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Home > Green News > SOLUTIONS MAGAZINE > Special Reports > Special Reports and Featured Products about Green Best Practices > Easy First Steps

Green Your Office Space

Green your office with gusto, fun and effectiveness. Start here!

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green business footprint for California sustainable environment We've been conducting a short, informal survey of our readers and the fluctuating results indicate that people are concerned about their office space, their transportation and waste management. All these concerns can be good starting points for greening a business...or an office.

The following mini-steps can help you think about green, learn more than the average joe on the street about what's truly effective, and then take some action that isn't painful -- and makes a real difference for the sustainability of your business...and your home planet.

Understanding

Green and sustainability thinking isn't easy. It isn't "natural" in today's urban system. And it is fascinating!

Learn what your unique profile is...is your biggest gray goo contribution waste of energy or waste of opportunity to green your supply chain? Every business is different... a computer services company has major energy challenges with monster servers and 24/7 workstyles. A restaurant has major energy drains with refrigeration vs. cooking, lighting and they have an added component of air quality and food quality. That's why "understanding" ranks No. 1 in our list of green suggestions.

Conduct a Self-Audit and focus on Awareness. Dig out your bills and analyze how much you spend on various natural resource-dependent expenses. Make pie charts. Make lists. Draw flow charts of your product life cycle or your supply chain. Understand your footprint.

Behaviors

See, Learn, Do -- Before you can do the right thing, you need to know what's happening and learn about options that can help you Focus your efforts. Everyone has limits on their time and money...and attention span. Respect each of your limits...and your potential.

Plan -- Once you see your footprint, research the possibilities, and weigh your options you're ready to make a plan scaled to your needs. Some plans work great on recycled napkins. Others are so massive they need project management software -- but scale is important.

Bring some scientific objectivity to your work by Measuring key metrics. If the number of hours your computers are turned on vs. number of productive hours is your metric. Measure the hours, measure the productivity... and work on improving the ratio.

Runners run because of the sheer pleasure of running. The intrinsic joy of accomplishment is the real adrenalin rush -- but it helps to tell stories about your accomplishments to the people who care the most -- your teammates. So, Celebrate your improved metrics, and Refine your goals. Both matter.

Energy

Now let's get down to specifics. Energy is a biggie in modern America. Electricity. Transportation. Alternative fuels. Even manpower -- they are all part of a closed system. Einstein's E=MC2 reminds us that everything is about energy.

Make your checklist...and check it twice. Make your list of energy applications and requirements in operations, facilities, products and processes. Then gather creative solutions and go for it. Reduce. Reuse. Respect the earth's limitations and the necessity for everyone to be smart about every decision, every choice.

Lifespan Impact

No one uses a sundial anymore...at least in the office. But the sun still is at the core of telling time. We just don't see the equipment that measures the rotation of the earth around the sun.

The same happens with so many of our conveniences. Paper. Food. Electricity. Cars. Even paperclips.

When we dig into the not-so-obvious costs of our habits, we can make smarter choices. For instance. Paper comes from trees...but the pulp is put through massive chemical processes and transported thousands of miles. When we realize this cost, we can emotionally justify upping the recycled content in our paper choices, and even print on both sides of sheets, and reduce the number of times we print from our handy desktop printer. And we can cut one-sided printouts and use them for scrap pads. We can use hybrid catalogs -- half printed, half on the Internet. We can mail postcards instead of catalogs. All those choices help reduce the lifespan impact of our written communications.

Uncover the hidden! Secrecy spells "Danger, Will Robinson!"

Consumables

Paper isn't just used for printing. It's hidden in packaging of food, pens, even paper. Not just one layer of packaging...MULTIPLE layers of packaging! Ask supplier to reduce packaging. Deliberately choose products that use less packaging -- such as bulk quantities (that saves gas, too when you order less often!)

Other consumables to identify, measure and manage include such things as coffee and cups, snacks, plastic pens and pencils, clothing, books, and even tea bags.

Some consumables are better left to wither in the catalog. Others can be composted (vermiculture is quite fine for offices...look it up!) Others can be reduced and reused.

IDEA: Tack up a few gray habit items next to green alternatives on your bulletin board so people see it, see it, and see it again. Remember the old research that says it takes SEVEN exposures to absorb new information and accept it?

Equipment Purchases and De-Purchases

Manual equipment uses less energy than electric or other fossil fuel equipment. Energy Star rated equipment saves both bucks and emissions. Buying standardized equipment so you can interchange parts -- and reducing product lines save manufacturing costs. Smart sizing of the product line can make green products more affordable as demand rises and costs are balanced with smarter production volumes. Your purchasing criteria for energy efficiency, recyclable contents, green chemistry, and less packaging -- all these smart choices matter as they accumulate.

Food and Water

I know we are supposed to be working machines...but we're human and we still need to eat and drink on the job. Take a look at the options available to your team. Do you have to travel to restaurants for lunch? Could you offer a nice picnic table outdoors to provide respite and less gas alternatives. Could you provide an Energy Star kitchen with reusable silverware, cups and plates to reduce your dependence of throw-aways? Could you arrange with a nearby organic farm to drop by a weekly box of healthful fresh fruit snacks? How about green tea instead of coffee? How about shade grown coffee if you must have a bit of caffeine? And take a look at the health impacts of chemicals in our foods -- things like caffeine, sugars, colors and flavors. Is it any wonder our health insurance rates are going through the roof?

And how about some exercise options? A walking path? A dance class? A weekly shoulder massage option? Get creative with your daily necessities.

Transportation

Telecommuting is only one alternative to long commutes. Many cities have great mass transit, carpooling services, and bike lanes. Sometimes all that's needed is a safe place to store employee bikes. Maybe a plug in for hybrid cars will be the next great employee recruitment slogan. Walking is the greatest form of exercise -- maybe walking maps to nearby restaurants, client offices and suppliers would make it a more natural alternative.

Access to Nature

With urbanites spending an average of 97% of our time indoors, you would think we are closely related to moles! Bring the sunshine in! Daylighting an office reduces electrical use for lights, can reduce the need for heating and improve productivity when people benefit from a more natural workspace.

Outdoor facilities are for more than smoking! Everyone deserves a place to breathe fresh air, feel the sun on their face during short winter days, and take a walk when frustrations make them want to blow up at their office mates! Living greenery is also great for sequestering carbon, reducing the urban heat island, and improving oxygen in the air we breathe -- indoors and out.

Community

People are part of the natural system. Our impact on the earth isn't just about damaging the ecosystem -- we contribute as much as the birds and bees, the rocks and trees. We are stewards of ecosystems, we sing and play for the amusement of our fellow birds and pets. We restore endangered species and travel great distances to learn and weave together cultures and knowledge.

Community is part of green business. As we learn to communicate with one another, with animals...and even with plants, we evolve the connections that protect and regenerate the wonders of this earth.

By spending quality time with one another, we can lessen our impact on the use of natural materials. A hug might be more valuable than an mpeg player. A walk in the neighborhood park might be more important than a trip to a theme park. Observing a waterbug after a rain might spark the next great breakthrough in mathematics or science.

Community is about engaging with the wonders of life...at home, at work, and in our community. After all, it's all HOME. Let's think and act green together.

Getting Started Greening Your Office

Just start. Your first step is likely to be a baby step...as it is for everyone. But it's a very valuable baby step!



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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