For businesses, going green not only helps the environment, it can boost the bottom line, too. Organizations that make a company-wide commitment to more environmentally-friendly practices can benefit from short- and long-term savings, some great PR opportunities and higher employee engagement.
We all know the best ways to go green at home and a few of those approaches translate well at the office, too, but what are some business-specific ways to green-up?
1. Power down
Leaving our PCs and monitors on at the end of the day is a bad habit we’ve all been guilty of. Multiply this practice by the millions of computers in offices all over the world, and we’re talking about some serious wattage. Turning off computers at the end of each work day (especially on Fridays) can reduce energy bills and cut waste. For employees that run programs after hours, suggest setting the computers to energy-sipping sleep mode.
2. Turn off the lights
Lighting can account for up to 40 percent of an office’s energy consumption. Turning off the lights at the end of the day or installing an automatic timer or motion-sensitive switches conserves energy and saves cash. If your office is part of a larger building that has its own lighting system, talk to the management about options for your floor or your particular space.
Recycling is more than just buying the proper containers and posting an encouraging sign or two. Businesses with the most successful recycling programs do a few things differently.
They present compelling statistics about the volume of paper, plastic, glass and metal that ends up in landfills each year to make the case for any recycling hold-outs.
They educate employees on dividing the recyclables correctly and clearly explain how different materials find new uses.
- They set personal recycling goals, such as reaching a 75 percent recycling rate in six months or reducing the garbage bill by 50 percent within a year—and they promote their successes. Framed in the context of multiple offices or businesses in a single building, this approach can be even more motivating.
4. Print right
Even in our highly-mobile and digital world, our printers get a workout. Make a commitment to creating a more paperless office. Encourage employees to digitize contracts and use e-sign technology instead of printing and faxing the old-fashioned way. For those times when printing can’t be avoided, choose recycled paper, reduce the font size, and print on both sides of the sheet. All of these approaches will save reams of paper (and groves of trees) in the long run.
5. Buy used
Nearly every family has bought a used chair, dinette set, or laptop at some point, but businesses almost never do. Why does launching or growing a business always mean going to a big-box store and buying pallets of new stuff?
With a little extra effort and planning, used office furniture and equipment can be had at a fraction of the cost of new. Explore refurbishing existing furniture or sourcing additional desks, chairs, rolling files or kitchen supplies from resellers that cater to business customers. It gives new purpose to used items and helps reduce demand for new.
6. Go remote
Allowing some employees to work from home part-time or full-time reduces commuting costs and the associated fuel. Leverage your mobile tools to free your employees from gridlock traffic, frazzled nerves, and lost productivity. For those employees that must be on-site, promote eco-friendly commuting options by subsidizing mass-transit costs or initiating a car-pooling program.
7. Clean green
Businesses tend to get cleaned with nuclear-powered chemicals that we’d never consider using in our homes. Explore eco-friendly options like Simple Green Naturals or Seventh Generation products for office use.
8. Get involved
Creating a green office is part behavior and part attitude and commitment.
Beyond all the logistics of setting up a more eco-friendly workplace, encourage participation in green events and champion local environmental efforts. While still being mindful of ideological differences among your employees, sponsor events that everyone can get behind. Examples include:
Participating in a community clean up day
Joining in planting a neighborhood garden
- Devoting one workday each quarter to lending your company muscle to a charitable activity like Habitat for Humanity.
All are great ways to support local communities (and can result in positive PR, too).
Going green is always a team effort. Once a business identifies and commits to creating a more environmentally-friendly enterprise, employees tend to rally and come up with even more creative ideas. Tap the resources all around you and key in on the enthusiasm of your team. You’ll be surprised how quickly old habits can be replaced by greener ones.
Kentin Waits is a freelance writer and marketing specialist based in Portland, Ore. His work has been featured in US Airways magazine and top-rated blogs such as Wise Bread, the Consumerist and MSN SmartMoney. When he's not writing, Kentin runs a small online antiques business.