The office kitchen is an often used yet underutilized resource for you and your employees. It is a gathering place, and one that provides a sense of home in an otherwise sterile work environment. It is also a place of consumption — not only the consumption of food, but also the unnecessary consumption of resources. Create an office kitchen that is environmentally friendly, and not only will you save money, but you will also lead by example and inspire employees to take these sound practices into their own homes. Here are some easy ways you can go green in the office kitchen, and save a few bucks while you’re at it.
1. Make sure the coils behind the fridge are regularly vacuumed clean. Dust loves to stick to the coils, and it prevents the fridge from cooling properly, hence wasting unnecessary energy on ineffective cooling.
2. Unplug appliances. Even though the toaster isn’t in use, it may well be drawing a charge when plugged in. This is costing you — financially and environmentally.
3. Use eco-friendly light bulbs. Although the bulb itself may cost more money, it will last longer and you will save on energy bills. And they don’t have to be garishly fluorescent any more: even compact fluorescent bulbs have warm options that resemble incandescent lighting. They use 75% less energy, and last 8-10 years.
4. If your office kitchen is small and you don’t contract a cleaning company to keep the dust bunnies at bay, don’t fret about maintaining a stash of commercial cleaning products. Simply put two parts vinegar and one part water into a spray bottle, and you have an environmentally (and financially) friendly all-purpose cleanser.
5. Cut out paper towels entirely. It’s an environmental office stance that may initially give your employees a spin, but one that everybody can get into once some good habits are formed. Instead of reaching for paper towels, keep cloth napkins handy for general employee use, and a hamper of rags for spills and cleaning purposes. Store them in a drawer or plastic bag dispenser for easy access, and keep a bin handy for all dirty napkins and rags.
6. Make sure your kitchen faucet is maximizing water usage. Installing an aerator will help your water go farther without affecting water pressure. An aerator is usually less than $10 and can save up to 500 gallons of water per year.
7. Run the dishwasher only when it’s full. Also, try to run it at night so you can use the low-water low-heat settings, and allow them to air dry instead of heat dry.
8. Be water-conscious. Depending on your office kitchen setup, you can recycle gray water and catch drips. Also consider installing a filter for drinking water instead of buying single use water bottles.
9. Are you remodeling or moving shop? Add natural light by installing windows or skylights (and you can get some creative skylights for awkward office spaces these days). Not only will you save on power for lighting, but the natural touch adds a lot of value — even to employee morale and energy levels.
10. Buying energy-efficient appliances seems to be common practice now, but it still bears mentioning. Some areas even offer financial incentives to individuals and businesses that buy and use energy-efficient appliances.
11. And when choosing your flooring and other building and decorating materials, use eco-friendly and sustainable substances like bamboo or recycled cork.
12. Stock the cupboards with mugs and glasses — including travel mugs. If employees insist on buying coffee at the local coffee shop (in lieu of the office brew), encourage them to use their mugs — they’ll often save money by bringing their own mug, and they’ll also save on wasteful disposable coffee cups. To achieve this without coming off as militant, you can create contests or other fun office incentives to sweeten the pot and enhance the team atmosphere.
13. For those employees who enjoy the office kitchen java, use reusable coffee filters. If you don’t already compost, then simply add the used coffee grounds to the office plants for extra fertilization and less waste.
14. Ban disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. They may be convenient for that office birthday celebration or boardroom lunch, but don’t succumb. If a sink of wash water is available for everybody to clean their own dish (assuming there is no dishwasher available), nobody gets stuck with too much washing, and the team approach prevails. Besides which, there’s something to be said about the value enhanced by eating from a real plate with real cutlery.
15. Avoid over-packaged goods. Buy kitchen supplies in bulk when possible to save money, but be conscious of the packaging too; bulk goods can be either the most conservative of or the worst culprits of unnecessary packaging.
16. It’s a wacky idea, but you can even try making paper garbage bins. Although not terrific for wet garbage (but most of that goes in the compost bin anyway), these garbage bins are an alternative to plastic trash bags, and make great use of newspaper that would normally go in the bin anyway. Here are some instructions and a video to help you get started.
Cultivating Green Thumbs
17. Even small office kitchens can get on the urban composting bandwagon. Get a small compost bucket (this can either be a purpose built one or a homemade contraption — it doesn’t have to be any more sophisticated than something with an air-tight lid), and if an employee has a compost heap at home they can periodically take it with them.
18. Start an office herb or veggie garden. It’s lovely to have a sprig of fresh herbs to enhance your lunch, and you can incorporate your composting and coffee grounds recycling into the mix for added value. Don’t think you have space? Think again: this guy tends a formidable fire escape bounty. Or, among other techniques, you could try an upside down hanging garden.
How is your office kitchen green? Suggestions and feedback are welcome.