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Office Habits Go Green: Creating a Sustainable Work Environment

Get ready to celebrate a new way of conscientious living!

Many of us spend as much time in our workspace as we do anywhere else. Bosses and employees working in boutiques and corporations alike can take practical steps to creating a lower-impact workplace with a range of real benefits. Creating a cleaner, greener, more sustainable work environment will not only bear a lighter load on the planet, but will also rally productivity and connectedness with your work-mates. It may even benefit the company’s bottom line. 

Start small, start anywhere.

It feels good because it’s the right thing to do – and that’s contagious.

Set goals such as reducing paper use by 10% (track via paper count on the printer).

Start a green team and hold regular meetings once a month or once a quarter, depending on the team’s dashboard goals. Keep meetings short but focused. A monthly or quarterly calendar of topic areas and goals can provide focused framework to harness measurable change. Review your office paper use, energy use, general waste, disposables and recycling. Set goals such as reducing paper use by 10% (track via paper count on the printer).

Have fun. You will create more buzz with a light sense of humor than you will with a heavy hand. At the Harvard School of Public Health, they post cartoons and memes in the stairwells during a ‘Take the Stairs’ campaign. An informative newsletter in the restrooms can also land some impact and intrigue for a captive audience.

Here are some topics and ideas to target traction towards a greener workplace and space:

Practice Power Management:

  • Optimize energy settings for computers and other devices
  • Reduce monitor brightness to reduce energy use
  • Power-down computers at night and on weekends (stand-by mode still suck up energy)
  • Use Smart Strip power strips and power chords to cut energy with a flip of a switch (without having to unplug all the time)
  • Create campaigns and incentives to motivate use of Public Transportation, biking and walking, carpooling, and ride-share pooling 
  • Lobby for telecommuting days
  • Take the stairs every chance you get
  • Digitize and go paper-free whenever/wherever possible
  • Seriously ask yourself, Do I really need to print this?
  • If you do, reduce the printing margins, eliminate ghost pages and print double-sided
  • Insist on PCW Recycled paper (post-consumer waste recycled)
  • Create an office challenge to reduce paper use by 10% and track it via the printer paper count
  • Lobby for eco-friendly custodial cleaning products
  • Biodegradable soap and recycled paper products in the bathroom
  • Shun disposable cutlery in favor of providing reusable cutlery for lunch
  • Ban single-use plastic water bottles (and single-use disposables in general)

When additional office furniture is needed, or when any office modification is on the docket, take the opportunity populate the space with eco- and human-friendly form and function. Herman Miller and Steelcase both champion Cradle-to-Cradle certification. Haworth, Knoll, Keilhaur and Izzydesign not only offer chic office accoutrements, but also offer Greenguard certified options for office outfitting.

Get ready to celebrate a new way of conscientious living!

Renée Loux

Renée Loux is a chef, author, journalist, educator, entrepreneur, consultant, media personality and mother.

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