- More Work, Less Energy
For many people, a computer is the central tool at work. Optimizing the energy settings for computers and other devices can be more than a modest energy saver. Set computers to energy-saving settings and make sure to shut them down when you leave for the day ("standby" settings will continue to draw power even when not in use). By plugging hardware into a power strip with an on/off switch (or a smart power strip), the whole desktop setup can be turned off at once (make sure to power down inkjet printers before killing the power--they need to seal their cartridges). Printers, scanners, and other peripherals that are only used occasionally can be unplugged until they're needed. And of course, turn off lights in spaces that are unoccupied.
It does seem a bit strange that in the "digital age" we still consume enormous amounts of mashed up, bleached tree pulp, most of which gets used once or twice and then tossed or recycled. The greenest paper is no paper at all, so keep things digital and dematerialized whenever possible. The more you do online, the less you need paper. Keep files on computers instead of in file cabinets (this also makes it easier to make offsite backup copies or take them with you when you move to a new office). Review documents onscreen rather than printing them out. Send emails instead of paper letters. New software like Greenprint helps eliminate blank pages from documents before printing and can also convert to PDF for paperless document sharing.
- Don't Be a Paper Pusher
When buying printer paper, look for recycled paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content and the minimum of chlorine bleaching. Even recycled paper gobbles up a great deal of energy, water, and chemical resources in its processing (toxic pulp slurry is the paper recycling industry's dirty secret). When using the real stuff, print on both sides of the page when appropriate and use misprints as notepaper. Try to choose printers and photocopiers that do double-sided printing. If your office ships packages, reuse boxes and use shredded waste paper as packing material.
- Greening the Commute
American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic. This adds up to 3.7 billion hours and 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year. We can ease some of this strain by carpooling, taking public transit, biking, walking, or a creative combination thereof. If there's no good way to phase out your car, consider getting a hybrid, electric vehicle, motorcycle, scooter, or using a car sharing service like Flexcar or Zipcar. See How to Green Your Car for more depth on the subject. Some employers are even giving a bonus to bike and carpool commuters and special perks to hybrid drivers. For those who think bike riding is for kids and tattooed couriers, consider a high-tech folding bike or an electrically assisted one (see below for more).
- Green Sleeves
You might be amazed how sharp work clothes from thrift stores can look. If you buy new, get clothes made with organic or recycled fibers. Avoid clothes that need to be dry cleaned, and if they so demand it, seek out your local "green" dry cleaner.
Written by: Manon Verchot