Part of being a good corporate citizen is doing what you can to reduce the effect your business processes and output have on the environment. But you don't have to fork over major capital for solar panels, wind turbines, or natural gas-powered fleet vehicles in order to green up your office. Here are ten ways to make your workplace more eco-friendly without breaking the bank.
1. Recycle everything that you can. This is the easiest way to be eco-friendly. Collect all paper from your office as well as glass and plastic from your break room and take it to a recycling center. Or check with your office building's management - they may already be part of a recycling program.
2. Carpool. You can start helping the environment before you even get to work. Figure out which employees live near each other and set up a carpool schedule. They'll save gas and vehicle wear and tear, and you'll help lower automotive emissions by reducing the number of cars on the road.
3. Eliminate single-serving bottled water. Instead of a vending machine that sells water, sign up with a water delivery service. The multi-gallon bottles may save you money in the long run, and you won't contribute as much to plastic waste. Plus, you'll have an actual "water cooler" for office chitchat!
4. Use non-toxic cleaning supplies. These often cost less than the chemical-laden products that are on the market. The volatile organic compounds found in typical cleansers are not only harmful to the environment but can also be dangerous to your health (and the health of your employees). Switching to non-toxic cleaning supplies is particularly beneficial if any of your employees have asthma.
5. Change to energy-efficient light bulbs. Yes, environmentally-friendly compact fluorescent light bulbs are more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but you can defray some of the costs by switching out a handful at a time. They'll last a lot longer than regular bulbs, so you won't have to replace them as often.
6. Go paperless. While it can be difficult to make an entire office truly paperless, there are certain functions and processes that simply don't need paper. These include internal communications, accounting, and even document editing.
7. Buy soy printer ink. When you do have to print documents, fill up your office machines with soy-based ink. It's less harmful to the planet than petroleum-based inks, and is more easily removed during the recycling process.
8. Reduce phantom power. One study says that 10 to 20% of all power usage is from so-called "phantom power" sources, which consist of electronics that are plugged in when not in use. Simple measures like turning off desktop computers overnight to unplugging charging stations and powering down copiers can save money on your electric bill as well.
9. Print on both sides. A typical office worker can generate up to 10,000 pages of documents per year. Cut this number in half immediately by reconfiguring your printers and copiers to print on both sides of the page. You'll be saving trees - and cutting office supply costs.
10. Use eco-friendly products throughout the office. Recycled paper, toilet paper, paper clips, pens, and binders aren't that expensive. Neither are biodegradable cups, plates, and utensils for your break room. And over time, they'll make a significant difference in the environment.
Chris Martin is a web writer who focuses on topics ranging from social media and IT asset management to home improvement and credit card comparisons.
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