Creating a Green Workspace

Everyone’s thinking green these days. Many homes are reusing and recycling. People are becoming more aware that their activities can impact the planet.

This greater environmental awareness is spreading to the workplace. Whether you work in a factory, an office or outdoors, there are many ways to create a greener workplace.

One common barrier to a greener workplace is that management often worries about the costs. After all, businesses have to watch their budgets.

The good news is that environmentally friendly changes don’t have to be expensive. And many steps can even save money in the long run. It can all start by thinking more about the environmental impact you have at work.

“Most green initiatives do not require a radical shift in the way anyone does business or lives their lives. They’re more a shift in the mindset,” says Ross Hill. He is the president of an office supply company.

“It’s like choosing to buy a package of recycled paper instead of a value-brand paper with no recycled content. The recycled paper isn’t going to make your printer run better, or use less ink, or make your printed materials look significantly different, but maybe that recycled paper will make you think more about how you use paper and how you dispose of it.”

And going green doesn’t mean your workplace has to make sacrifices when it comes to technology. There are many exciting technical innovations that are designed to reduce a company’s environmental impact.

Leigh Stringer is a vice-president at HOK, a global architectural firm. She warns against buying more than you need, even if it is environmentally friendly.

“Try not to get sucked into buying more electronics than you normally would — this is not exactly green behavior — but do consider technology that helps you do your job while minimizing energy, water or raw-material use,” she says.

“For example, use a laptop as opposed to a desktop — laptops can use up to 80 percent less energy — or try a tele-conference or video conference instead of traveling for your next meeting. And set your computer to only print stuff out when you have to. Consider duplex printing and only print black and white if you can.”

A great side effect of being green-minded is that companies can save money.

“By being obsessive about paper reduction, Sprint has reduced their paper use by 25 percent — a $3 million annual savings,” says Stringer. “Sprint calculated that if 10 percent of their employees took one less business trip per year, they could easily save $6 million annually as well.”

Hill’s company has reduced its waste by 70 percent. Where the company used to have its big waste bin emptied twice per week, the bin is now emptied once a month.

“How did we do this, you ask? We got rid of most of our garbage cans!” Hill says with a laugh. “And we implemented a full recycling program, including organics, metals, glass, wood, computer parts, batteries, ballasts, light bulbs, paper, and hard and soft plastics.”

To get started, research local companies or organizations that focus on things like recycling. Get together with co-workers to start a green team at work. Talk to friends and family and see what they’re doing at their jobs.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? And it’s easy to get involved at work.

“Greening your workspace is not just about sorting recyclables into paper and plastic,” says Hill. “Environmental sustainability reaches much deeper, much further into the hearts and minds of those who care. It becomes a way of thinking, a way of living, and a way of working toward the future.”

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