Workplace sustainability is all the rage these days. While some companies — including those operating in industries that you’d never in a million years would think were ahead of the sustainable curve — lead the way toward a greener, more efficient future, others find themselves stuck in a wasteful time warp.
But wherever you find your firm, don’t despair: Building a sustainable office is a lot easier than you might think. Even better, it could help your firm’s bottom line. In many cases, sustainability and cost savings go hand in hand.
Use Recycled Paper — and Recycle It Again!
In some particularly paper-intensive fields, dramatically reducing paper use seems like a remote possibility. Even if you can’t turn off the paper tap overnight, though, you can dramatically reduce the impact of your office’s paper consumption by using only recycled paper (or paper with a minimum amount of post-consumer content). When you’re done with it, don’t trash it — since there’s plenty of usable fiber in recycled paper, it’s more than fine to recycle it again. Do the same with cardboard, posterboard and other paper products, too.
Turn Off Electronic Equipment that’s Not in Use
Depending on your office’s setup, as much as 10 to 15 percent of your energy bill could be the result of poor electronic equipment management — i.e., not turning off and unplugging devices that aren’t in use. While some redundant systems probably need to operate 24/7, desk computers, printers and private communications equipment likely don’t. At the end of the day (especially Fridays, if your office isn’t open on weekends), have someone go through and make sure everything that can be turned off is.
Explore More Efficient Lighting Options and Strategies
Lighting is another huge energy-suck. Fortunately, recent technological advances have lowered the cost of efficient light fixtures like LEDs and CFLs. Get your team in the habit of replacing old school fixtures with these more efficient options. Even if they cost more upfront, you’ll recoup the initial outlay (and then some) through longer operational life spans and reduced energy use. And as with electronic equipment, make sure to turn off every non-essential light when the office isn’t in use.
Back to paper: Even if you can’t completely do away with paper usage, you can reduce your office’s “paper footprint” by printing double-sided whenever possible. Some industry organizations, including the American Bar Association, incorporate a formal rule of this nature into overarching sustainability guidelines. Likewise, make smarter decisions about what needs to be printed and what can remain in electronic form — with the recent proliferation of mobile devices at meetings and conferences, fewer situations actually require hard copies.
Use Less Water, Make Less Trash
Traditional offices use lots of water and create lots of trash. In drought-prone regions, the first problem is literally a matter of life and death. Tackle it by installing low-flow toilets and taps wherever possible and making smart landscaping choices that fit better with your local climate (for instance, succulents and other water-sipping plants in arid regions). As for the trash issue, an office-wide composting program can be a fun, engaging and most importantly sustainable outlet for eco-minded staff.