How would you feel if we told you that you had the ability to save the environment while just sitting in your office?
Eco-friendly is trending, and it’s great to help the planet in any way we can. But sometimes we all wish going green could look just a bit cooler. Let’s face it, most of us spend the majority of our day at work, and none of us want to be trapped in a dull environment for hours at end.
You may already know how to recycle - and that's great! - but the problem is when it comes to implementing recycling in an office environment. Using recycled paper, for example, can help in going green at the office, as it saves space and conserves natural resources. But alone, that’s not enough.
This is just one idea, but there are many ways to create an environmentally-conscious office. Here are some ideas on going green at work to have a positive impact on the environment.
1. Decorate with the right plants
Did you know that plants don’t just enhance the overall appearance of your office, but also help in reducing stress, eliminating pollutants, reducing the chance of employee absences, and even boosting productivity levels?
Going green doesn't have to be all about staple-straightening and reuse initiatives. It can simply mean adding some greenery to your space. Plants can help cleanse the air and give any office a homey feel. Choose plants that are resilient and that can thrive in office lighting conditions. Many office locations do not have windows, which makes it important to choose the right types for an office environment or low light conditions. You'll also want to choose plants that won't die or wither if you forget to water them for a day or two.
There are several office plants to choose from. Here are some types of plants to put in your office:
Office Plants 101
What's great about these office plants is that they require little care. This is great for a busy office since these plants won't die even if you don’t water them for a day or two:
- Philodendrons - These plants are excellent for adding height to small areas as most of these types are climbers. These plants are suited for a wide range of conditions and they can go long periods without being watered.
- Snake Plant - These plants have attractive sword-shaped leaves that grow tall. These are excellent plants for screening or providing a focal interest in the office.
- Cactus - Cactus plants are the best office plants for beginners as they require minimal water or maintenance to survive. Just don't put them in a location where no one can get pricked and you're good to go.
Plants for Reducing Pollutants
If you’re experiencing too much air pollution in the office, these office plants will be able to minimize pollutants.
- Peace Lily - Having a peace lily in your office can effectively reduce air pollutants. This plant also works well for screening and creating a focal interest.
- Dracaena - Dracaena is a corn plant that can easily eliminate air pollutants. It’s easy to care for and can make an excellent screening plant.
Other office plants to consider:
- English Ivy - Not only is this plant easy to grow, it also effectively helps in eliminating mold in the office.
- Umbrella Plant - If you need a plant that can provide you with a bit of office privacy, this is an excellent choice as the plant grows tall.
- African Violet - When you have a tight space in the office, consider this plant. The African Violet requires little upkeep as all it needs is plenty of light and moisture to survive in an office environment. This is an excellent plant to add a splash of color to your office.
2. Consider LED or CFL Lighting
You’re probably already turning off most of the lights in areas that aren't in use and shutting everything down when you leave for the evening. Another way to save energy, while still providing a bright working environment, is to install LED bulbs or CFL bulbs. LED lighting is good for hard-to-reach areas as the bulbs are long-lasting and don't need to be changed often. CFL bulbs have a shorter lifespan but are less expensive than LED lighting. You’ll also need to follow special recycling guidelines due to the higher mercury content of CFL bulbs.
LED vs CFL: Which is greener?
Although CFLs have been proven to be energy efficient, LED has demonstrated its energy efficiency as well despite it being fairly new to the market. However, both have their fair share of pros and cons. So which one is greener?
- CFLs: CFLs or Compact Fluorescent Bulbs use argon and a small amount of mercury gas to generate an invisible ultraviolet light that stimulates the fluorescent coating, thereby lighting the bulb up.
- LED: LED works through the movement of electrons via a semiconductive material. Initially, these only emitted red light and their use was previously limited to indicator lights, but nowadays LED lights can be used as an excellent alternative to incandescent bulbs.
- LED bulbs have a lifespan that’s 2-4 times longer than CFL bulbs and 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
- CFLs use heat to generate light, therefore these are hot to the touch and heat means a lot of energy is wasted to generate light. LEDs, on the other hand, are cool to the touch, and are therefore a more energy-efficient method of generating light. A 16-watt LED bulb is equivalent to a 20-watt CFL bulb and a 75-watt incandescent bulb.
- LED does not contain toxic mercury. These bulbs can be smaller in size and be more durable than CFLs. LED bulbs can still work even at extreme temperatures.
- LED has a bluish-white color by default. When shopping for a LED bulb, look at the lighting facts label on the box as it has a spectrum bar showing you whether the LED lighting you choose is bluish or yellowish. If you don't want to deal with that, CFLs are a better option.
- Unlike CFLs, LED bulbs produce light in one direction. This makes it not a great choice for lamps, as the LED bulb will simply illuminate the ceiling compared to the light emitted by CFLs. Moreover, LEDs are still not as bright as CFLs.
- Good LED bulbs cost twice as much as CFLs due to them being a fairly new technology in the market.
In conclusion, LED is greener as it uses less energy to produce light, does not contain toxic substances, and has higher lifespan than CFL. But it does have its fair share of cons including the quality of light over CFLs. It all boils down to how you intend to use these to light up your office as both are greener than incandescent bulbs.
3. Allow workers to telecommute
It may not be a practical solution every day, but the occasional telecommuting can be a great way to help the environment and boost morale as well. Imagine a few times each month skipping the morning and evening rush hour and not being late for dinner, while cutting down on carbon emissions since you’re not using your car.
- Flexible work options increase productivity levels: People are happier and healthier when they have control over their work schedule. In fact, a study shows that people who are granted work flexibility are likely to have a boost in productivity since there is a minimal level of distraction compared to that present in a typical office environment. Also since there is no need to commute into the office that could take hours, telecommuters can start their work earlier; thereby maximizing productivity.
- Reduce costs: Keeping costs at a minimum has always been on the agenda and telecommuting can help keep them low. Telecommuting can help reduce the operating costs as by having employees work remotely, it is possible to reduce a million square feet of office space that could save $78 million (calculated regardings $29 per square foot). If you scale that down to a small business level, you’d end up saving up to $11,000 per year while your employees are working from home.
4. Optimize computers for minimal power use
Computers and monitors can be some of the largest power drains in modern offices. If you aren’t in a position to upgrade all of your office computers to the latest low power processors, there are still ways to optimize computer power usage.
- Unplug idle electronics Devices that are turned off but still plugged in like microwaves, printers, and scanners use standby power, which means they use electricity. Devices actually consume more electricity during the hours they’re not in use than when you’re actually using them.
- Shutdown your computer Don't use screensavers, instead turn your computer off when not in use. Encourage your employees to shut down the computer when not in use. Not only does this save energy, but it also increases the lifespan of the computers as well.
- Turn off the lights Even if your office uses LED or CFL lights that consume 75% less electricity, turning off the lights when not in use is the greenest thing to do.
5. Automate heating and cooling
If your office thermostat is a relic from 1982, it’s time to upgrade. Newer ‘smart’ thermostats provide more control over heating and cooling including automatic schedules and the ability to change settings remotely through an app on your phone. During peak summer months air conditioning can account for up to 50% of power usage. Upgrading your equipment can help you save money and save power.
- Automatically increase and decrease temperature from anywhere, even if you’re not in the office.
- Smart thermostats allow the office manager to control and monitor office temperatures in the office without continually communicating with the staff to regulate heat in the office.
- Get alerts via in-app notifications or email when an unexpected temperature change occurs.