Interested in reducing your office’s carbon footprint? It starts with small changes you can make right now to move toward a greener future.
During my time at the Oregon State University Sustainability Office, I spent many months researching how to create the most effective green office using tactical methods. These methods are cost-effective, take minimal time to achieve, and do make a difference to your carbon footprint.
While we may dream of adding solar panels to the top of our building or creating a super-hip, energy-efficient space, this can’t always be our reality. However, office managers and employees can implement any of these 14 small steps and still make a difference!
- Power down. Ask the IT department if employees can shut off computers before leaving work and then encourage them to do so. Don’t just sleep, restart, or turn off the monitor—do the full shutdown. This is as good for the health of your computer as it is for the planet.
- Drink up. Provide a filtered water station for your office. This promotes drinking H2O and helps avoid those bad-for-the-planet bottled waters.
- Pack a lunch. Encourage employees and coworkers to bring food from home! Eating leftovers or homemade food has a lower footprint and reduces the need for disposable to-go containers. Support this by making sure there is plenty of fruit in your workplace!
- Provide dishware. Avoid the environmental toll of disposable dishware by providing plates, bowls, and silverware for employees to share and use at work.
- Add some green. Take a plant to work. A NASA study found that specific plants help clear the air of pollutants naturally. They’ll also make your office a more pleasant, less sterile place.
- Double up. Place signs on printers to remind people to print double-sided whenever possible.
- Reuse. Sometimes your printed page doesn’t turn out how you wanted. Create a communal scrap-paper area that coworkers can use as needed.
- Lights out. Turn all lights off before leaving for the day. Turn lights off during the day as well if natural light allows.
- Ditch the car. Research alternative ways to get to work. Public transit is a great way to reduce your individual footprint. Are you within six miles of work? Try biking. Even carpooling reduces the number of cars on the road. Commit to an alternative commute a few days a week and work your way up! Spearhead transit rebates and bike racks to encourage others to do the same.
- Clean green. Purchase environmentally friendly cleaning products for the office for all to share.
- Take the stairs. This is a great way to take a break from sitting, and also a small way to save energy by avoiding the elevator.
- Use your mug. Make coffee at work instead of buying it at a coffee shop. If you still love that walk to a shop, take a travel mug instead of getting a disposable coffee cup. Millions of these are thrown away every day.
- Recycle. Offices can use a lot of paper. Be sure to recycle whenever possible. Provide recycling containers for all work spaces so there is no added hassle.
- Compost. If your city has a composting program, provide a communal composting bin in the break room or kitchen. Assign a green leader to empty it weekly.
Are you ready to create a green office? First, create a green office culture. Start the conversation and see who wants to be a green leader in the workplace, creating recycling standards, turning off lights, and taking the stairs. When people see others making these changes, it’s easier to see themselves doing the same.
Dana Lester has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. During her time at Oregon State University, she worked on creating the Green Office Certification Program, which helps campus offices assess themselves for environmental sustainability. She is passionate about holistic wellness, eating fruit, and writing.