There is forbidding evidence that our daily activities are contributing to global warming and that the negative effects of this problem will increasingly affect our lives on a local and global scale. Turning off light switches and buying energy efficient appliances at home is commendable but more can be done, particularly at the office.
"America is a throw-away society and there are a lot of materials being thrown away and there is a lot of energy being consumed in the course of running businesses, " says Lesley Chilcott, producer of the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and co-founder of Unscrew America. She adds, "It is unrealistic to ask companies to suddenly go green, but they can do small things, such as powering off computers or changing to energy efficient lightbulbs, that will make an environmental difference."
Through her Unscrew Americacampaign, Chilcott is on a mission to educate people on energy-efficient changes – such as switching light sources – they can make at home and at work that will reduce their carbon footprint. The term carbon footprint refers to the measure of impact that human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. "To grasp the concept of carbon footprints, people should do a search on the Internet where they can find carbon footprint calculators and more information that will give them an idea of their environmental impact from both home and work activities," she suggests.
A December 2007 study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reports that 40 percent of world energy consumption is from businesses and that the tech equipment that businesses buy between 2005 and 2010 will consume as much energy as that produced by 10 power plants. That translates into a substantial need for companies to take eco-sensitive steps in making their business practices less harmful to the environment.
Chilcott states that she has up to 100 ways for people to become more eco-friendly but recommends the following seven for implementation at the office.
Seven Steps to a Greener Office
Instead of letting computers and other electronics power down into sleep mode, institute a mandatory shut off of all computers and electronic devices every night after work. Use powerstrips instead of wall outlets and simply switch off the power strips before you leave.
Editor's note: Smart Strip power strips are less expensive than surge protectors and are claimed to pay for themselves in as little as six weeks.
Disable screensavers on computers and allow idle computers to power down into hibernate or sleep mode if you are going to be away from your desk for an extended period of time during work hours.
Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent light (CFL) or light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. This goes for overhead lights, desk lamps, and pin lighting. Though more expensive, CFL and LED bulbs are far more efficient than regular lightbulbs, give off less heat, and last longer. CFLs are 10 times as efficient as incandescents, and many LEDs are 10 times as efficient as CFLs. However, due to the mercury content in CFL, bulbs require special disposal after their useful life.
Editor's note: Unscrew America is a nationwide campaign to replace incandescent bulbs and educate consumers on alternative lighting sources.
Install a water filter and do away with plastic bottles and paper cups. Supply employees with reusable beverage containers such as Nalgene, KleenKantene, or Sigg and encourage them to get water out of the faucet. For small companies, five gallon water dispensers may be more cost effective. Regardless, the result will be fewer plastic bottles piling up in landfills.
Editor's note: Lifesource carries a comprehensive water system for residential and commercial locations without the use of eco-unfriendly chemicals or salts. In addition to being endorsed by environmental groups, including Global Green and Children's Health Environmental Coalition, this company won the Preferred Water System award for the 2007 Rose Parade The Lifesource website also provides a use and cost comparison chart for various filtration systems and bottled water.
This is the most obvious and, though it may be done at home, it is often forgotten at the office. Depending on the recycling services in your area, have bins for paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, and aluminum. In addition, have an e-waste bin for electronics such as old cellphones, chargers, DVDs, CDs, inkjet cartridges, and computers. Often these items can be refurbished or harvested for parts. Check your local listings for e-recycle companies.
Purchase office supplies, particularly paper, that are made from recycled contents. Most major office supply stores carry a large selection of recycled products but recycled products can also be ordered from on-line companies.
Editor's Note: Have your products delivered to the office to cut down on your driving. Recycled Office Products carries a full line of recycled and remanufactured office products and will deliver for free for orders totally $75 or more.
Encourage employees to trade off driving to work. They can meet at a designated location that is close to home then ride to work together. If you are a large company and have the resources, provide shuttle transportation.
Editor's Note: If you need help implementing alternative transportation, visit www.iCarpool.com (also available on Facebook) or www.eRideshare.com to find your best carpool or vanpool options. Both of these websites can get you to work or match you with other travelers for long-distance trips.
For more tips on Green Living, visit SheKnows.com.
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