Creating a more eco-friendly office might not immediately seem like a business-friendly choice, but former U.S. Representative Claudine Schneider feels the two are irrevocably linked: “A healthy ecology is the basis for a healthy economy.” Save the environment and save money at the same time – what could be better than that?
Switch to Bamboo Furniture
While hardwood is beautiful and certainly durable, cutting down trees to create furniture leads to widespread deforestation that affects everything from global greenhouse emissions to soil erosion and our water cycle. Bamboo, on the other hand, reaches maturity in just 3-5 years (hardwood takes ten times as long) and requires less chemical intervention and water along the way, making it the perfect choice for eco-friendly furniture.
Embrace Digital Communication
Approximately 75 percent of the world’s phones are now text-enabled, which makes it even more surprising that so many companies are still relying on old-school communications like paper memos and snail mail. Use texts to notify employees when meetings are scheduled, remind them about the upcoming blood drive, or craft a text-based marketing campaign that’ll reach current or potential customers where they are – on the phone.
Implement a Recycling Program
Establishing a recycling program reinforces your company’s commitment to eco-friendly policies. Not convinced? Consider this: every ton of paper recycled saves 17 mature trees – it really is that simple.
Upgrade the Lunchroom
At some point in time, probably spurred on by sanitation concerns, cafeterias everywhere switched from real cutlery to plastic facsimiles that are as inefficient as they are wasteful. Whether you have a giant lunchroom replete with a hot line and salad bar or a simple break room with mini fridge and microwave, you can cut waste simply by stocking sturdy stainless steel silverware that will be used thousands of times before seeing the inside of a waste bin.
Buy in Bulk
Speaking of the lunchroom… those little individually portioned ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise packets epitomize waste, and paper salt and pepper or sugar packets aren’t any better. Buy condiments and spices in bulk and refill washable pump or shaker containers. Not only will less plastic and foil hit the garbage can, you’ll likely conserve supplies, too – after all, it’s a lot harder to grab a squirt or two of mustard to take home than it is to snag a handful of packets.
Say No to Bottled Water
Despite recycling efforts, an estimated 85 million plastic water bottles are thrown away in the United States every day, all of which end up either in a landfill or an incinerator. Install a drinking fountain or contract with a water cooler and then encourage your employees to bring their own reusable water bottles or mugs.
Let Employees Telecommute
Allowing employees to work from home, even if it’s just a few days per month, greatly reduces the time your staff will spend on the road. In turn, that means less car-based emissions and less wear and tear on roads, shaving off costly and not so environmentally friendly repairs for a little bit longer.
Power Down the Office
Did you know that so long as appliances are plugged in, they continue to use energy even if they’re not actively being used? Institute a policy that requires employees to shut down their workstations at night, and make unplugging energy-gobbling gadgets such as copiers and fax machines a regular part of your staff’s end-of-day routine.
Install Motion Sensors
No matter how committed people are to turning off lights when they leave a room, flipping that on/off switch can be a hard habit to make stick. By installing motion-activated light switches, you’re taking the onus off employees and putting it on the automatic mechanisms that sense when a person enters a bathroom or back office and illuminate the room accordingly – no switch necessary!
Buy Second-hand Appliances
It can be hard to resist the allure of the latest, greatest multipurpose copy machine or accept an office chair covered in fabric that’s a little less than perfect, but buying used office furniture is an environmentally friendly choice that also saves money. Watch the newspaper and industry publications for office sales or buy off the store floor for stock samples that are dinged but definitely still usable.
Stock Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
There are a number of things you can do around the office that can positively impact your health, but the most important chance you can make may well be swapping out toxic cleaners for greener alternatives. To paraphrase one expert, you don’t need weapons of mass disinfection to keep your office clean. Studies have repeatedly disproven the supposedly magical powers of antibacterial soap and products containing chlorine bleach are unnecessarily harsh. Solutions containing hydrogen peroxide or vinegar will kill mold just as easily and without the nasty side effects should you accidently breathe them in or splatter a bit on your skin. DIY cleansers are easy to make with ingredients you likely already have at home, and the peace of mind that results will be well worth the elbow grease.
Noted anthropologist and activist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Choosing a text message over a paper memo might not overhaul how society approaches conservation overnight, but by doing your part you’re making waves that might affect things for years to come. What changes are you willing to make in order to be a better global citizen?