- This article, contributed by Maria Calamia and Jessica Mino of Kane County, is part of a 15-part series of tips on how to make a positive environmental impact in Kane County.
Tip #10: Bring Your Green to the Office
Although many of our tips focus on your home, a lot of our day is also spent at work. So bring the green spirit you are cultivating at home to the office! Making environmentally-friendly options available and encouraging their use in the workplace can have tremendous impact on keeping our planet beautiful.
1. Purchase Green
It is important to try to encourage an environmentally preferable purchasing policy in your work environment.
Kane County encourages contractors to offer products and services that are produced or delivered with minimal use of virgin materials and maximum use of recycled materials. This will reduce waste, energy usage, water utilization, and toxicity in the manufacture, use and end-of-life of products.
Using recycled products creates a market for the products you recycle, closing the loop on the cycle. So, for paper products such as notebooks, tissue, toilet paper, and cups, make sure to select products made from recycled materials.
When offering disposable cups by the water cooler, coffee machine, or for events and meetings, be sure to provide paper to throw away rather than plastic or Styrofoam items that do anything but “go away.” Better yet, no need to put the cups out at all. Encourage staff to bring their own water bottles or mugs from home.
Don’t forget to use non-toxic cleaning supplies that are better for the environment, as well as employees.
To take your green purchasing one step further, invest in refillable pens. This minimizes the number of plastic pen casings purchased, and then ultimately disposed of.
Learn more about green purchasing from the Environmental Protection Agency.
2. Reduce the Waste
The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 45 percent of municipal solid waste is generated in the workplace.
All individuals must do their part in the workplace to recycle and reuse whenever possible to reduce waste. Start by bring a reusable cup or water bottle to work.
Then, extend this to co-workers by replacing disposable cutlery, cups, and glasses with reusable ones. Encourage employees to bring in their own mugs, or purchase communal mugs that live in the office kitchen’s cabinets.
If you must provide disposable cups for an event, remember to choose paper cups made from recycled materials!
Pack your lunch in reusable containers. Grapes, carrots, sandwiches and chips alike all taste the same (maybe even better!) when put in a reusable container rather than a plastic bag.
A great option for those odd items that don’t seem to work well in square containers is beeswax wrap that molds to any shape, but can be washed and reused (unlike plastic wrap). Your reusable containers can all be carried to work in a lunch box with utensils and cloth napkins from home.
When paper is disposed, it should be in a designated recycling container, separate from the landfill trash, and janitorial staff should be trained in the handling of office waste. Desk-side recycling bins are also encouraged to make recycling easy and convenient.
All these things will reduce the amount of trash that will end up in landfills.
3. Print Smarter
All printing should be done on both sides of paper whenever possible.
Correspondence should be handled via e-mail whenever possible to save paper. Also be sure to put a note at the end of your email encouraging recipients to only print when necessary. This helps your office’s green initiatives extend beyond your workplace and onto the screens of others.
4. Save Power
The simplest way to save power? Shut off lights when not in use.
Take full advantage of natural lighting by opening the blinds in your office and enjoying the sunlight. To maximize the effects of natural lighting, paint office walls lighter colors. Some companies even invest in solar panels.
Also be sure to shut down all computers, printers, and other IT equipment at night. This helps your devices rest while you are at home catching some sleep yourself.
Try to focus on these four tips to contribute to a green office environment. Sustainability doesn’t have to be restricted to your home!