Architects or U.S. EPA’s EnergyStar program.

For Born Leaders

If you are a natural manager or political organizer, this section is for you. Your cubicle cohorts look to you to lead them. Most offices don’t have strong sustainability policies — it’s not for lack of money or technology, but because they lack the culture and motivation. As an impassioned office leader, you can get the troops fired up. You’ll need goals, a plan, an outreach strategy and a way to win over all of the key stakeholders, says Mary Reilly, a sustainability management expert. Sound like a political campaign? You’re not far off. You’ll need to win management’s approval and build your colleagues’ enthusiasm. Try holding an awareness campaign on green practices, or challenge other departments to intraoffice competitions to meet recycling and reduced consumption goals. A few well-executed strategies can make a world of difference.

-Institute an officewide recycling policy, with copious and well-placed pre-sorted recycle bins.

-Create an office meetings policy that encourages virtual meetings (which reduce carbon emissions from forgone travel) and paperless technologies.

-Have office dining facilities commit to local and organic sourcing.

-Put in place green procurement measures for cleaning products, equipment and office supplies.

-Publicly reward those who observe best practices and (gently) shame the laggards.

For the Lazy

So you’re not a management wizard, you’re not a spreadsheet monkey, and you’re not much of a leader, but your conscience is telling you it’s time to do something. Don’t despair. Here are a few tips that will ease your eco-guilt while saving you money:

-Use mugs, reusable water bottles and thermoses. Check out S’well for stylish versions (Swellbottle.com).

-Set your printer for double-sided, and use it sparingly.

-Turn your computer off at night.

-Take public transit: Try NextBus to time your ride. Or skip paid transit all together: Use Sluglines for free carpooling and Capital Bikeshare to work off the calories. Other options: Walk, buy a beater bike or sign up for teleworking from home.

-Use those recycle bins, and commandeer one to put next to your desk.

 

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