It’s Easy Being Green

Four Stress-Free Tips for a Greener Office

As Earth Day rolls around each year we’re all reminded to take a look at ways that we can reduce our impact on the environment. Sometimes those not-so-gentle reminders can leave you feeling stressed. Are you doing enough to go green? Are the things you’re doing really making a difference? There’s really no reason to stress out, especially since it’s Stress Awareness Month. When we were working towards earning our green business certification, we were pleasantly surprised to find that many of the things we were already doing counted as green practices, and many of the suggested practices were easy to implement. So, in celebration of Earth Day and Stress Awareness Month, we’re sharing these easy-to-implement tips for moving towards more sustainable practices. As an added bonus, most of them will also save you money. What’s less stressful than that?

1. Buy in bulk.

Why does buying in bulk make a difference? We can answer that in one word: packaging. It’s estimated that one-third of the garbage thrown away in the U.S. is packaging. That’s a lot of shrink wrap and boxes. Bulk products use less packaging so there’s less to throw away. Of course, not all supplies are great choices for bulk. Who needs 5 million rubber bands? Start with paper products. You probably go through toilet tissue, napkins, and towels faster than you think, and if you buy larger quantities you’ll end up paying less in the long run.

Cleaning products are another area where buying bulk can make a difference. You can cut back on a lot of waste by buying large containers of concentrated cleaners and using those to refill smaller spray bottles, etc. If you want to give bulk cleaning a try, take a look at the new Pak-It line. Pak-It cleaners come pre-measured in water-soluble packets. Just drop the packet in water and shake. The packet dissolves completely so there’s nothing to throw away and you won’t waste cleaning solvent because it’s already measured for you.

2. Take a fresh look at your recycling program.

These days it’s pretty much basic operating procedure to recycle copy paper, but when was the last time you looked around your office to see what else you could be recycling?

  • Cans and bottles are a great place to start. Put recycling containers in your breakroom to encourage your employees to recycle instead of trashing their pop cans and water bottles. You don’t have to use anything fancy. A big cardboard box (you’ll have plenty of those now that you’re buying in bulk) with a sign on the front is all you really need.
  • You can save money and keep waste out of landfills by reusing shipping materials. Put bubble wrap, air pockets, foam peanuts, etc in a big box so they can be used again. Flatten and store boxes that are still in good condition so that you’ll have them on hand when you need to ship something. Tape them up, throw in some of your saved packing materials, and you’re good to go. Torn or damaged boxes should be recycled.
  • You can “recycle” extra supplies at your office by creating a supply exchange. If your office is like ours, people always have a stash of extra paper clips, file folders they aren’t using any more, pens they don’t like. Set up an area (a small closet or cabinet, and unused office, a shelving unit) where employees can drop off surplus or reusable items and pick up things they might need. It’s a great way to cut back on waste.

3. Reuse your toner cartridges.

That headline may be slightly misleading. We aren’t suggesting that you reuse the cartridge you just took out of your printer. It is possible to reuse a toner cartridge though – just choose a compatible cartridge. What’s a compatible cartridge? It’s a cartridge that’s been rebuilt from previously used toners. When you recycle a toner cartridge, it’s sent to a remanufacturer. The remanufacturer carefully inspects the cartridge for quality, then cleans, refills, rebuilds, and seals it to meet original manufacturer standards. Even the parts that can’t be reused are recycled. Cartridges that don’t meet the correct standards are ground down into plastic pellets that are used to make plastic products like desk trays and pencil cups. Now you know why so many of them are black!

By choosing a compatible cartridge, you can do your part to keep some of the 350 million cartridges thrown away each year out of landfills. What’s more, you can save 30% or more on your toner costs by making the switch.

4. Make smart facility upgrades.

We know that the phrase “facility upgrades” can make the average business owner cringe. Making changes to your space can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. There are some relatively simple upgrades you can make that will make a big difference to your business’s environmental impact.

  • Lighting makes up 20%-50% of the average business’s energy consumption. That’s a lot of kilowatts. If you haven’t already, look at switching to LED lights. While converting to LED lighting used to require expensive rewiring and equipment upgrades, new bulbs are now available that can be plugged directly into existing fluorescent lighting fixtures, making it much more affordable. Using LEDs can save your business up to 33% on your energy bills, which means your bulbs will have paid for themselves before it’s time to replace them!
  • The bathroom is another place where you can implement some changes. If your sink faucets don’t already have aerators, install them. Faucet aerators can cut your water usage by as much as 50% and installing them is very simple. You just screw them on to your existing faucet. Switching to a towel dispenser that uses hard wound paper towels instead of individual multi-fold or c-fold towels can also help reduce waste. Hard wound towel rolls have less packaging than individual towels, which means less to throw away. (Hooray for bulk packaging!) Dispensers often lead to less towel usage because you can adjust the setting on the dispenser to control the amount of towel dispensed to each user. You’ll also throw away fewer towels because you won’t have that clump of towels that gets pulled out by accident and then left on the counter to get wet and soapy before finally being dumped in the trash.