Earth Day was April 22. Every year, just as the snow melts and spring emerges, people reflect on the beauty of the planet and how to preserve it for future generations.
Or, people read an article about conservation efforts and then think to themselves, “This all sounds great, but my boss is never going to go for it.” Your boss may be reluctant to change, but if you show that most of these tips are free or will save money, maybe she’ll come around.
Here are five ways you can help make your office greener.
Rethink your lighting
If your office is still using incandescent light bulbs, you are behind the times. LED lights, or light-emitting diodes, are 85 percent more energy efficient, says Danyelle Kukuk, director of category and product management at Batteries Plus Bulbs. Kukuk says LEDs have an average lifespan of 25,000 hours. Assuming a 40-hour work week, each bulb would last roughly 12 years. “LED light bulbs are ideal for hard to reach, inaccessible areas because their long lifespan eliminates the need for routine replacement,” which would translate to lower maintenance costs, Kukuk says. Other pros: LEDs give off much less heat than incandescent bulbs and contain no mercury.
Address air quality
“Since smoking has been outlawed indoors, photocopiers and printers are now the biggest threat to indoor air quality in office settings, emitting solvents and other chemicals from components, inks and toners,” says Scot Case, a sustainability expert with UL Environment, an independent safety science company. Case recommends choosing a printer with slightly slower speed to reduce emissions and keeping printers in well-ventilated areas.
This goes for computers as well. “Computers generate significant heat when operating, and this heat accelerates emissions from the plastics, circuitry and adhesives used to make these products,” Case says. “Emissions typically decrease after extended use, so give greater attention to ventilation when operating new products.”
Beyond reducing emissions, having a few living plants around the office will filter the air and produce oxygen. If your company is willing to go even farther, it could consider plant walls. “Living plant walls give your employees that extra oxygen they need to improve productivity throughout the day,” says Scott Jenkins, president of DIRTT, a sustainable pre-fab interiors company, and they require no extra plumbing or watering.
Reduce water use
Faucet aerators can help reduce water use. They work by shooting water through multiple tiny holes in the aerator, which mixes the water with some air. This maintains water pressure while reducing water usage. “Faucet aerators will conserve water, which, though especially important [here] in Los Angeles, is an eco-friendly addition anywhere,” says Jolene Hanson, curator and director of The G2 Gallery, a nature and wildlife photography gallery. “The aerators will reduce your water usage by 40 percent and are a quick and easy step toward greening your business,” she says.
Investigate eco-friendly business travel
Chris Johnson travels to conferences quite a bit. His company, Wakefield Media, produces Uncubed, the largest startup hiring and career conference in the U.S. “Sometimes a plane is our only option, but in other cases, the event is close enough to take a train or even drive,” he says. “CarbonTrak is an app that helps you see the carbon impact of travel options and other business decisions.”
Almost nothing has to be printed anymore. Signatures can be shared electronically via Adobe, Dropbox makes an excellent virtual file cabinet, and documents can be shared for viewing on computers, tablets and phones. “We got rid of our printers. If we need to print something bad enough, we go to Kinko’s,” says Aron Susman, co-founder of The Squarefoot, a commercial real estate technology company. “It forces us to really think before we print.”