I’ve talked a lot about how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle at home, but I’ve totally spaced on another place most of us spend a lot of time – the office. Making a few simple changes can easily green your workday and reduce your environmental impact.
Wondering where or how to get started? No problem! I’ve got a few suggestions to get you going.
Ditch the Styrofoam cups
Styrofoam is one of the most difficult plastics to recycle, so bring in your favorite coffee mug or cup instead. I use my mug not only for coffee but also water or snacks. According to the Environmental Action Association, it takes 500 or more years for Styrofoam to start to decompose. Think about it for a second. If they had had plastic back in 1513, we would be able to see it today. The EAA also notes that Styrofoam may have cancer-causing chemicals that can poison ground water.
Use reusable containers instead of bags
Pack your lunch in reusable plastic or glass containers. This can help cut down on the amount of plastic bags that end up in landfills and take many years to decompose.
Recently, plastic bags have become an epidemic in the ocean. Clear Air notes that about one in 10 items picked up from beaches are plastic bags. I read a letter from the Ocean Conservancy this past weekend that fish and turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and die from suffocation.
Print and copy documents so they come out double sided
Setting up your printer to print double sided is an easy way to save paper. Conservatree notes it takes about one tree to make just about 17 reams of standard office copy paper. Think of how many reams your office goes through each day. Printing documents on both sides of the paper may cut down on a lot of waste – plus save your office a lot of money.
Try to avoid printing things all together
If you can avoid printing documents all together, that’s even better. Sending documents via email or over a shared document drive can significantly cut down on the amount of paper used each day.
Recycle paper if you do print a lot
Sometimes you can’t get around printing off a ton of documents. If that’s the case, make sure your office has a paper-recycling program. For more information about starting an office paper-recycling program visit the American Forest & Paper Association. A Recycling Revolution adds, “Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution.”
Recycle bottles and cans
I can’t tell you how many pop cans and bottles I see in trashcans at work. It’s ridiculous because here in Michigan, and in several other states, you get 10 cents back when you recycle it. Sure, it’s only 10 cents, but if you collect your bottles from over the week, you might get a dollar or two back. More importantly, just like Styrofoam, aluminum cans stick around for more than 500 years, and it takes twice as much energy to burn plastic bottles than make new ones from recycle plastic.
At Quicken Loans, we have the Adopt a Bottle campaign to encourage people to recycle pop cans and bottles. People from around the company volunteer to take and empty the recycle bins and get to use the money they raise for charitable organizations. Consider starting a similar program where you work to keep bottles and cans out of landfills.
Carpool with coworkers
I carpool with a coworker, and I love it. I’ve saved so much money on gas over the past few months and reduced my blood pressure significantly. Aside from benefiting my own budget and health, carpooling with coworkers reduces the amount of carbon emissions emitted into the atmosphere. Find a few coworkers and see if you can start a carpooling campaign.
Encourage recycling at work
Get people excited about recycling by holding contests. Way back in elementary school, if we recycled enough bottles and paper, our entire class won a trip to the local water park. Maybe the water park is a little much, but offering some kind of incentive, like a free lunch or gift cards, might get people a little bit more excited about participating.
These small changes can keep dangerous chemicals out of landfills and make the Earth a healthier place. Make these simple, inexpensive changes and green your workday today!
Do you recycle at work? Share what you do with other Zing readers.