Earth Day is right around the corner, which makes it a great time to offer some tips and reminders on creating – and embracing – a green workplace. Here are 7 ways you can make an impact at the office.
Support Remote Work Options
It doesn’t work for every business, but for those that can implement remote (home) offices for employees, it definitely has a positive impact on the environment. It reduces carbon emissions and gasoline consumption, and reduces the space needs within the office, thereby lowering energy usage.
Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to set up file syncing and sharing, and facilitate team collaborations from anywhere. And by utilizing these cloud-based services, you’re also eliminating the need to invest in hardware that will one day become e-waste. We use and support Microsoft Office 365, but Google also has a full suite of apps for business.
Obviously going full remote isn’t for everyone. But even if that just isn’t a realistic option for your team members, you can still look for other smaller ways to embrace this idea.
One easy way is host meetings online instead of traveling to meet in person. Use Skype, Webex, GoToMeeting or any other video-capable office tools to have your meeting instead. You will still get the face-to-face experience, but can skip the trip.
This has the added bonus of saving the company and the employee money, by reducing both travel costs and vehicle wear and tear.
Another option might be to allow employees to work from home one day a week or even once a month. The green impact is smaller, but even minimal positive changes add up.
If you’re unsure about managing a remote workforce, check out this LinkedIn post from Corsica Tech President Dale Walls, which talks about establishing remote employee expectations.
Invest in Recycled Paper
According to The Red Shredder, every ton of recycle paper can save 3.5 cubic yards of landfill, 17 30-foot pulp trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil and 410 kwh of energy.
So one of the best ways you can embrace a green (or greener) workplace is to make it your standard to only purchase and use recycled paper.
By supporting recycled products and following the next step and shredding it, you are supporting a green lifecycle for paper products and helping to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions created by paper rotting in landfills.
Shred Documents with a Sustainable Process
The basic idea behind paper recycling is that new paper gets created from used paper that’s been shredded. Shredding services that support this follow a sustainable process that includes breaking down the paper shreddings to basic and resuable components. Those components are then used to start the paper making process anew.
The beauty of this process is that it creates a complete “circle of life” for paper, eliminating the need to use fresh resources to meet the demand for product.
Discarded paper currently represents about 16% of all landfill waste, according to Shred Nations.
The first step in embracing a green workplace is preventing the paper from going into a landfill in the first place, by separating it out and then using a shredding service. Just as you do with cans and bottles, have plenty of bins on hand and encourage your staff to discard all paper in only the designated bins.
The second step is to make sure that the shredding service you use is in fact following a sustainable process.
The great thing about these shredding services is that the providers have made available many options, including one-day mobile events, or regular pick-ups at your location. So you can find a company that offers the service that best fits your needs.
This tip is great personally as well, as shredding is a great way to keep your information secure and protect yourself from identity theft. Using a sustainable shredding service has the added bonus of helping the environment.
One note - for any business that is discarding paper that contains sensitive data, there are shredding services that provide secure bins just for this purpose.
nother way to help prevent paper from going into landfills is to not use it at all.
With so much data being created and housed online, going paperless is a more realistic option for businesses today than it ever has been. Cloud technologies are also aiding in this effort thanks to the affordable and efficient options available for data storage.
Of course, we strongly recommend consulting with your IT partner to ensure that you have proper data backups management in place before taking this step. You also want to be sure that any cloud solutions are correctly configured on your network, and that the tools you choose are the right fit for your business needs.
Encourage and Facilitate Recycling
We’re far from experts on this, but think that everyone can probably agree that recycling is something that we can do to better protect the environment, and prevent waste from going into our oceans.
Americans are currently only recycling just over 20% of what we discard. However, we are also generating more waste than any other nation, according to the World Watch Institute.
It’s also estimated that nationally we dump between 300 and 400 million electronic items, and that only about 20% of them are being recycled. E-waste is also believed to represent about 70% of the overall toxic waste sitting in landfills.
So what we can do?
Encourage recycling in your workplace, and then take steps to make it easy for your staff to comply.
Have plenty of bins available for bottles, cans, and paper. If the service that handles your regular trash collection doesn’t offer recycling options, find one that does and make sure that you have a plentiful supply of recycling bins available.
Find out what options exist in your area for recycling electronics, and make sure your staff knows about them so that they can make an environmentally-friendly decision when they upgrade to a new smartphone or laptop. (This is an older blog post we published with recycling options - some information may have changed, but it's a great starting point for review.)
One note of caution - also make sure you're recycling the device, not the data. Old mobile devices, hard drives, etc. need to be wiped before they are donated, recycled or otherwise disposed of.
(NOTE: For anyone local to our NOC in Centreville, MD, we do accept computers for recycling.)
This is a great opportunity to allow an employee who is particularly passionate about environmental concerns to step up and lead the recycling effort. Chances are there is someone on your team who would be happy to create more awareness and facilitate a meaningful recycling program from within your office.
Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Technology
But there are “green” reasons for the recommendation as well.
Older technology isn’t going to be as energy-efficient as newer models, which means it’s using more energy than necessary…and also increasing your costs to power and cool it (along with the space it occupies).
There is a government-backed symbol – the blue Energy Star label – on products that meet the current acceptable standards for energy-efficiency. So when you are looking to purchase new hardware be sure to look for that seal, or consult with your IT partner to get recommendations.
As noted above, don’t forget to properly recycle your old technology when you do those upgrades.
Ban the Bottles
Something that we should all be concerned about is the amount of plastic polluting our environment and in particular, our oceans.
A great way to cut down on that is with a bottleless water cooler system for the office.
With this solution, you eliminate the need for those 5-gallon water jugs or buying case upon case of bottled water.
A bottleless water dispenser gets tied directly into your existing plumbing, and then purifies the water through a filtration process. The end result is a never-ending supply of fresh, purified drinking water, without the plastic bottle jug or bottles.
If you really want to go the extra mile with this solution, provide your team with reusable water bottles to keep at their workstation, eliminating the need for paper cups.
Whether you are just starting to embrace the idea of a green workplace or you're looking to go from green to greener, there are many ways to make a positive impact. If you have green suggestions to add, let us know so we can share those too!