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Published on May 23rd, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


Going Green at the Office: A Checklist

Most of us understand that it’s high time we all start taking ecologically minded steps at work, but knowing exactly where to start can be daunting. Sometimes all it takes to get things moving in a greener direction at work is a simple checklist of items that can be easily implemented by employees and managers. Check out these quick and simple tips that you and your co-workers can easily implement at your workplace or in your business.

Green Office Checklist

1. Provide mugs, glasses, and insulated drink containers (promotional if you like) to all employees for drinks such as coffee, water, and juice, and keep a few extra mugs around for office visitors and guests. If you must have disposable cups hanging around, use ones made from recycled paper, not Styrofoam.

2. Drink tap water, and avoid plastic water bottles (although plant-based bottles from companies such as Primo are a refreshing exception that we’re keeping a close eye on). Buy a water filter if desired, but be sure it’s filtering the stuff that’s actually in your water — which of course means you’ll need to test the water first. Tap water is much safer and more regulated than bottled water, and many bottled waters use municipal water as their source.

3. Change all of your light bulbs to CFLs, LEDs, or other energy-saving alternative lightbulb solutions.

4. Turn off and unplug all computers and electronic devices after hours (with the exception of those providing round-the-clock or off-hours services such as servers, backup devices, etc.). Even when these devices are turned off, they will continue to use electricity unless you unplug the power cord to keep them from charging all night. Likewise, you should unplug coffee machines and other appliances at work when they are not in use so they don’t pull electricity all day.

6. You can use a SmartStrip in lieu of unplugging everything, which is admittedly an inconvenient, low-tech solution. Smartstrips are combination power strips and energy-saving devices (and, in some cases, also act as surge suppressors) that will turn off your electronics when not in use.

7. Use environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies and insist that your nightly housekeeping crew do the same.

8. Use recycled products everywhere you can around the office. Look for products with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content, reduced chemical content, and biodegradable or compostable components.

9. Reuse file folders, boxes and all other office supplies for as long as possible before purchasing any new ones.

10. Donate (preferably) or recycle all equipment you wish to retire. The U.S. Postal Service announced in March 2008 that it will provide free postage and already-addressed envelopes for people who wish to recycle their old iPods, Blackberries, MP3 players, small inkjet cartridges, and digital cartridges. For computers and accessories, consider programs like Dell’s recycling and donation program, or donate to a charity through a group like the National Cristina Foundation.

11. Question your suppliers about their environmental policies, and switch to alternate suppliers with better policies if necessary. Buy local, if at all possible, to reduce the CO2 footprint associated with the trucking and shipping of purchased goods. Support suppliers and vendors that use less packaging material and green shipping policies.

12. If your company ships items, use biodegradable brown paper as packing material instead of non-biodegradable material such as Styrofoam popcorn.

13. Avoid individual packaging by buying items such as coffee, sugar, and creamer in bulk.

14. Whenever possible, use digital document delivery methods such as email or internal fax to avoid postage, printing, ink, and paper use. Consider solutions such as those from Esker and similar companies that facilitate electronic document automation.

15. Copy frugally. Post a sign at the photocopier that says: “Do you really need to make a copy?”

16. Add a line at the end of your employee email signatures that encourages people to consider the environment before printing the email.

17. Cut out junk mail and paper subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, and/or consider reading their electronic/online versions instead.

18. Practice on-screen reading and editing habits to save printing.

19. When you must print a document, view your document first using your application’s print preview feature prior to printing to avoid mistakes.

20. When you must print, print double-sided documents and consider printing consolidation tools such as the free software from GreenPrint to reduce wasted and unnecessary pages.

21. Purchase computer software and music online and download them to avoid packaging and shipping costs and materials.

22. Reduce office trash as much as possible, and compost or recycle the rest. Give each employee two trash cans: one for recycled materials and one for landfill items. Keep an office composting bin in a centralized office or department location. Call your city street or sanitation department or recycling program coordinator to find out how to maximize your recycling efforts.

23. Use native, local plants inside the office and in office landscaping, giving preference to those that require the least amount of water.

24. Offer rebate or reimbursement vouchers for employees who use public transit, carpool, or drive hybrid cars to work. Better yet, telecommute and work from home.

25. If your company uses delivery vehicles, consider right turn and package flow technology solutions for your trucks and drivers such as those employed by UPS. Used in route planning, right turn technology minimizes the use of left turns which take longer and cause the vehicle to idle longer, wasting fuel.

26. Encourage all employees to keep a mug and a bowl with a lid in their cars. When they go to Starbucks, they can use the mug for their drink. Using the bowl as a to-go box for restaurant lunch leftovers will save many Styrofoam containers from going into the landfill.

27. Think of additional things not included on this list and add them to your own list, and forward this list to your friends, family, and associates in other companies.

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