Wellness in Action: Make the Office Greener without Breaking the Bank

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The fiscal year is ending for many companies and it may be time to take a look at the health of your business. Promoting employee wellness, educating workers about important health risks and understanding the state of corporate health are important in evaluating the health of your business and employees. Green practices can also engage your employees in eco-friendly behaviors and save money for your company’s bottom line.

Heading into the new year, here are five easy tips to green the office without breaking the bank.

1. How do your employees commute?
Driving 10 percent less can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 0.2 to 0.8 tons per year, depending on the type of vehicle an employee drives. Organizing an office rideshare or encouraging an office carpool are excellent ways to reduce carbon emissions by your employees. Employees should also consider taking the train, bus or subway instead of sitting in traffic, or bike or walk if they live close enough to the office.

Extra step: If your company provides corporate vehicles, consider switching your fleet to hybrid or natural gas vehicles, as well as providing charging stations at the office if necessary.

2. Flip the switches
Businesses waste about $1 billion annually on excess computer usage. Providing a quick tutorial for employees on how to make sure their work stations are on energy efficient settings, will help reduce this cost. When an employee goes to lunch or steps away from their monitor for a meeting, make sure computers go into sleep mode and are fully turned off at the end of the day.

Employers should activate energy-saving settings for printers, fax machines, scanners and other office electronics so minimal energy is used when the machine is not actively being used.

Heating and cooling account for 39 percent of office energy use and National Geographic recommends setting the thermostat to no higher than 68 degrees during the winter and no lower than 78 degrees during the summer to ensure maximum energy efficiency.

Twenty-nine percent of office energy use can be attributed to lighting. Investing in low energy bulbs and even turning off the lights in the office vending machines can save $100 annually on the office energy bill.

Extra step: If it is time to replace office machines, opt for Energy Star appliances. Companies can also consider occupancy sensors for office areas that only receive light use.

3. Reuse and recycle
The following products can easily be reused and recycled: Paper products. Print on both sides. Use old print outs as scrap paper. Shred old documents for use as packaging material. Cardboard. Reuse for storage. Offer leftover cardboard to employees who are moving. Beverage containers, such as soda bottles and cans. Aluminum foil. Plastic bags. Printer ink. Batteries. Other electronics. Extra step: Businesses can buy greener supplies, such as soy-based ink, recycled and chlorine-free paper or even staple-less staplers. You can also recycle the air as well by encouraging employees to keep a plant on their desk or at their work station.

4. Ditch the paper
Discourage employees (and yourself) from printing emails or documents and only keep hard copies of the most important information in order to save paper. You can also save a few trees by opting for digital supply catalogues for your business instead of allowing magazines, directories or junk mail to pile up. In our digital age, suggest your company move to a digital newsletter to send out company updates instead of continuing a traditional print version.

Extra step: You can look into moving your company’s payroll to a direct deposit system and save money on printing checks, too.

5. Consider your cup of Joe
Reusable cups, utensils and lunch bags greatly reduce the amount of trash, as well as paper and plastic products that end up in our landfills. Plus, companies save money on these supplies in the long-run if it does not have to purchase new paper cups or plastic utensils every few weeks. Washable napkins instead of purchasing a bulk supply of paper towels will help the office budget and the environment. When providing food for office activities or for the common space, consider buying organic food and drinks and if you forget your lunch for the day, don’t forget to walk to pick something up instead of turning on your vehicle.

Extra step: Over the long-term, a regular coffee pot may be the more economical and environmentally-friendly option, although less convenient. Although the pods are made of recyclable parts (plastic, aluminum and compostable coffee grounds), when fused together, they must be trashed instead of placed in the recycling bin.

Using these easy or extra steps can help reduce the carbon footprint of your business, as well as save on energy costs over the year.

Good luck and happy New Year! Written by Leeann Garms