As Emma Approved enters a new era of bettering the world, I invited Jane Fairfax, our newest employee and social activist extraordinaire, to write a blog post on how we can get started right in our own offices. And as we’re all finding out around here, Jane has plenty of bright ideas. Enjoy!
With environmental sustainability fast becoming one of the most urgent global issues of our generation, members of the business community are expected to lead the way in addressing the problem. It may seem like a big challenge, but don’t worry – a few adjustments to your company’s daily routine can go a long way toward a lighter ecological footprint, healthier employees and lower expenses.
FIND YOUR FOOTPRINT
Before you dive into the task of making the office more environmentally friendly, it helps to find out how much impact you currently have. A good first step is calculating your carbon footprint – the total amount of greenhouse gases produced by your company and its employees.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a handy list of resources to figure out your organization’s carbon footprint. For most small businesses, carbon emissions are produced largely from electricity use and motor vehicles. Once you have your footprint figured out, you can identify problem areas and form a strategy to fix them.
It’s amazing how much energy a small business can burn through every year, and how much you can cut back with a few simple changes. Staying smart about your electricity usage will benefit the environment and your company’s budget.
Turn off lights as you’re leaving for the day – or better yet, install motion detecting light switches. Use area-specific lights or individual desk lamps instead of lighting the entire floor for just a few people, and replace fluorescent lights with energy-efficient LED bulbs.
If you can, open windows instead of turning on the air conditioner. Try to avoid leaving unnecessary equipment plugged in and unattended – things like extra lamps, fans, microwaves, and cameras.
Computers and monitors can be a huge power drain, so turn them off overnight and on weekends. It’s a good idea to replace older monitors with modern flat screens that can consume as little as 35 watts – about a fourth as much as a typical CRT monitor.
Find more energy-saving tips at the Small Business Association’s website.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
There are a lot of ways you can cut down on waste in the office. Having a recycling system in place is always a good idea, but it’s even better to avoid having something to recycle in the first place.
In the age of mobile devices, it should be reasonably easy to cut down on printing. If you do need to print something, make sure your printers default to the double-sided setting, make your margins as small as possible and use scrap or recycled paper.
Bottled water is falling out of fashion as people realize how much oil is used to manufacture, fill and transport them. Set up a water filtration system in your office and provide reusable glasses. Keeping your own water bottle handy will also help, as well as keep you feeling hydrated and healthy.
Disposing of old computer equipment like monitors, servers, laptops and cell phones has become a growing problem for businesses. Find out whether your city or town has a computer recycling service. Some manufacturers and retailers also provide options to donate or recycle electronics. You can find out what services are available in your area at the EPA website.
TO AND FROM
The average commuter spends 38 hours a year stuck in traffic on their way to and from work – and the more of us who drive individual cars, the more pollution we’re churning into the air. If you can, use public transportation, walk or cycle to get to and from the office. If you have colleagues living near your route, see if they’re interested in setting up a car pool. And with modern technology, it’s becoming increasingly easy to telecommute or work from home, cutting out the journey altogether.
A surprising amount of office supplies can be manufactured for environmental sustainability these days, if you know where to look. Websites like TheGreenOffice.com offer everything from recycled paper and refillable printer cartridges to eco-friendly furniture and biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning supplies.
Also, whenever you can, seek out local manufacturers and suppliers who are committed to environmentally sustainable business practices. This will cut down on the environmental impact of creating and shipping materials for your office.
Even your work wardrobe could do with a “green” makeover. Do some research on fashion labels and support those that manufacture locally, and use organic fibers, hand-dyed fabrics and/or recycled materials.