Going Green at the Office

We seem to be bombarded with warnings to ‘Go Green.” What is that? Why do we need to go green? And why does it matter if our office is “green” or not?

Over the past century, climate changes representing a change in long-term weather patterns have resulted in an increase in the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a natural warming of the earth when gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Many of our everyday activities, such as driving cars, running our air conditioners or turning on the lights in a room, require the burning of fossil fuels which emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is also emitted from landfills, and absorption of CO2 is decreased by fewer trees covering land surface. A sustained rise in temperature of only a few degrees can lead to extreme weather changes such as stronger hurricanes, floods, forest fires and drought.

A lot of us have made efforts to go green at home, which may include curb side recycling, changing to energy efficient bulbs, increasing the temperature on the thermostat, and planting a garden. We can make the same effort at the office. Here are a few ways to reduce our carbon footprint and to become more environmentally friendly at work:

1. As older computer and office equipment need replacement, invest in ENERGY STAR-rated computers, which use 70% less electricity. More information is available about ENERGY STAR ratings at http://www.energystar.gov/. Recycle or donate old computer equipment. Go to http://www.earth911.com/ to locate a recycling center near you.

2. Buy chlorine-free copy and printer paper made with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content.

3. Print double sided where feasible. Set your printer and copier to print double-sided and reuse folders and binders.

4. Position recycling bins in high-traffic areas so that they are readily accessible, and then fill them with recyclable paper, newspapers, magazines, batteries, plastic bottles, grocery bags, cans, folders and cardboard.

5. Greatly reduce the amount of paper used for hand towels by using cloth towels in private restrooms.

6. Instead of Styrofoam or plastic cups and glasses, purchase ceramic mugs and glasses which can be washed and reused, as well as dishes and silverware.

7. Turn off the lights when you leave your office, and replace traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient and longer-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs.

8. Turn off your computer when you leave for the day.

For further information, see:

www.energy.gov/energyefficiency/index.htm U.S. Department of Energy