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More Work, Less Energy

January 1, 2008

14 ways to green your office, save energy, and waste less.

From recycling paper to dimming the lights, every association can find simple and cost-effective ways to minimize its impact on the environment, save energy, and become an example for members and the community on how to be more environmentally conscious. Compiled by Carolyn Schwaar

Dump old Appliances.
When you need to purchase new electronic items, make sure they are Energy Star compliant to reduce your power needs and your electricity bill in the long run. Replace that old fridge.

Save on Gas.
Encourage a healthier workplace by keeping a communal bike or two for short errand runs and lunch breaks.

Buy a Notebook.
If you need a new computer, consider a notebook or one of the new breed of energy-efficient desktops. Several PCs on the market meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Energy Star program, which requires all federal PC procurements to use no more than 30 watts of power when inactive (notebooks already do this to conserve battery power).

Choose green materials.
Stock your association restrooms and kitchen with biodegradable soaps and recycled paper or cloth towels, and provide biodegradable cleaners for the custodial staff.

Get rid of water bottles.
Millions of plastic water bottles are being thrown away daily, and removing them from the office will help. Try using tap water, washing then refilling old bottles, or even buying a water purification device.

Recycle everything possible.
Toner cartridges, aluminum, glass, all types of paper, cardboard, telephone books, even food. Some companies make compost from their lunch scraps and use it for their plants.

Work from home.
Instant messaging, videoconferencing, and other innovative workflow tools make effective telecommuting a reality for 44 million Americans. Also, consider setting up a satellite office closer to
employees’ homes.

Digitize.
Keep files on computers instead of in file cabinets. Review documents onscreen rather than printing them out. New software like Greenprint helps eliminate blank pages from documents before printing and can also convert to PDF for paperless document sharing.

Save a Tree.
Buy recycled paper with a high percentage of postconsumer content and the minimum of chlorine bleaching. Print on both sides of the page when appropriate and use misprints as notepaper. If your office ships packages, reuse boxes and use shredded waste paper as packing material.

Rethink Lighting.
Retrofit lights with fixtures using much less energy. Generally, energy-efficient lighting upgrades increase lighting quality and yield 20 percent to 30 percent annual rates of return. Switch office light bulbs to longer lasting compact fluorescent bulbs. High-end LED desk lamps use miniscule amounts of energy. Install motion-sensor lighting in storage rooms, kitchens, and restrooms.

Power Down.
Set computers to energy-saving settings when idle and shut them down (i.e., unplug) when you leave for the day. Standby and sleep settings on computers, photocopiers, and even DVD players and microwave ovens, can continue to draw as much as 10 percent of your total electricity use even when “off.”

Green LunchTime.
Bringing lunch to work in reusable containers is likely the greenest (and healthiest) way to eat at work. Getting delivery and takeout almost inevitably ends with a miniature mountain of packaging waste. But if you do order delivery, join coworkers in placing a large order (more efficient than many separate ones).

Wash, don’t Toss.
Use mugs rather than Styrofoam cups for coffee, and stock the kitchen with ceramic dishes and metal utensils, preferably bought secondhand.

Introduce Enviro-Supplies.
Try environmentally friendly pencils, such as those made from recycled paper. Eco-friendly alternatives for correction fluid, pens, and other supplies are found in many environmental product guides. Choose office furniture that is nontoxic and is used or made from sustainably harvested wood or other renewable resources.