one hand typing on a laptop, one holding a mug; greenery visible in background

6 Steps to a Greener Office

Small changes add up to big impacts. Whether at home, in the community, or at work, each step in the right direction can move us toward a brighter, greener future. So, in honor of Earth Day 2019, we've gathered some tips to make your workplace more eco-friendly, one small step at a time.

1. Form a "Green Team"

Forming a "green team" of employees can really boost your efforts. These are people designated to advocate for changes, develop and lead organizationwide projects, and generally push for a culture of environmental friendliness year-round.

First, get management buy-in for creating the team. Then, recruit team members who care passionately about environmental issues. Choose representatives from all operations and departments so that the team truly reflects the organization. It's a good idea to have someone from the executive staff, too. This demonstrates buy-in from your organization's leadership, and it gives the team a direct path to management for fast decision-making.

drawing of two people sitting working on laptops in front of a large lightbulb with an image of the earth in it

2. Encourage the Use of Refurbished Technology

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that it's roughly 25 times more helpful to the planet to reuse computers than to recycle them every three to five years.

Extending the life of hardware is one of the most environmentally beneficial things you can do. It reduces electronic waste and helps to preserve the raw materials that would have been used to build a new product.

TechSoup has offered refurbished desktops, laptops, and other hardware since 2006 through its Refurbished Computers program. We recently calculated the environmental benefits of that program and were astounded at the results. Since its inception, this program has distributed 92,125 refurbished devices!

And when it finally comes time for your refurbished equipment from TechSoup to meet its maker, you can dispose of it in an environmentally sound way through our free refurbished computers end-of-life takeback program.


3. Choose Greener Office Supplies

There is a greener option for pretty much everything you use at work. Why not bring a coffee or tea mug from home, instead of using a plastic or Styrofoam cup every time? Go one step further and bring your own kitchen utensils and a cloth napkin. You can wash and store them at your desk for daily use.

Be sure to put recycling containers in the office and break room. Place them next to printers for easy recycling of paper and printer ink cartridges. Tuck them into corners of the break room for holding glass bottles and metal cans and keeping trash separate from the recyclables.

To keep it clear to everyone what waste goes where, take advantage of free recycling-bin stickers and posters that explain how to recycle materials. Many cities and counties offer them. If your office is in California, you can order material from the state's CalRecycle program.

4. Turn Off or Unplug Electronics

Computers and office equipment are big energy eaters. Get rid of the screen saver or set your computer to power off automatically after a certain amount of time idling. Turn off your monitor at night. Even better, turn off and unplug all electronic equipment at the end of the day. You'll slay "vampire" power — electricity that's drained away even when the equipment isn't on or in use but is still plugged in. According to the U.S. EPA, the amount of electricity used by idle electronics every year equals the output of 12 power plants.

Turn off the lights, too. Make a habit of hitting the light switch when you leave a room or the office. Consider installing motion-detecting switches that do it for you. And speaking of lights, switching from incandescent lightbulbs to more energy-efficient LED and compact fluorescent bulbs is a great way to save tons on your energy bill while helping the environment.

5. Print Prudently

Discarded paper and paperboard make up approximately 25 percent of solid waste in U.S. municipal landfills. Producing paper and pulp takes a toll on the environment. It's a water-intensive process that emits gases that contribute to acid rain and climate change.

Before you print anything, ask yourself if you really need to do so. Does everyone need a printed meeting agenda? Can some notes or reports be sent electronically instead? Why not collaborate on documents or sign them online, using technology from DocuSign, Adobe, and Box?

If printing is a must, you can always make greener decisions. Here's a handy tool for comparing the environmental impacts of different paper choices.

6. Consider Telecommuting

Cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and other forms of transportation are the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States. Make smarter, greener choices about how you get to and from work and participate in meetings.

Can you telecommute from home one or two days a week? With software such as Zoom, it's easy to hold meetings online. Can you walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation? Some companies offer "eco-passes" that give employees discounted fares for public transportation.

Here's a great resource for learning how to plan greener meetings and conferences. And check out the Green Meetings site for tips and resources for meeting planners.

Every Step Matters

Every step you take toward creating a greener office matters. From toting a mug from home to paying closer attention to the recycling bin, you can help the earth breathe easier, every day of the year.

Additional Resources: Going Green