10 Ways to Go Green at Work

  1. Be bright about light

    Artificial lighting accounts for 44 percent of the electricity use in office buildings.

    • Turn off lights when you’re leaving any room for 15 minutes or more
    • Utilize natural light when you can.
    • Buy Energy Star-rated light bulbs and fixtures, which use at least two-thirds less energy than regular lighting.
    • Install timers or motion sensors that automatically shut off lights when they’re not needed.
  2. Maximize computer efficiency

    Computers in the business sector unnecessarily waste $1 billion worth of electricity a year.
    Turn off your computer—and the power strip it’s plugged into—when you leave for the day. Otherwise, you’re still burning energy even if you’re not burning the midnight oil. (Check with your IT department to make sure the computer doesn’t need to be on to run backups or other maintenance.)

    • Setting your computer to go to sleep automatically during short breaks can cut energy use by 70 percent. Remember, screen savers don’t save energy.
    • Invest in energy-saving computers, monitors, and printers and make sure that old equipment is properly recycled.
    • Look for a recycler that has pledged not to export hazardous e-waste and to follow other safety guidelines.
    • Old computers that still work, and are less than five years old, can be donated to organizations that will refurbish them and find them new homes. (You may even get a tax deduction.)
  3. Print smarter

    The average U.S. office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year.

    • Print on both sides or use the back side of old documents for faxes, scrap paper, or drafts.
    • Avoid color printing and print in draft mode whenever feasible.
    • Buy chlorine-free paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
    • Consider switching to a lighter stock of paper or alternatives made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, or kenaf.
    • Recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy remanufactured ones. According to Office Depot, each remanufactured toner cartridge “keeps approximately 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic out of landfills…and conserves about a half gallon of oil.”
  4. Go paperless when possible

    • Think before you print: could this be read or stored online instead?
    • When you receive unwanted catalogs, newsletters, magazines, or junk mail, request to be removed from the mailing list before you recycle the item.
    • Post employee manuals and similar materials online, rather than distribute print copies.
  5. Ramp up your recycling

    • Recycle everything your company collects. Just about any kind of paper you would encounter in an office, including fax paper, envelopes, and junk mail, can be recycled. So can your old cell phone, PDA, or pager.
    • Place recycling bins in accessible, high-traffic areas and provide clear information about what can and can not be recycled.
  6. Close the loop

    • Purchase office supplies and furniture made from recycled materials.
  7. Watch what (and how) you eat

    • Bring your own mug and dishware for those meals you eat at the office.
    • Provide reusable dishes, silverware, and glasses.
    • Switch to Fair Trade and organic coffee and tea.
    • Buy as much organic and local food as possible for parties and other events.
    • Provide filtered drinking water to reduce bottled-water waste.
  8. Rethink your travel

    • Take the train, bus, or subway when feasible instead of a rental car when traveling on business. If you have to rent a car, some rental agencies now offer hybrids and other high-mileage vehicles.
    • Invest in videoconferencing and other technological solutions that can reduce the amount of employee travel.
  9. Reconsider your commute

    • Carpool, bike, or take transit to work, and/or telecommute when possible. If you need to drive occasionally, consider joining a car-sharing service like Zipcar and Flexcar instead of owning your own wheels.
    • Encourage telecommuting (a nice perk that’s also good for the planet!) and make it easy for employees to take alternative modes of transportation by subsidizing commuter checks, offering bike parking, or organizing a carpool board.
  10. Create a healthy office environment

    • Use nontoxic cleaning products.
    • Brighten up your cubicle with plants, which absorb indoor pollution.
    • Buy furniture, carpeting, and paint that are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and won’t off-gas toxic chemicals.