Most of us spend a third of our day at the office – and that’s not counting the commute. There are plenty of things you can do to make your workplace more environmentally friendly.
Many people who use computers are moving toward a paperless office. Technology has given us the ability to scan paperwork and store it electronically, as well as send messages through electronic faxes and e-mail rather than using paper.
Here are 17 ways you can save energy in the workplace to reduce stress on yourself and on the planet.
Back up your files. Before scanners and computers, you would copy documents and file it away for future retrieval. Nowadays, those documents are created and stored electronically instead. However, there’s a risk of losing your data if there’s ever a computer failure. Be sure to have a regular system, whether it’s using a second hard drive, a removable drive, or Internet and/or off-site locations.
Be patient. Moving to a paperless office doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, there might even be a feeling that you’re creating more work instead of less at first. But it’s an ongoing process that can be taken in steps, and you just need to keep in mind your end goal.
You’ll free up space. As you move to a paperless office, you’ll be freeing up office space currently taken by filing cabinets and storage containers.
“Paperless” often really means “less paper.” Yes, scanning will take care of a good chunk of your current paperwork, and there are becoming more ways every day that let you electronically sign or signature stamp documents. But you’re still likely going to have paper in the office. Not all of your clients or customers will want to be billed electronically. Some vendors will still want to communicate by snail mail. And tax and regulatory requirements could force you to either do some current business on paper or to keep hard copies of your past home or business records.
Everyone has to buy in. Moving to a paperless office is not a one person job. Everyone has to buy into the transition as a new way of doing business, and there may be some struggle along the way. Change can be difficult: perceptions will have to change, and new routines have to be learned. But for you to make the most out of the transition, remind them why you are doing this.
Less paper is just the beginning. The most visible impact of a move to a paperless office is the reduction in cost of printing, mailing, shipping, and storing paper. However, over time lots of other benefits will become apparent. With everything digital, finding files will become much quicker. If you have multiple locations, everyone has access to documents regardless of where they are.
Turn off the lights. Remember to hit the switch on your way out for that well-deserved lunch break. The energy savings from 10 million employees turning off unneeded lights for 30 minutes a day is enough to illuminate 50 million square feet of office space.
Get off mailing lists. The last thing you need is another office supply catalog or credit card offer on your desk. Almost half of all catalogs are never opened, yet nearly 62 million trees are destroyed and 28 billion gallons of water are used to produce them every year. Before tossing out junk mail, call the company’s toll-free service number and ask that your name be removed from the mailing list. Have online retailers email you instead. You can also register with DirectMail.com to be on their National Do Not Mail List.
Put your monitor to sleep. Whether it shows off your vacation photos or a cool 3D animation, a computer screen saver is not at all designed for energy efficiency. It’s intended to save your screen from ‘burn in’, not to save energy. Because monitors are responsible for more than one-third of a computer’s energy consumption – even with screen savers – the best way to conserve energy is to set the monitor to sleep or power off when you’re away for an extended period. If you know you’re going to be gone longer than 10 minutes, put the monitor to sleep.
Use the stairs. Your brain gets exercise all day, why not exercise your body? Get your heart pumping by taking the stairs instead of the elevator! It’s good for your health, and it saves electricity.
Make your printer’s toner last. Being cheap is a first date no-no, but it’s okay to be frugal at the office. When printing rough drafts or documents for internal purposes, change the printer’s settings to economy mode and avoid color if possible. This uses up to 50% less toner and prints twice as many pages as other higher quality settings. Duplex printing also uses half the amount of paper.
Provide incentives for commuters. Free food and a year-end bonus are nice perks, but to really make workers happy, help ease their daily commute. The government rewards businesses that encourage their staff to carpool, bicycle, or walk to work under the Commuter Choice Program. Telecommuting and flexible work hours can also save employers by reducing absences and job retention costs.
Recycle and reuse paper. Americans toss out about 35 million tons of paper each year. Buck the trend and start recycling – not only standard white printer paper, but all of the magazines, manila folders, and colored post-it notes that decorate your space. If it tears, it can be recycled. Recycled paper manufacturing generates 74% less air pollution, and saves trees, water, and energy. To salvage papers that are printed on one side only, flip them over and use for incoming faxes.
Purchase 100% post-consumer waste chlorine-free paper. Take note when buying paper – the higher the percentage of post-consumer waste, the larger the amount of recycled material is contained in the paper stock. This means that 100% post-consumer waste paper is made entirely from recycled products. Also, chlorine used for bleaching is one of the biggest polluters in the paper-making process. Choose non-chlorinated paper, which has the same quality as the bleached variety.
Recycle and reuse office supplies. Do as mom says and clean your plate, literally. Washing and reusing the plastic dishes and cutlery you get with take-away food is an easy way to cut down on waste at work. Better yet, pack your lunch in reusable containers and pocket your hard-earned dollars! Skip the paper (or worse, Styrofoam) cups and refill your travel mug at the nearby coffee shop instead. It may even get you a discount. Besides aluminum cans and glass bottles, there are many other supplies stashed in and around your desk that are recyclable, such as batteries, printer cartridges, DVDs, CDs, and more.
Curb phantom electricity. Many appliances still consume energy even when turned off. Items left plugged into the wall such as a cell phone chargers or laptop adapters can leak more than 20 watts of power. In the United States alone, “phantom electricity” emits roughly 12 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Avoid this by plugging office equipment into a power strip and turning it off at night and on weekends.
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