In the 21st century, one of the most important considerations to make when designing, building, and furnishing an office is how to minimize the environmental impact. With commercial buildings accounting for 39% of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States and consuming 70% of the electricity load, we absolutely must find ways to de-energize and conserve. We must find ways to go green.
You may not be able to make extensive updates to your office right now, but every little change can make a difference. Here are some simple and easy steps you can take to go green in the office.
Reuse Over Recycle
Reuse is always a much better way to save than recycling, because it uses far less energy and materials to reuse something rather than recycle it. Reusable modular construction is a great choice for building now and in the future.
Up to 15% of all new materials brought onto a construction site get thrown out as scraps without even one useful day of life. Even worse than that: we sometimes throw out 100% of “new” construction when a new tenant takes over the space and wants a different layout.
Construction waste is the single largest component of landfills! Go green, and help prevent it.
If you can’t reuse, definitely recycle to go green.
Approximately 60 to 80 percent of used toner and ink cartridges end up in landfills, where it takes about 1,000 years to completely decompose them. Just by recycling printer cartridges, tons of plastic and thousands of liters of oil can be saved. Recycling in the workplace is extremely important in the initiative to go green, and it’s not hard to implement a recycling policy.
To encourage recycling in your workplace, start by purchasing separate, clearly labeled bins for paper, metal and plastic. Place the bins in the office kitchen and copy room, where we tend to waste the most. Having these bins in plain sight in these rooms will bring employees onboard with your go green plan by encouraging them to separate their waste into the appropriate bins.
Green Up the Office
Indoor plants are a great way to improve indoor air quality (IAQ). You can now get planters for walls that don’t require any plumbing, such as DIRTT’s Breathe Walls.
Plants help increase the oxygen level and reduce CO2 levels in indoor air. Locally, a company called Plantscape has been pioneering living walls and is a great source for information on what plants are best for the office and where you should locate them.
Harvesting natural sunlight not only reduces energy consumption but also has a positive impact on employee morale. By moving work spaces to the center core of the building, everyone gets a view of natural sunlight.
Today there are sensors that measure how much light is coming in from the windows and accordingly reduces light put out by the lighting fixtures. This is a great method for saving energy costs. Companies win twice; they lower their energy costs and they create happier employees.
In today’s tech-filled world, it’s easier than ever to avoid the printer all together. It’s a good thing, too, as we throw away nearly a billion trees worth of paper each year in the United States. By embracing the digital tools at our fingertips, it’s fairly simple to go paperless – and go green – in the office.
You can start to go paperless by incorporating digital file sharing applications, such as Google Docs, into your office as a method for sharing and collaborating on documents. Then, ditch the file cabinets and opt for services such as DropBox that allow every person on your team to have immediate access to all the files they need.
If you absolutely must print something, select double-sided printing to save as much paper as possible.
Energy Saving Technology
Speaking of technology, there are plenty of energy-saving innovations that are making it simple to go green in the office. LED lights use a fraction of the energy that fluorescent bulbs use and they generate far less heat as well. A significant portion of the air-conditioning cost goes to overcoming the heat generated by light fixtures!
LEDs have the added advantage of incredibly long life, often 20,000-30,000 hours. Where LED lights aren’t an option, switch to Compact Fluorescent bulbs for energy savings over incandescent bulbs.
Turn Off and Unplug
Even with energy efficient bulbs, it’s still important to remember to turn off anything that uses electricity when it is not in use.
Over 40 percent of the energy consumed in office buildings comprises of lighting or office equipment use. During the day, set computers to energy-saving mode so they sleep when they’re not in use. At night, your office building should encourage employees to completely shut down all electronics when they leave the office. Plugging all electronics in power strips makes it faster and easier to turn everything completely off, all at once.
Also be sure to keep lights in bathrooms, closets and conference rooms off when the rooms are not in use. To remind employees and guests, hang signs next to the exits that remind people to flip the light switch off as they exit!
Rethink your Commute
Traveling to and from the office counts too! Consider alternatives to driving alone like carpooling, public transportation, or hopping on a bike. Something as simple as that can have a huge impact on your efforts to go green at work.
What does your office do to go green? Let us know in the comments!
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