Only an extremely busy individual would have missed the escalting need to convert a company towards being environmentally friendly. The Green movement gained great momentum in 2006 and businesses the world over began catching on; going Green is cost effective and good for the environment. It can be a complex business, however, and managers and their staff would rather focus on more pressing issues, such as surviving the recession. It seems detailed sustainability plans can wait.
It isn’t all a haze of confusing smog as there are some simple practices you can start almost immediately! Read on for practical advice on how to make your office Green.
1. Use recycled paper: With the average worker in the USA using over 12,000 sheets of paper each year, switching to recycled can make a real difference. The urban myth that it is more expensive is exactly that, a myth; recent figures show the prices of recycled paper have plummeted. The stats are convincing: buying one tonne of recycled paper saves 20 trees and 700 gallons of water, as well as saving enough energy to power the average household for 6 months. Enough said.
2. Buy Fairtrade: Aside from the obvious ethical issues, Fairtrade products also go a along way to helping the environment. A minimum fee from each product sold goes towards sustainable production in the country from which the product came, and another fraction of the money goes towards developing the communities in which the producers live. Many of the farms guarantee the use of only natural fertiliser and as many of the materials used as possible are recycled. So whether it’s your coffee, tea or fruit, the more Faitrade you buy the greener (and arguably healthier) you’re office will be.
3. Compost: Instead of throwing your waste away, get your office a compost bin. If you can’t make use of the compost in your building then donate it all to local gardening projects. Composting waste where possible minimises what you send away to harmful landfill sights and makes a tangible difference to the environment. With an ever-growing list of things that will compost (from apples and bananas to hair trimmings and leather wallets), it is definitely a worthwhile venture. If you are charged for waste collection then this will actually save you money too!
4. Turn off lights: If you’re intent on keeping your incandescent bulbs, then at least switch them off when you leave the room. Of the average bulb’s energy consumption, only 10 – 15% actually goes towards producing light, the rest is wasted on unnecessary heat and other useless by-products. So to minimise how much energy you waste (and the number of times you have to buy new bulbs), simply switch the lights off whenever possible.
5. Paper alternatives: Paper accounts for around 40% of all municipal solid waste in the USA and sometimes printing or photocopying your documents simply isn’t economical, hence it pays to consider digital alternatives in the form of Electronic Document Management. Scanning your documents as opposed to photocopying saves paper as well as allowing many more ways of managing your files by having them saved digitally. And of course where possible send email as opposed to letters – it is you who will benefit financially.
6. Remanufactured cartridges: Instead of buying completely new cartridges very time your printer ink runs low, send your empty cartridges back and replace them with remanufactured ones. These are used ink cartridges professionally cleaned, refurbished and refilled with new ink, at a fraction of the price of their brand new alternative. As well as saving copious amounts of resources, they can save your business up to 75% on price, so it makes financial sense as well.
7. Energy rating: Simply turning all your appliances off overnight can save up to 30% on energy, but to take it a little further you should buy energy rated computers screens, which tell you when you purchase how efficient they are. For example, a popular way of rating involves energy grading, an A being the most efficient, saving you money as they require minimal amounts of energy to run. Similar ratings can be found on your kitchen appliances like your fridge or dishwasher, meaning your office can run much more energy efficiently just by carefully selecting which appliances you buy.
8. Encourage your office to use public transport: If taking the train yourself doesn’t feel like enough, then get the rest of your office doing it. For example, a bus carries 40 more times people than a car, and with each kilometre a car travels emitting approximately 160g of carbon dioxide, the reduction of harmful effects on the environment would be enormous. Add this to the eliminated petrol costs, road tax and maintenance and it might even make you a little better off, if not definitely greener.
9. Reusable kitchen utensils: Estimates say that around three billion plastic cups are dispensed by vending machines in the UK each year alone, and without taking into account all the disposable plates and forks thrown away every day, a lot of resources are wasted. Stock up your kitchen with reusable cutlery, mugs, glasses and tableware. Not only will your morning coffee taste better, you’ll have more loose change in your pocket and more importantly your office will be doing its bit for the environment.
10. Recycle your computer: Instead of simply throwing out old office computers, there are a number of companies who will actually take them off your hands and recycle them for you. Many have a no landfill policy, and often the working parts are refurbished and sold on at a bargain price, reducing the waste of resources on brand new parts. So to save travelling back and forth from the dump with last year’s computers, simply get in touch with a recycling company and let them do all the work for you.
11. Don’t overfill your kettle: If everybody filled their kettle with just enough water to cover only how much they needed, we would save enough electricity to power all the street lights in the UK. So when it’s your turn to do the morning coffee round, go easy on the water! As well as reducing water waste, in the long run you’ll save your office a bundle on utility bills.
12. Be more traditional: Embrace a traditional way of life and use a pen to make notes – your computer doesn’t always need to be on! Do note, however, that a landfill site full of plastic pens will still be there in 50,000 years. It is worth considering using them until they are completely empty. While they may be cheap originally, buying less will contribute to saving your office money.
13. Switch off: If you leave your computer on all day for a year it will (indirectly) emit 1,500lbs of carbon dioxide annually, an enormous effect on the environment. In fact, it would take between 100 and 500 trees to bank the same amount of CO2. Put this on an office wide scale and you can quickly see the damage caused by leaving your computer on. Without even considering the cut in your energy bills, turning off should be compulsory for everyone in the office.
14. Print & photocopy on both sides: Humans are wasteful by nature and as creatures of habit we will continue that way until we force ourselves to change. There is enough paper thrown away in the UK each year to fill 103,448 double-decker buses according to the We Are What We Do organisation. If you must use your photocopier then make sure you use both sides of each sheet!
15. Keep warm: Install double glazing and wall insulation, it’s a great way to reduce central heating use and save water and help store heat through solar gain. Although the investment may be more expensive to begin with, it should keep your office warmer and keep your heating bill down. Similarly in summer, keep the windows open as opposed to turning on the air conditioning, and you should see a large cut in your energy use.
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