Go Green at Work: Make Your Office More Eco-Friendly

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It’s a new year, which means it’s the perfect time to make some 2019 resolutions. But while friends and family members may be vowing to exercise every day or to embrace a healthier diet, those aren’t the only kinds of goals you can set for yourself. If you really want to have an impact on our planet’s precarious position, you may want to devote yourself to leading a greener lifestyle over the next 12 months.

But it’s not only what you do at home that matters. The eco-friendly efforts you make at work can potentially have an even bigger impact, especially if you get the rest of your team on board. Best of all, it might not be as big of a pain as you might think to embrace sustainable practices at the office. Here are some great ideas for going green in the workplace.

Make a Commitment to Digital Documents

Estimates show that each individual American office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper every year. Going paperless is not a new concept, but it’s one that a lot of offices may not embrace consistently. While some documents may be shared digitally, others may still be printed and distributed in meetings. Sadly, most of these papers add to desk clutter or end up in the trash. Even if you make an effort to put those papers in the recycling bin, that still means you’ll be purchasing reams of paper (and be responsible for cutting down trees) that may not be totally necessary.

If your business is able to cut down on paper usage, make every effort to do so. Not only will you reduce your waste and your carbon footprint, but you’ll probably decrease the costs associated with other supplies (like printer ink) and maintenance, too. When you do need to use paper products, consider switching to recycled and sustainably sourced items. Be sure to reuse items like manilla envelopes, files, and binders whenever possible, as well. You may not be able to have a completely paperless facility, but every little bit helps.

Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Agents

When a spill occurs or the janitorial staff comes in to clean the bathrooms, do you know what kinds of products your office uses? You might not give it much thought, but the cleaning agents you rely on could be harmful to the earth — and to your staff. Many products used in offices contain toxins known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can release dangerous fumes and lead to both short-term and long-term health problems. According to the American Lung Association, these products may include air fresheners, chlorine bleach, rug and carpet cleaners, floor polish, dishwashing liquid, and more.

What’s worse, products that contain VOCs can contribute to reduced indoor air quality and increased outdoor air pollution. While using these products may seem convenient, they’re doing a number on your health and the health of our planet. That’s why many businesses have embraced product components with environmentally friendly powder coatings (which are free of solvents and VOCs). In the same vein, you should consider switching to greener cleaning products, which contain no harmful toxins and are just as effective at keeping your workplace properly sanitized.

Encourage Eco-Friendly Commuting

Millennials may be a main focus for employers, but the reality is that Gen Z represents the newest addition to the workforce. Those in these younger generations are eager to embrace non-traditional workplace arrangements, as is evidenced by the prevalence of freelancing and work-from-home positions. In fact, 38% of Gen Zers want to work from home — and they also believe that maintaining an eco-friendly workplace is essential.

If you want to appeal to 20- and 30-somethings, you might want to embrace greener ways of working. Telecommuting is a great option that allows full-time, part-time, or freelance employees to work from home (or from a nearby coffee shop) rather than making the daily trek to and from the office. Not only does this make employees happier and surprisingly more productive, but it also reduces the amount of carbon emissions. If they aren’t driving on a daily basis, they’ll be able to reduce their environmental impact.

Another popular option for motorists who want to cut their emissions is the electric vehicle. EVs are set to make up 54% of new car sales worldwide by 2040, thanks to their growing affordability and increased accessibility to charging options. While adding an EV charging station at work will certainly represent a financial investment, many businesses will benefit from tax incentives that can offset those costs. Offering services like these can also boost your branding and solidify your place as a green leader in your industry. By promoting options for non-gas-guzzling vehicles, you can make life a lot easier for EV-owning employees and even convince others to make the switch themselves.

Reduce Your Electricity and HVAC Use

If your coworkers are inclined to keep the lights and their technology plugged in 24/7, you’re probably using way more energy than you need to be. The same goes for a thermostat that overcompensates for the weather outside; if you’re constantly shivering in the summertime or sweating inside in the winter, your office HVAC is working overtime. Both of these issues can result in high operational costs and high energy use, which can affect your business’s bottom line and its ability to really be sustainable.

If you’re able to program your thermostat and the light sources in the office, this can save both money and energy overnight and on the weekends. In general, your thermostat should be set slightly lower in the winter and slightly higher than the summer than you might think. Even a single degree or two can save you up to 10% on your heating and cooling bills. You can also encourage employees to unplug appliances (like the microwave and coffee maker) when they leave for the day or use smart power strips with programmable timers to shut off electronics completely when everyone’s gone for the evening. You may also want to switch to LED lightbulbs and use as much natural light as possible to offset your electricity usage.

There are many other ways you can make a difference in the workplace and in the world by embracing sustainable practices. Filling the shared kitchen with locally sourced snacks, for example, can reduce transportation emissions, promote more eco-friendly packaging, and support small businesses and agriculture in your area. Adding office plants can make workers more productive and less stressed while improving the indoor air quality. And investing in second-hand furniture or donating items in good condition from your office can promote a less wasteful ethos. Don’t afraid to think outside the box and put ecological responsibility first this year. It may improve employee engagement and help your business stand out.

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