As consultants we often find ourselves in a new office several times a year and it is up to us to carry our green habits with us as we go. Programs offered at offices are most often by, for, and about employees leaving consultants and contractors out of the loop on available facilities and programs. With this just being the way of things, here are nine simple, portable things we can do to perpetuate a green lifestyle wherever we find ourselves working on a given day.
1. Kill the lights
While many offices have installed savvy motion sensing light systems for conference rooms and other common area – most have not and rely on the common wall switch. For as simple as it seems to turn off the lights in unused area you will often be confronted with strange looks as you reach out and hit the switch. Many disregard energy use at the office as they do not directly foot the bill. However, businesses represent a significant portion of the demand in the supply and demand of the energy sector. As we continue to reduce demand we all pay and pollute less.
2. Enhance Computer Efficiency
Some estimates place energy waste from idle computers in the business sector at over $1 billion dollars a year. Turn off your computer and the power strip it is connected to whenever possible. You will want to check with the IT department to ensure that system updates and/or backup are not done overnight. It is also a good idea to adjust your power settings to send your computer into a suspended state after a brief period of being idle – and do not forget to disable the screen saver. Remember screen savers do not save energy. If you cannot turn your computer off overnight, at least power off the monitor – many illuminate small LEDs to let you know that your monitor is off and that consumes power. Odds are a blank screen is indication enough that your monitor is off.
3. Do not print, print less, print smart
The Sierra Club estimates that the average American office worker goes through about 10,000 sheets of paper annually at the office – that’s about 1.5 pounds a day. Whenever possible, do not print. Instead, bring your laptop to the meeting, transfer files to a smart phone or other portable device, or make nonsensitive material available through a web based interface for access anywhere. If you must print, print smart. Print multiple pages per sheet and use double sided printing where possible. This alone can cut your paper use by 50-90%.
4. Watching what and how you eat
Make a point to bring your own reusable mug and other dish ware to the office. When you need caffeine (and most of us do), opt for coffee or tea instead of soda. Not only will you cut out a lot of unnecessary sugar, you will avoid consuming liquid that has been shipped cross country to get to that vending machine.
When running out to grab lunch, avoid establishments that use Styrofoam to go containers. Instead choose to eat at the restaurant or perhaps grab a sandwich that can be wrapped in paper. Additionally, consider a vegetarian meal from time to time to help reduce your carbon footprint.
5. Traveling while traveling
When traveling for work, consider how you will travel during your stay. When attending a conference, try to stay at a hotel within walking distance of the event. For other work, commit to walking, busing, taking the subway, or other transit while on the road. When renting a car is necessary, seek out and rent a fuel efficient vehicle – most rental agencies now have hybrids available upon request. Of course using technology to make travel unnecessary is the ultimate solution – get creative and see what is possible.
6. The Commute
As always, carpooling, biking, or using transit are great ways to use fewer resources and reduce congestion. However, as technology workers nothing beats telecommuting – commit to working remotely wherever and whenever possible. If driving cannot be avoided, perhaps consider a car sharing service like Zipcar or similar.
7. Write this down…
…but do so in pencil. A good mechanical pencil can last for years if taken care of whereas the average ball point pen will find its way to the trash in a couple of weeks. The pencil also has the advantage of not becoming trash if you leave the cap off.
You have brought your lunch, your snacks, and other foods in your reusable containers – now take it a step further. Put your apple cores, banana peels, orange rinds, that last bit of salad, etc. into your empty lunch container and bring it home to be properly composted. While most offices have every form of recycling bin available, almost none have containers for compostable material. Bring it home and make your good garden great! You do have a garden right?
9. Bring a Plant to Work
For longer term engagements, bring a plant with you. Plants brighten up the atmosphere, eat indoor pollutants, consume CO2, and produce oxygen. Stay away from flowers and other plants that produce allergens; and what ever it is, do not forget to water it – a dead plant offers little benefit in an office setting.
So, whether you can do one, some, or all of these things; remember that every bit helps and no good deed is too small. Do what you do and encourage others to do the same. Lead by example and show how little it takes to make a difference. A positive person doing good things for the benefit of everyone is hard to ignore and even harder to disappoint.