In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.
Q: I'd love some tips for making my office more sustainable. Bonus points if it saves my company some money. Any suggestions?
Let's start with a big one: paper. Ideally, you could switch to 100-percent recycled paper, but if that isn't an option, you can still do a lot to reduce the impact of your paper use. Even something as small as setting your word processor to use narrow margins and print on both sides of the page by default makes a difference.
Consider whether you need to print that email, and keep records electronically when you can. Going paperless where you can will reduce paper costs as well.
You can cut scrap paper into smaller pieces to reuse of buying notepads. If your business receives large amounts of junk mail (which business doesn't?) spend a few minutes canceling it. You'll have less recycling to do and your mail carrier will appreciate the lighter load.
Q: Okay, paper. Got it. What else?
A: In addition to paper, make sure you're recycling everything that your local recycling facility will take. There are other things like office electronics and printer ink cartridges that you can recycle as well, sometimes earning incentives. Check with your local office supply retailer.
Bring some reusable dishes and silverware to work instead of relying on paper and plastic disposable versions. Drinking coffee out of a mug or washing your plate and fork after lunch is a great way to reduce waste while reducing spending on disposable plates and cups. Bring your own lunch instead of buying it; you'll save money and you can make your lunch healthier.
Speaking of food, check with your coworkers — you may generate enough waste to make composting practical. Remember that you can compost coffee grounds (and some types of filters), paper towels and cardboard.
Q: What about travel?
A: If you can't walk, bike, or take public transit but you'd still like to reduce your carbon footprint, try carpooling with a colleague or using an online carpooling service.
If your company has staff that work in multiple locations but need to coordinate, try using one of the many free teleconferencing services to work together while reducing your carbon footprint.
Q: Anything else?
A: Yes. Remember to close up properly at the end of the day. Encourage your company to use energy-efficient lighting, like LED and CFL bulbs, and turn them off at closing time. Use smart power strips, and make sure to completely turn off electronics and set back your heating/cooling while nobody is in the office. These small changes will help you save a surprising amount of energy and money. It's good for your company's bottom line and for the planet.
Look out for this column every two weeks, and send Go Green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.