Some of you own your own businesses, work from home, or work for micro-businesses. In those scenarios, you can generally go to whatever lengths you want to make your business more green. Want to use only 100% post-consumer recycled paper products? You only need to find a supplier. Want to clean with only all-natural, locally-produced products? Fine. You are not who this article was written for.
This article is aimed at the cubicle-dwellers, the commuters, the people who work in a big company and who have not only a supervisor, but also a manager, a department head, and a division head. You may feel your options for a more natural work environment are limited. Yet, you are not completely without options and resources. Keep reading for some suggestions!
1) Bring a plant to work. My former employer did not allow employees to bring plants for their desks until a few years before I quit (we were allowed a few photographs to be placed in a Company-provided photo frame). But most employers have no problems with workers decorating their workspaces with a plant or two. A plant not only brightens up your area, providing a lift to your mood, but they also help to purify the air and soak up some of the nasties floating around the office.
2) Take your own drinking water in a SIGG or Klean Kanteen bottle. Stay hydrated at work (key to good health), and drink the same purified water you drink at home, without creating the waste associated with disposable water bottles or paper or plastic cups.
3) Bring reusable products to work, rather than using the disposable items provided by your employer. Towels for the bathroom, rags for cleaning or wiping up spills, reusable cups, and cloth napkins are all easily portable and won’t make you feel like too much of a freak.
4) Consider bringing your own paper products, such as notepads, so that you can use recycled versions.
5) Check with your supervisor or the cleaning crew about being allowed to clean your own work space. Do your own dusting, disinfecting, smudge-removing, and spot-cleaning with homemade or commercially-available green cleaning supplies.
6) If you are in a position to influence the details of big meetings, see if you can’t arrange to meet via phone or even video conference call to cut down on the amount of travel involved. Documents can be emailed back and forth as needed, or even posted in a secure area of the company’s network.
7) Don’t make unnecessary copies or printouts. Before you print something for your own use, consider whether you really need a hard copy. Going to a meting? Take your laptop and look at the agenda and take notes electronically, instead of on paper. Organizing a meeting? See if you can’t book a meeting room with a projector, so that nobody needs to print out the agenda.
8) Control your lunch time! Bring your lunch from home in reusable containers. Avoid soft plastic lunch bags (many contain lead). Opt instead for metal boxes or cloth bags. For the food itself, if you want to avoid plastic, To Go Ware has some nice metal lunch containers. Pack yourself a nice, healthy lunch made from locally-produced foods, organic if possible. Instead of driving somewhere for lunch, take a walk outside and snack on your goodies. Good for your health, all around, and better for the planet than driving to a restaurant or even eating at the company cafeteria.
9) Encourage your company to implement greener policies company-wide. Many companies are big into employee involvement these days, and your supervisor and/or manager might be quite open to your establishing an employee advisory committee to reduce the environmental impact of doing business. Such a commitee, organized by you, might even help increase your chances of promotions in the future (it shows you are a self-starter, you care about the company, you can organize and lead a group of people, etc.). And the committee, working with the marketing department, could net your company some good publicity. Whether you choose to start a committee or to go it alone, some ideas for company-wide policies or practices include:
– Using recycled products, such as paper (notepads, copier paper, and printer paper), toilet paper, paper towels, etc.
– Using green cleaning products rather than the industrial chemicals used by most large busineses.
– Setting up or promoting the use of an existing recycling program. Remember, employees will generally only recycle if it is convenient. My former employer made one green recycling bin available per floor, so employees who wished to recycle had to get up from their desks and walk to a central location to use it. As you can guess, 99% of employees chose instead to use the garbage can located conveniently under their desks.
Do you have other tips for making the work day a little greener?
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