Wondering how small changes can make a BIG difference? Individually, they may not. But if enough of us make changes, we’ll make the world a more livable, sustainable place—and enjoy ourselves while we’re at it. Hopefully you’ve started at home, but here are some tips to be green at work:
1. Kick the bottled water habit. Every year, 1.5 million barrels of oil go to making plastic water bottles used in the United States, and less than a quarter of those bottles are recycled, so to be green, choose a reusable bottle instead.
2. Compute this. Set computers at work to enter sleep mode after 5 minutes of idle time—you’ll be saving energy during those meetings! And shut them down at night—contrary to eco-myth, it’s better for the earth and your computer to shut them off before you head home.
3. Zap your phantom energy loads. Plug your electronics at work into a power strip so that you can easily turn them all off when you’re not using them—you’ll be green by keeping your devices from sapping “phantom” electricity loads when they’re off but plugged in. On average, 40 percent of the energy used in homes powers turned-off appliances!
4. Purify with plants. It doesn’t take a forest to clean the air at work, only about one plant for every 10 square yards. Plants like philodendrons and peace lilies absorb airborne pollutants, keeping the air you breathe clean and clear.
5. Forgo bad chemicals. Standard keyboard cleaners contain toxins that have actually killed people who inhale them. Just one 10-ounce can of chemical duster has the same greenhouse gas-creating effect as burning 100 gallons of gas! Take CTRL. Turn your keyboard upside down, give it a little shake, and slide a piece of two-sided adhesive tape between the keys.
6. Dodge the drafts. Printer drafts, that is. Unless you’re printing something super important, be green at work by saving ink and paper by tracking your changes in electronic documents. If you absolutely need to print something, print it double-sided. Who could conscientiously object to that?
7. Pay the piper online. You probably already do it at home for convenience, but lessen your paper clutter at work too by banking and paying bills online. Phone companies alone use 23,280 tons of paper per year just to bill U.S. residential customers for single lines of service.
8. Get inked. Ink cartridges take eons to decompose (up to 450 years!). Recycle your old ones, and next time you buy, go with refilled cartridges, which work just like conventional ones and cost up to 75 percent less than new ones.
9. Safeguard Your lunch. Baggies are piling up in landfills quicker than you can say “ziplock,” and toxins in plastics are no picnic. Reduce waste and be green at work by taking your lunch in reusable, safe containers. Some plastics, like PVC (#3), polystyrene (#6) and polycarbonate (#7) contain hormone disruptors or other nasty chemicals. Stay healthy with plastics #1, 2, 4, or 5.
10. Climb your way to green. A surefire way to avoid awkward elevator silences and be green at work? Take the stairs instead. No surprises here: climbing stairs burns up to 10 times more calories than standing in an elevator. And, depending on type, capacity, and usage, an elevator’s yearly energy usage can equal the energy used to power seven homes annually.