When we think of “going green,” we tend to focus on what can be done in our homes to conserve energy and reduce waste. But what about at work?
But if we’re truly invested in living eco-conscious lives, it only makes sense to carry those practices over to the workplace, where most of us spend the majority of our time.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to reduce your waste and your footprint at the office. All you have to do is adopt a few new daily habits:
1. Replace Single Use Items
Most offices are filled with single use items, and while disposable flatware makes for convenient clean up and Keurig cups give us the freedom to choose our coffee flavors, ALL of these items will end up in a landfill somewhere after being used only once. To reduce the amount of trash you’re producing, try making simple swaps to reusable alternatives such as real silverware and dishes in place of disposable ones, or using a ceramic mug for your morning (and afternoon) coffee instead of a paper cup . Bringing your own lunch in a reusable container is another great way to reduce your waste output. And hello, cloth napkins? Your lunch will feel so much fancier.
2. Save electricity when possible
It’s estimated that 50% of our energy use and carbon emissions come from heating, cooling, and lighting office buildings. By making minor changes, equipment can be used far more efficiently and energy costs can be reduced. Get into the habit of turning off computers and other electronic equipment at the end of the day, and make a point to unplug appliances that are not in use. If your office doesn’t have automatic lights, turn them off at the end of the day (assuming you’re not leaving someone else in the dark). Suggest the installation of LED bulbs to save energy and money for the building. Consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator, if that would be a reasonable alternative. That quick burst of physical activity will also give you a nice jolt of energy during an afternoon lull.
3. Green your commute
The average worker in the United States spends approximately 47 hours per year driving to work. Not only does that number seem miserable, but those emissions leave a carbon footprint of Big Foot proportions. Are you able to carpool to work? Take public transportation once a week? Do you live close enough to bike? Walk? Consider the added benefit of saving all that gas money. And if you’re lucky and live close enough to walk or bike, you’ll be getting a regular workout as well.
If you’re unable to change up your commute, propose the idea of telecommuting once a week to management. A study from the Consumer Electronics Association in 2013 found that telecommuting at least once a month reduces the United Sates’ annual vehicle miles travelled by nearly 1,400 miles per telecommuter. And all that saved energy? That would be enough to power 1 million homes in the U.S. for an entire year.
Even if your place of business isn’t equipped with solar panels or electric car charging stations, there are plenty of opportunities to be sustainable at work. Make good use of the facilities that are available, even if that means simply making an effort to use the recycling bin correctly. Bring any suggestions or recommendations to management; a greener office has the potential to drastically cut costs for the company, provide tax breaks, increase productivity, and establish a positive reputation. Don’t worry so much about what other people are doing. Focus on your own actions and lead by example, which is far more effective than being the annoying coworker who yells at everyone for not printing on both sides of the paper. Who knows? Your actions might just inspire others to follow suit.