Its 9am on a Wednesday morning and you find yourself preparing for your day with a cup of coffee in hand and your daily Inhabitat Digest open on your desktop. But today is no ordinary day. Today when your boss catches you in the act of reading our blog instead of working, you can tell him or her “Don’t worry, I’m researching a new green office strategy, which will save us money and create a better working environment,” or something to that effect. While this may seem like a convenient excuse, we know our suggestions for creating a greener workspace will help you do just that: to take your love of environmental issues and infuse them into your work routine, those of your colleagues and the practices of your company.
Just as a company depends on the sum of its assets, employees, and strategy to be successful, so too must your sustainable office plan. While you can give yourself a pat on the back for biking to work each day and bringing your own reusable coffee mug, it’s not enough if your 30 colleagues do not – in other words, your individual green actions will not ‘offset’ the negative environmental impacts of your whole office or company (unless of course, you work by yourself). The goal is instead to look for sustainable strategies that are easy to implement for each employee, management team, and office building.
GETTING OFF TO A GREAT GREEN START
Start a Green Team
Band together with green-minded peers and start a sustainable office team. Be inclusive of those from multiple divisions, from diverging perspectives, and with varied levels of authority. The goals of your team will be threefold: to assess your office’s current environmental performance, to recommend and put in place strategies to reduce your environmental footprint, and finally to enforce these strategies and monitor progress.
Audit Your Office
Energy Audit we mean. Whether you decide to consult professionals to do a formal audit or conduct a self-organized assessment, performing an office or building-wide evaluation of your company’s energy consumption is one of the most useful ways to identify core problems and potential solutions. For steps on retooling energy use on a grand scale, Inhabitat is here to get you started.
Looking for more direction? Start by looking in the trash. In the typical office trashcan you’re bound to see a few commonalities: discarded coffee cups and drink bottles, take-out containers, a forest’s worth of paper, newspapers, and used office supplies (paperclips, sticky notes etc.), to name a few. All of these clues can help you identify key sustainability problems that your office may be facing, whether it’s the gross amount of take-out food and beverages consumed in the office, to an over-reliance on making paper copies of everything.
Once you get your team set and have identified specific problems, its time to start creating solutions! Just as these issues range from individual habits to company wide issues, so too will your solutions vary in scope and level of difficulty. In answer to this challenge, we’ve outlined issues on varied scales to get you on your way.
Get to Work
Encourage your co-workers to bike and take public transit to work – if there’s no parking for bicycles, lobby your office to have room set aside outdoors, or to allow co-workers to bring their bikes inside. For those with the need for new wheels, folding bicycles can help you go from subway to street to office, and will take up less of your precious cubicle space. And don’t be afraid to start an office trend by riding your sexy cycle. If public transit and riding a bike truly aren’t an option, carpool!
Environmental Purchasing Program
From cleaning supplies to pencils and pens, to furniture, most office supplies have green alternatives. Part of your sustainable office plan should include an environmental purchasing plan to ensure that whenever possible, greener products are purchased over traditional supplies.
Disposing of Appliances and E-Waste
When it comes time to say goodbye to malfunctioning office appliances and electronics, take the classy way out and recycle them instead of emulating Office Space by taking the fax machine out back to teach it a lesson. NRDC’s electronics recycling resources show you how.
Energy Efficient Appliances and Electronics
Once you’ve performed your energy audit and disposed of defunct equipment, it’s time to replace these old machines with new, energy and water efficient ones. Consider both performance and utility savings when choosing the right replacement, and look for cues like the energy star logo to help you identify the leanest greenest machines and follow Inhabitat’s lead.
It’s all about Power
Owning energy efficient equipment will only take you half the way toward peak performance. Manage the energy usage of these machines by making sure they don’t use vampire power. Plug your equipment into power strips and turn the strips off when machines are not in use, install motion sensors to connect to lights in the office, and use Energy Star power management settings so that equipment goes into power saving mode when not in use.
The paperless office
It’s an oxymoron we know, but the fact remains that the bulk of the waste generated from office buildings is from discarded paper, which can be – but often is not – recycled. Cutting down your paper waste is three-fold: sourcing greener paper options, printing and using paper wisely, and finally setting up a recycling system. Encourage your coworkers not to print their emails, and purchase printers and copiers that print on both sides of the paper. The NRDC’s comprehensive paper-saving toolkit offers a wealth of suggestions for inspiration on preventing paper waste.
Get out of the Daily Grind
Work and coffee go hand in hand, especially during those early morning meetings and late night presentation prep sessions. Cut down on coffee cups and food packaging waste by brewing the good stuff in the office, providing mugs, plates and bulk-size accoutrements (milk, sugar etc.), and encouraging your employees to bring travel mugs and reusable lunch bags. Take your coffee addiction up a notch by growing plants and veggies with it: used coffee grounds are rich fodder for composting.
Once you’ve mastered sustainable practices within your office, its time to take on the office itself, by remodeling green. When it comes time for renovation, make sure that environmental considerations are high on the list of priorities during this transition. Whether you’re building a new office or adapting an old office to fit new demands, Inhabitat’s resources have a wealth of inspiring examples and technical solutions to show you how its done .
“Bosch is committed to preserving the environment through innovative approaches to the products we manufacture, as well as the partnerships we form with key leaders in sustainable construction and design. Sustainability, responsibility and continuous improvement are the tenets of our company and are shared by our partners across the United States.
Bosch practices low-impact manufacturing processes while designing the most efficient machines on the market. In fact, we introduced a global integrated management system for environmental issues that makes certain we maintain our high standards for environmental responsibility wherever our operations take us.
Bosch regards innovation as something more than exceptional product quality, functionality and design. Not only our technical developments, but also our commitment to society has an effect on the world of tomorrow.”
+ Bosch Green Thinking Resource Center
Rebecca is a freelance graphic, product, and eco-designer based in Brooklyn, New York. For the past few years she has divided her time between designing for a myriad of companies and organizing environmentally focused projects and events. Rebecca is the past chair and the current vice-chair of o2-NYC, the New York City chapter of the o2 global network of eco-designers. During her tenure, she co-organized many events including Design:Green, CitySol, and most recently HauteGREEN. Rebecca’s work, collaborations and events have appeared in publications such as Metropolis, Interior Design Magazine, Metropolitan Home, and most recently The London Observer. Rebecca received a BFA in industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003, receiving a special award from the school for her commitment to environmental issues.