Your company may already have some greening programs as part of a larger Corporate Responsibility policy. That’s great, but when you look around I bet you can still see opportunities to improve or improve it in your own cube.
A mountain of coffee cups
Do people in your office drink a lot of coffee or tea? A ten-person office using paper coffee cups can easily consume more than 2,500 paper cups a year. I work in an office with several thousand people – yikes. The coffee is free, but unfortunately so are the cups. This seems to encourage people to think “disposably” instead of doing what they’d do at home, using a coffee mug. When you’re at home, do you roll through a huge stack of disposable paper cups? Probably not, so why use them at work?
Ask people around you to bring in a nice mug and explain why. You can also bring in a mug for them, or go to the dollar store and buy a couple of mugs. It makes a nice holiday gift and makes a great point.
Silverware or plasticware
You’ve seen it and you may have even done it, picking up a plastic fork to take one bite of birthday cake and throwing it in the trash, its last stop before the landfill, where it will live for a kazillion years.
Bring in some real silverware for your work meals, or if you want to be really weird and standout more, buy a camping Spork. That will get people talking. Whole Foods even has them now, or you can buy them online at REI for two bucks. Buy enough for your team!
Refillable water containers
Larger companies usually have a place to buy logo’d gear and probably carry stainless steel water containers. If they don’t send an email to the person that orders the gear and ask that they be added. If you don’t have a company store this is another great office gift idea. Please encourage others to stop using bottled water.
Read about why bottled water is so bad.
Watch the documentary Tapped on Netflix.
My office has a motion detector on a timer to turn the light on and off. I’m sure this was done to save energy, but I don’t ever really need the light on during the day and it’s pretty annoying to have two fluorescent fixtures turn on and off all the time. I taped a business card over the motion part and it stays off all day unless I need it, then I use the switch.
Freecycle area for books
Bring your old (appropriate) books into work and see how quickly they disappear. Mine go fast. Really fast. I taped a piece of paper to them that said, “free books” and even the sign was gone. I did it a couple more times and then other people started doing it. Last week there was some other stuff in the same area, like an office chair heated massage pad. Sweet. It’s mine now.
Office supplies and trade-show trinkets
My team sometimes buys giveaways for trade shows. We’ve switched more to “drawing” mode, where we give out a couple of larger prizes people will use instead of a bunch of junkie pens and throw away hokey buttons with something that’s only appropriate for that event, or that day. Some of the folks take the extras to their local schools, pens, pads of paper, binders, and things like that. Check with the school to make sure it’s not a nuisance.
We also try to give away shipping boxes for storage or whatever. Since shipping stores and storage units charge for boxes there’s always someone who needs a good box, especially around the holidays.
I cringe when I go to internal events like a training class and get the mandatory paper handouts, vinyl binder and pen. Honestly no one really needs this stuff. Where I work everyone brings his or her laptops, so send the material as a PDF. Sadly many of the binders go almost immediately to the trashcan.
The first time I went to point this out to a coordinator I thought I would get the eye-roll, but instead they seemed really thankful and thoughtful. I think we just tend to use handouts because that’s how we’ve always done it.
If you are running an event and you want to switch to Paperless, just tell the attendees why you’re doing it. You are trying to align with Corporate Responsibility goals around sustainability, AND you’re saving money for something else that’s more important. Spend it on ice cream or chocolate the first time, so they feel immediately gratified.
Does your company have a Green Team, Sustainability Team, or a Corporate Responsibility group? See if you can volunteer! Changes you help your employer make can have a dramatic impact when they’re multiplied over hundreds or thousands of employees. This helps the environment and can help your company save needed cash.
If they don’t really need the cash, ask if they will donate the savings from coffee cups to a local charity.
Telecommute / carpool
Speaks for itself.
Being green can help your employer
Contrary to the idea that introducing recycling or greening your office will somehow reduce employee productivity, the opposite is true.
In most cases it’s a net neutral to productivity, leaving a box in the hallway with a “take me home” sign doesn’t take any more energy or employee time than leaving it in the hallway with a “basura” (trash) sign.
Recycling and reusing items that would generally go to trash could save money. Employees using their own cup instead of thousands of paper cups will save money, along with sporks instead of plastic disposables. Leaving lights OFF during the day saves money. Some large tech companies are forcing people to telecommute, so they’ve probably read studies about how it can increase productivity and morale, and reduce sick time. I wonder if carpooling reduces sick time, when you’ve made a commitment to someone else to be there and be there on time?
Most people spend more than a third of their lives at work. If you are committed to a sustainable lifestyle, don’t leave home without it.