by Megan Yarnall Going green, or being green, has often been associated with expensive organic or eco-friendly products, lifestyle and habit changes, and limited luxury. But going green at home and in the workplace doesn’t have to break the bank.
Many tips that families use to stay green around the house and save money – such as turning off the lights when a room is empty – can be applied to the office as well. This can lead to happier employees, reduced costs and of course a smaller carbon footprint.
First, a few things that can be done every day, with contribution from everyone in the office:
Tip #1 Limited printing. Most things don’t really need to be printed out in hard copy. And if they do need to be printed, you can re-use paper and print double-sided. When you’re done with it, stick in the recycling bin.
How we do this? Just the way it sounds! We print double-sided, or reuse paper when we can. We also only print when we need to, and do most things by email. Afterwards, we’re TerraCycle. So you better believe we recycle.
Tip #2 Turn electronics off. If a room is empty, turn the lights off. If a bathroom is empty, turn the lights off. If a computer is not being used, especially overnight or over the weekend, turn it off.
How we do this? Just the way it sounds! We turn our computers off at night, and turn the lights off when we don’t need them. Power strips at each desk make it really easy to make sure monitors etc are not “leeching” overnight.
Tip #3 Reusable flatware. Most offices have small kitchens. Install an energy efficient dishwasher, and provide reusable flatware for employees. This will cut down on paper plates and plastic silverware being thrown away constantly.
How we do it? Here at TerraCycle, we also have an employee lunch program, in which lunch is served every day. This cuts down on takeout trash.
Tip #4 Mugs and reusable cups for guests. As opposed to offering a guest a bottle of water, offer a glass of water. Instead of offering coffee in a Styrofoam cup, have a clean mug handy.
How we do it? When we have someone in for an interview, or a business meeting, we use real glasses when we offer them water. The water comes from our cooler, which is hooked up to the city water, not shipped in.
Tip #5 Limit travel. Instead of traveling to a meeting, employ an application like Skype or GoToMeeting. Share screens, talk face-to-face, include as many people as you need – and don’t spend as much or leave so much of a carbon footprint.
How we do it? TerraCycle has offices in 15 different countries, with which there are meetings and calls a few times a week – via Skype.
Tip #6 Create a ride board to encourage employees to carpool, and help facilitate it to make it easy for them. Display who is coming and going, and locations and times.
How we do it? Some TerraCycle employees take the train down from New York, rather than driving separately, and when they arrive in the morning, one person picks all of them up. This cuts down on people driving from a far, and on people being picked up separately or taking separate cabs to the office.
Tip #7Make things from waste. Instead of buying new pen holders, make them out of recycled bottles or old mugs. Don’t buy new
furniture; buy used.
How we do it? TerraCycle’s office is made from waste from floor to ceiling – literally. The carpet is made of remnants, the desk are old doors and the walls are bottle, vinyl record etc.
There are other lengthier, more expensive projects (that will pay off in the long run!) that offices can investigate and institute in order to go green. While some of the upfront costs may be pricey, the money saved on energy bills in the end can make the investments just that – investments, rather than just costs.
Installing solar panels on the rooftop cuts down on electricity bills (eventually, you may have none!) as well as offering a source of clean energy for your office.
A green roof – which is essentially a yard and/or garden on top of your roof - helps insulate the building during the winter and keep temperatures down in the summer as it shields the building from the sun. (It also gives employees a neat place to take a break and eat lunch during the beautiful days!)
Many truly green moves that are more costly will pay off in the end anyway, but if you’re not ready to invest quite yet, the smaller green moves can make a difference in the meantime!