5 Ways You Can Be a Friend of the Environment at Work

5 Ways You Can Be a Friend of the Environment at Work

The last thing most people want to do is add another to-do to their workday list. But being environmentally friendly at the office is easier than you think. In fact, many eco-friendly habits also maximize your productivity. Conserving resources like electricity means finding ways to do more with less, to streamline your workflow, and increase efficiency. And conservation is a win-win for you, your company, and the planet. Often, we forget how much humans impact climate change. But we do need to do our part in every possible setting — including the office. Here are five ways you can be a friend of the environment at work.

1. Recycle

If your company has a recycling program, follow it. If not, start one yourself. Recycling is a small gesture that makes a big difference to the environment. It helps eliminate trash, but also conserves energy. Encourage others by starting a recycling club and plan monthly programs that focus on specific materials (e.g. “Focus on Paper). Hold workshops to teach good recycling habits or identify improvement opportunities. And suggest to management that recycling be a part of new hire training. Keep the recycling work culture going. Recycling is about forming good disposal habits. That’s why the biggest hurdle is getting people to remember to recycle. A team effort will serve as a constant reminder. 

2. Reuse

Reusing items like water bottles, utensils, and straws is an effective way to save money and cut down on waste at work. One way to kickstart reuse is to bring your lunch. Eating out means everything you buy is disposable. Single-use forks, cups, plastic lids, wrappers all go into a landfill. Instead, invest in a lunchbox or use Tupperware. Buy a reusable drink bottle and some metal utensils. Coffee gets colder faster in them compared to an insulated mug. Bring your own coffee cup and save money. Java spots like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks give you discounts for filling up your own cup.

3. Conserve Energy

An office full of laptops, monitors, printers, and lights uses more kilowatts per hour than you think. The easiest way to save energy is to cut power. Turn the lights off when you leave the bathroom or office. Set sleep mode for your computer and monitors. And don’t forget to power them off when you leave at the end of the day. It’s tempting to leave everything on for the next day, but peripherals like printers and copiers still use electricity even when asleep.

And some devices still use power when they’re turned “off”. For example, smartphones still use power even when they’re fully charged. Hundreds of devices have small LED power lights that stay on as long as they’re plugged in. These tiny lights draw thousands of wasted “phantom power” every year. Unplug them when not used.

To make the switch easier, connect all your peripherals to one power strip. Then you can turn them all off at once.

4. Move to Paperless

You should be recycling paper, but not using it is even better. Going paperless cuts out the need to recycle and saves carbon-absorbing trees. Promote a paperless workflow by using cloud-based sharing and storage. With solutions like Microsoft Office and Google Drive, it takes only a few clicks to share and collaborate with clients and co-workers. Suggest management move to digital software if paper is still a part of payroll or HR. Push for electronic signatures, direct deposit for paychecks, and digital employee updates. Sell these ideas by pointing out the benefits of going paperless for your business. For one, you won’t need to buy and maintain printers and copiers.

The biggest pushback from a paperless system will be a legitimate concern for security. Hacking company data is a real threat. So, depending on your industry, an IT upgrade is probably needed. But the cost savings of a paperless office will offset these added resources. And even if going paperless isn’t a possibility, there are plenty of other ways to cut paper use at work.

5. Save Printer Ink

Around one million printer ink cartridges hit landfills every day. And their manufacture requires toxic chemicals and CO2 emissions — not to mention that printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids in the world. All this points to the need to print efficiently and rarely at work. Before printing, ask if a digital copy will suffice. Instead of a paper copy, choose to share slides, memos, and updates via email or apps like Slack. Print in black and white when you can. Color prints use more ink. 

Use an ink refill kit so you can reuse the cartridge case. These kits take a little time investment but will save you ink and waste over the long run, especially if you print intermittently. And don’t forget to recycle your old cartridges. Office supply stores like Office Depot and Staples accept old printer cartridges when you join their recycler membership rewards programs.

Morgen Hendersom

Morgen is a freelance writer from Salt Lake City. She covers tech, sustainability, and travel topics. When she's not typing away on a new piece, you can find her baking and traveling the globe.

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