Are you the lone eco-warrior at your office? Do you bravely carry your reusable mug, while everyone else is using styrofoam? Are you the one who removes paper from the garbage and puts it in the recycling bin? Do you feel like the only one trying to go green at work?
Well, you aren’t alone! Many of us want to help our offices implement more eco-friendly policies and practices, but it can be tough. If you’re a manager or in a position to control the flow of “stuff” ordered and recycled at your office, then you may have some options. If you’re a little lower on the rung, you might be struggling to go green in your office.
Every little bit helps. Even your effort to create a more welcoming, eco-friendly space will be motivating and energizing. Take little steps to shift your mindset into “green” and encourage coworker to do the same.
The great aspect of eco-friendly practices at work, is that sustainability is often good for your company’s bottom line. Going through packing supplies, using cheap products, or blowing through resources doesn’t do your budget any favors either. Your boss will probably not only get on board, but praise your initiative for the suggestions.
So stay strong! There are plenty of ways to make your office more eco-friendly, no matter what your line of work!
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1. Implement a Paper Recycling Program
Providing each office with a recycle bin (even a cardboard box) will encourage everyone to recycle paper. If you work at a school or institution that goes through paper a lot, this is a pretty big undertaking.
Fortunately, many cities offer recycling pickup as part of their trash collection. If yours doesn’t, there may be additional fees required, or you may need to take on the job of transporting paper to the recycling facility a couple of times per month (it’s easy if you do it regularly).
2. Install a Recyclables Container in the Breakroom
The breakroom is often the source of many plastic, aluminum and glass containers that can easily be recycled. Put a sorting bin in the breakroom, along with a request everyone rinse out their container before tossing it in the bin. After that, it’s simply a matter of adding the sorted recycling to your regular pick up, or bagging it up every week or two to go to the recycle center.
A couple option may be checking with your local Scouting program to see if any scouts are looking for a great community service project (they will earn a few cents for each pound of recycling they bring in) or even offer the pick up job on Craigslist. There are people who are willing to haul your item to their local recycle center, so long as they can collect the proceeds.
3. Reduce Waste by Adopting Sustainable Supplies
One of the biggest sources of waste comes from food containers and eating utensils. The “convenience” packaging on many foods means more plastic, styrofoam and other junk in the landfill. The best way to reduce the waste is to provide real mugs, cups and utensils for your office to use. Again, while some offices may love the uniform look of matching items, a small business can easily stock their breakroom shelves with a trip to Goodwill.
Ask everyone to be in charge of washing their own dish to keep up (if you don’t have a dishwasher). While you’re at it, trade in your Keurig or pod-type coffee maker for a regular ol’ percolator.
4. Change Your Print Settings
A fast and easy way to be more eco-friendly at your office? Simply change your printer settings. Set the resolution lower, especially for draft document and quick print jobs. Set your printer to use black and white or greyscale rather than color. Default to double-sided printing to use less paper.
Changing printer settings will greatly reduce the cost of paper, ink and wear and tear on your printer. It will save your office money and waste less. For extra “green points” refill ink cartridges and limit needless printing. If documents and correspondence can be used electronically, there’s no need to print them!
5. Bring More Green into Your Office
Bring the outdoors in and keep yourself connected to the earth by bringing a few low-light-friendly plants into your office. Snake plants, peace lilies, spider plants and pothos all do well in low and florescent lights. These plants are low maintenance, improve the air quality and add beauty to your office.
Even if you don’t have a window or work in a cubicle, there are several plants that you can use to brighten your space. Add a few low-light office plants to create a green space you’ll love. Bonus: most of these plants are LOW maintenance, requiring little more than water. If your plant looks droopy, move it by a window for a day or two and it will perk right up.
6. Share Some Plant-based Treats
Everyone loves treats! If you want to share eco-friendly treats with your coworkers, try whipping up a batch of easy plant-based energy bites or other yummy snacks. The thing is, most people balk at the idea of having vegetarian and vegan options thrust upon them, but really, if you create something delicious that happens to be vegan? Well, no one complains.
At your next office potluck bring a crowd-pleasing treat like tomato skewers with basil and marinated tofu cubes (most people will probably just assume it’s cheese). Gardein meatless meatballs are awesome when done in a crockpot with some barbecue sauce. Both of these snacks have been shared at our bowling potlucks–in a BOWLING ALLEY in WISCONSIN (the land of cheese and sausage)–and were huge hits with zero complaints. In fact, we always get asked for the recipes and it’s fun to surprise people with the fact that the delicious treats happen to be vegan.
7. Start a Carpool
Eco-friendly ride sharing is always a great way to green up your office routine. Check out ride-sharing options in your area. Even if you think you’ve got a longer commute, you might be surprised at all the neighbors going the same direction you are (at the same time). See all those cars on the freeway? What if we could combine a few of them and reduce the number on the road?
Public transportation is a great option, as is walking or biking, particularly when weather allows. Challenge yourself to find the most eco-friendly method of getting to work. The best part is, your commute might end up being less stressful and more relaxing. You could even read a book or listen to a podcast instead of swearing at traffic.
8. Implement a “Trade Board”
Setting up a swap board at your office is a great way to encourage everyone to reuse rather than throw out or buy new. Many of us clean out our closets, garages and attics and end up with a surplus of stuff we’ll probably just throw out. One man’s trash is another’s treasure. All you need is a bulletin board or email list, and a few parameters.
Trade boards are great for posting services and opportunities too. Rideshare to Chicago for the holidays? Someone in your office building may be a much safer bet than a random Craigslist stranger. Know a great dog walker? Share the services on your office trade board.
9. Reuse Office Supplies & Order Green
There’s a great office supply company called The Green Office that rounds up all the office supplies you’ll need and offers the most sustainable option. Their prices on items like folders, paper, pens and more are often as good as, or better than other supply services. They use carbon offsetting and minimal packaging on deliveries.
Even if you can’t convince your administrator to change your office supply source, always look for the most sustainable options when you order supplies. If there’s a reusable or recycled option, choose it over new. Look for higher quality and more sustainable products when you shop for and choose supplies.
10. Recycle Electronics
Many cities offer recycle days where they will collect electronics, ink cartridges and other hard-to-recycle item. Check your local listings to find days in your neck of the woods. There are also a number of retailers, such as Staples who will collect office items like ink cartridges and printers and recycle them.
Schools, churches and nonprofits may also participate in cell phone, toner and inkjet recycling programs like Funding Factory, where they earn money for their organization by collecting items. Check with schools in your area to see if they can use your ink to earn money for their kids!
There are tons of ways to encourage your office to go green. Most of them are easy, simple and even fun. Have you implemented any green programs at your place of work? How did you do it?