Greening up the office

Desk-side recycling bins make it easy to do the right thing.

At home, most of us wouldn’t think about leaving the air-conditioner on full blast while leaving town for a couple days. Or tossing a luncheon’s worth of plastic bottles directly in the trash. Or using individually packaged creamers for a cup of coffee from a massive pot we’ll never finish.

And yet in the office, these are common practices even among those who consider themselves environmentally friendly. In their new book, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Greening Your Business,”  co-authors Trish Riley and Heather Gadonniex look at companies’ most wasteful policies, as well as practical solutions — of which, Riley points out, there are many.

“Solutions are happening just as fast as the problems are — and people don’t realize that, they think we’re just sunk,” she says. “And sure, we’re not going to save the planet unless big businesses get on board, but what’s cool is that big businesses are getting on board. They’re doing these things to meet consumer needs — because they know this is what we want.”

One of the companies profiled in the book, Clif Bar, goes far beyond the usual recycling bins, offering incentives for employees who drive hybrid cars and take public transportation to work in addition to offering flexible telecommuting options to further reduce fuel usage. While these perks end up costing an employer a little extra, they contribute to something almost priceless: The perception that they care.

“Money talks,” admits Riley. “But when they show their customers that money is not the most important thing,  that they care about our environment and the future of it, that goes a long way — especially with consumers with children.”

What can you do?

Riley’s recommendations for a greener office:

1. Don’t simply turn off your computer at night — unplug it. The machines use a small amount of “phantom energy” when plugged in, hence the subtle glow and eerie hum of a room full of computers that are seemingly off.

2. Establish an office compost bin in the kitchen in addition to the now-standard recycling bins.

3. Make sure lights are off and that heating and cooling systems are adjusted for hours when the office is empty.

4. Create a greening committee. “When an office decides they want to do something like this, they have to create a team of people across the spectrum who makes sure that everyone, top to bottom, understands.”

Follow Monica Weymouth on Twitter @MonicaatMetro.
 


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