By Nancy Mann Jackson
Businesses often have the best of intentions when it comes to being environmentally friendly — but in the midst of hectic work days, sustainable practices are often the last thing anyone is thinking about. Earth Day (April 22) can motivate you to begin some easy-to-implement practices that cut down on your company's waste. And like many environmentally friendly moves, they can save your company money in the long run, too.
Here are a few ideas:
Suggest a "Clear Screen" Policy
Work to create a policy that encourage employees to turn off their computers or switch them to standby mode when they're not in use. This saves a small amount of energy on an individual level, but the cumulative effects can be substantial — and it can help enhance data security at your company, too.
Ditch Disposable Dishes in the Breakroom
If you buy paper or plastic dishes and silverware for the breakroom — maybe because you lack a dishwasher and don't want to deal with dirty dishes — replace them with ceramic mugs, bowls, plates, and permanent silverware instead, and institute a cleanup policy for the breakroom. Remind coworkers that they should wash all their own dishes, and that doing so is a big help toward reducing your company's waste. Only use the disposable dishes for rare occasions, such as the annual company picnic.
Encourage Eco-Friendly Printer Use
Your printer's double-sided printing option should be the default setting; only switch to single-sided when it's specifically needed. Also avoid color printing, which typically uses more ink. Whenever you can, encourage less printing overall. For example, use whiteboards or projectors instead of handouts at meetings.
Choose Sustainable Office Supplies
"Eco-friendly" doesn't just apply to products made from recycled or post-consumer materials (although buying such items is certainly a good idea). For instance, buying staple-free staplers means you'll never have to purchase staples again, and refillable pens mean you can stop sending used-up pens to the landfill. Whenever you can, look for items that use fewer materials and produce less waste.
Revive Your Company's Recycling Program
Most offices have blue recycling bins scattered around, but many employees are only vaguely aware of the rules surrounding them. Which items are recyclable, and which are not? Can you throw all recyclables together in one bin, or should they be separate? Ask your facility manager about the rules, make a simple list of instructions, and email those rules to the team or post signs so your coworkers can see them.
Also, any time you need to get rid of old electronics, contact your vendor about recycling — you can usually either drop items off with that vendor, or in some cases the company will pick them up for you.
Once you know how to be eco-friendly at work, making a few simple changes doesn't have to be difficult. Use the upcoming Earth Day celebrations as a launchpad for your new focus on greening your workplace, and you can be running an environmentally conscious office in no time.