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Sustainability in the Workplace

Ten Tips to Go Green — and Save Green

By Deborah DeMoulpied

You are in business, usually to make some kind of money, certainly not to lose money. As in the home, “going green” in the workplace actually saves you money and increases your bottom line. Sustainability also means creating a work environment that is supportive to your staff. Having good staff who stick around awhile also increases the bottom line – think efficiency, less turnover, and less time and money in training new staff.

So here goes – ten workplace sustainability tips:

  1. The 3 Rs. You’ve heard it before, the base for all green behavior. Reduce consumption of anything can. Reuse anything you can. Recycle everything you can. In that order.
  2. Lighting and Electricity– Increase natural lighting. Change your lighting to better efficiency; invest in LED lighting. Choose light-colored walls. Use timers or motion sensors. Use “smart strips” or power strips. Power down or off at night or when not in use.
  3. Water – Change to low flow and motion sensor faucets. If your toilets are older models, put in new ones; install ones with the dual flush feature. Create landscape that does not need watering (except from rain.) For indoor plants, have a grey water container for unused water collection.
  4. Heating – Aside from making sure your workplace is button-up tight, and you have a newish heating system that is well maintained, a programmable thermostat is a must. Workplaces are typically overly cold in the summer and too hot in the winter. Remind staff to dress less in the summer (be careful how you say that) and bring sweaters to work in the winter. Jimmy Carter was right.
  5. Printing – Besides avoiding printing (think documents online; back them up), begin by reaching for used paper when possible. Copy to the backside of documents or use destined-for-the-recycling-bin mail for notes. When you have to be a little bit more formal, print both sides of 100% recycled paper (unreal how this is still not done), narrow your margins, reduce your font and print on ‘draft’ option. Look for refillable ink cartridges.
  6. Recycling and Composting – Assuming you have exhausted the first 2 Rs, recycle and compost everything you can. You might be shocked by how little you actually have left. Approaching zerowaste is a noble goal.
  7. Business Travel – After trying to keep this to a minimum (try Skype or the like), then consider over-all impact. Are you using public transport? Most efficient cars? Car -pooling? Car rentals? Bikes? Walking? Do you purchase carbon offsets? Encourage this for commuting practices as well.
  8. Cafeteria or Common Eating Room – Invest in reusable plates and utensils. Whether large scale or small, the same 3 Rs apply. Supply a microwave for efficient heating of food and water. Encourage staff to use reusable containers. Supply towels instead of paper. Tap water is good stuff! People can bring water from home. No need to supply bottled anything.
  9. Green Cleaning – Use safe, non-toxic cleaners from companies committed to the environment. Nough said.
  10. Team Work – Create a “green team” to foster ideas and behavior awareness. Make it fun but accountable. Watch the improvement and the bottom line grow! Participate in local and national environmental events. Remember – we’re all in this together.

Deborah DeMoulpied is owner and founder of Bona Fide Green Goods, an earth-friendly department store in Concord, NH. Bonafidegreengoods.com won the Webby Awards Green Honoree in 2011. Deborah is also faculty of the Anticancer Lifestyle Program, teaching patients about environmental toxins and healthful solutions

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