Chances are you spend a lot of time at work. Most work environments offer some of the challenges detailed on this page. All work environments could be enhanced or changed to become healthier, safer and less wasteful spaces.
Major factors to be conscious of when considering your work space include: indoor air quality, energy consumption, heating and cooling systems, paper consumption, off- gassing, electromagnetic fields and toxic materials. Please see the guidelines offered below about how to approach greening your workspace.
There is another, big and blistering side to our work lives; it is common that the products we create and services we offer have a huge impact on the environment. There is little doubt that corporations have been widely responsible for air, water and soil pollution and the problem is not small. Most people know that news about the state of our natural world is not good; global warming, high cancer and asthma rates, destruction of all kinds of habitats, endangered species, toxic chemicals in our water, air, soil and bodies. It is a total downer to consider all of these problems at once and entirely daunting to think about fixing them.
There are a several key steps that every person, of any occupation or influence can take to chip away at the problems facing our planet and ourselves as the result of commerce and corporate activity.
First, set a good example. If you own a business or run one, investigate to the full extent possible where the products you require to do business, from raw materials on, come from. Ask questions such as is there a non-toxic, domestically made and/or recycled-content version of these materials? If you only work for a company, ask the same questions and pick an ally with more influence to discuss your findings with.
Second, understand how the products and services your company provides impact the environment during production, distribution and use. What alternatives does your company have to reduce negative environmental impacts? You have the option in some industries of pursuing green certifications. You may also be able to network and learn form other businesses, or departments of large companies improving practices. Please see the education section of the links on this page to learn more about corporate social responsibility, green certification and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).
Third, and this is something everyone can do, ask questions of the companies you patronize. Ask if they are working to eliminate toxic working conditions for employees, toxic waste from production and toxic materials for consumption. Ask if they source vendors with strong environmental track records or certifications. Ask if they even have a public policy about including the health of the environment in their work. Only spend your money with companies you get satisfactory answers from. It does not take an environmental expert to know when someone cannot answer your questions. This may seem like quite a bit of work. Start small, one or two questions a day. Ask your photocopier or computer representative if their company recycles and refurbishes parts. Ask your office supply representative why they don’t carry biodegradable cups for hot liquids. While you are at it, tell your contractor that you want to know about wood that has been certified as sustainably harvested and mention to your grocer that you are pleased they have added a domestic organic olive oil. Fold asking questions about the way business is done and products are created into your everyday life. Asking these types of question in business and of businesses will help to create demand for change. It beats talking about the weather, except that the weather is so wacky these days.
The following tips can be found, plus much more, on the wonderful resource site,
Key Issues to Consider when Purchasing
Greening your office challenges you to think about whether your organizations’ ‘needs’ can be met in different ways.
Rules of Thumb for Purchasing Office Equipment
Actively purchasing 'greener' products or services is a complex task and can be time consuming for any purchaser making informed environmental choices. Looking for third party accredited labels provides credible, verifiable information on the environmental claims of products and services. If there isn’t a suitable piece of equipment that has a eco-label, then you should consider the following:
Choose Equipment that is Designed to Last
Look for design features that support upgrade, repair and remanufacture. How will your business needs change in the next 3 to 5 years?
Pay only for the Features you Really Need
Many offices pay extra for models with features they hardly ever use. Is it more economical to buy a simpler model and outsource more complex or demanding jobs?
Is Leasing a Better Option?
Leasing instead of buying outright can give your business better cash flow and greater flexibility. An 'operating lease' (as opposed to a 'financial lease') means the supplier has a commercial interest in maintaining your equipment!
Choose the Right Equipment Mix
The distinction between what you can do with photocopiers, printers, faxes and computers is starting to blur. Having fewer pieces of equipment can save you money and lessen your environmental impact.
Buy [Domestic] Made
Most office equipment is no longer made in the [United States] – however some is. It’s much better to buy products that are locally made or assembled to reduce transport.
Use Equipment Wisely
Think before you copy or print. Print using ‘draft’ feature to reduce toner use. Turn it off when its not being used. Some printers and photocopiers can print on both sides of the paper (duplex printing) which halves the amount of paper used and reduces the space required in filing systems.
Have a Regular Maintenance Schedule for Equipment
Purchasing the right photocopier, with a good service agreement, will result in reduced paper use, air pollution and land-fill space. You also should consider if you can share a copiers with a neighbor or whether it is more cost effective to outsource your copying.
The main considerations are:
Getting rid of your old Photocopier
Contact the manufacturer and see if they have a take back or recycling program
Next time make sure your supplier takes it back for remanufacture and avoid the headache of dealing with old equipment.
Choosing a Printer
Choose a printer that is efficient with both ink (toner) and paper.
Hot tip: Generally laser printers are more expensive to buy but have a lower cost per page than ink-jet and bubble-jet printers. Cheaper running costs and less waste can be achieved when you buy a laser printer with long life print drum and also buy remanufactured cartridges.
Choosing a Fax
Fax machines are a common feature in any office. Faxing itself isn’t bad, they use minimal electricity; eliminate the need for envelopes, labels and stamps. It’s just how you fax that makes the difference.
Buy a plain paper fax machine as you can use Goose (Good on one-side) paper in them.
Improve Indoor Air Quality & Reducing Electromagnetic Fields
For those concerned about electromagnetic fields, (these are created by any electricity – copiers, computers etc.), consider the following: