Green Office: Make Your Workplace Environmentally Friendly

Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy

Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy

This post was written by guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy.

Earth Day is in the spring, but that doesn’t mean your workplace can’t be green all year round! Even small changes, like switching to a reusable coffee cup or choosing not to print a long document, can add up to make a big difference. In addition to helping the environment, taking steps to work greener can also help you become a healthier person, whether it’s adding walking to your commute, making more mindful eating choices, or breathing in cleaner air in your cubicle. As the summer winds down and many of us return to the regular daily grind this autumn, let’s consider taking up some of these easy suggestions for creating an environmentally friendly work space.

Change up your daily commute. It is common knowledge now that automobiles contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Try alternative modes of getting to work besides driving alone—carpool, take public transit, bike, walk all or partway. Even doing this once or twice a week will make a difference. At Nature Canada, 90% of our staff bike, walk, or bus to work!

aloe_veraPut a plant in your workspace. Not only do live plants liven up a dreary, sterile indoor space, they also boost oxygen levels and remove harmful indoor pollutants such as carbon dioxide and formaldehyde from the air. English ivy and the snake plant are two examples that do not require a lot of sunlight. If you have ample sunlight, try aloe vera. Mother Nature Network has a handy infographic to help you pick out the plant ideal for your office environment.

Use paper prudently. Think carefully before printing—can you read a document on screen or save it to your desktop or network instead of placing it in your file cabinet? Set up your computers and copiers to use both sides of paper when printing or photocopying. Review the length of your document before you print. If possible, adjust to reduce the number of pages printed. Save old envelopes and reuse them—stick a label over the previous address. Use less-attractive used envelopes for inter-office delivery if you don’t want to mail them out.

coffee beansProvide and use shade-grown coffee to be bird-friendly. Organic and fair-trade coffee as well is even better. What makes shade-grown coffee in particular bird-friendly? The clearcutting of forests for sun-grown coffee “is believed to be one of the more significant causes of habitat loss on the Andean slopes of the Canada Warbler’s wintering grounds.” For more information, see “How You Can Help” on our Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative page.

Ditch the disposable cups. Canadians use 1.6 billion disposable coffee cups annually, and it can be confusing on how or if to recycle them. Bring a standard or a good-quality commuter mug to work instead to use for your daily cup(s) of joe. Coffee shops like Tim Hortons and Starbucks will even give you a small discount for bringing in a reusable cup. 

Use and encourage the use of reusable containers for food. Store both homemade or take-out lunches and snacks in glassware or reusable lunch bags. Plastic bags are often not recycled, clog drainage systems, and cause serious harm to animals—pieces of them have been found lodged in the stomachs of birds.

Use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Conventional cleaning products can release fumes that cause dizziness, asthma, and other health problems. Voice your support for healthier cleaning products to your institution’s appropriate contacts. In your workspace, use nature-friendly cleaning supplies such as white vinegar. Also check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for vetted recommendations.

recycling_containersDispose of waste responsibly. Sometimes items that can be recycled or composted ends up in the garbage. Create clear signage that lets everyone know what goes into each bin. Make sure there are plenty of recycling containers near printers, photocopiers, and desks.

Reduce workspace energy consumption. Turn off your computer monitor when you leave your desk or set your monitor to power off after a certain amount of time. Turn lights on only when needed, and turn all office lights off at night. Have the last person to leave the workplace check that unneeded lights are out. Turning off building lights not only saves energy, it also helps enable safer migration of birds.

Talk to and collaborate with your colleagues to share and spread ideas for going green. Set up a carpool calendar. Start a staff piggy bank to buy sugar and creamer in bulk instead of individual packets. Encourage each other to bring lunch from home and perhaps eat together. As a group, ask management to make environmentally friendly changes to your workplace.

We hope these ideas are helpful! How do you keep your workplace green?