Greening Your Workplace: What You Can Do To

Greening That OfficeGreen Ray Coaching - environment - office building at twlight

Greener lifestyles and activities like recycling, not leaving your TV on stand-by and turning off lights, have come into focus at home over the last few years. And, incentives like reduced energy bills encourage us to live greener lifestyles even if the environmental benefits aren’t always at the forefront of our minds! But what about greening your workplace?

When we leave at the end of the day it’s easy to forget about how much waste there is and where it goes, whether the computer is left on standby or not, or how much energy the central air and heat is using…. because we’re not footing the bill ourselves…. And isn’t it someone else’s job to think about that stuff anyway…?

But of course the earth doesn’t notice if the computer left on standby is in your house or your workplace. So maybe it’s worth working out some easy steps for greening your workplace that don’t seem like chores. And in the process you can make your work environment a more pleasant place to be – after all you spend a third of your life there!

The information here may well be familiar, and at Green Ray Coaching we know information by itself isn’t enough to create change. Research shows that alongside information, it’s behaviour changes that create real change.

Of course reducing office supply consumption and re-using materials is the best option for greening your workplace if it’s at all possible. With that said, let’s take a look at some other step in the greening your office chain.

So, if you’ve buckled in, let’s go….

How Paper Use Affects Greening Your Office

Greening Your Workplace Eco-Bite: Whether printing or copying, use both sides of a piece of paper. If just one in four North American office workers made all of their copies double-sided, the annual savings would equal 130 billion sheets of paper. A stack thicker than the diameter of the earth!

Paper is one of the biggest office waste products, so just a few things to think about before you print…  does each person need their own copy of a document in meetings or training sessions? If you’re using a power point presentation and planning on emailing everyone the document anyway, does everyone need a printed version? Maybe you’ll save some steel as well by using fewer of those pesky staples!

To reduce your paper usage why not try the same idea on documents.  Ask yourself, “Can I keep this document digital and online rather than print it?” You may even find you can eliminate some of your filing cabinets. Give staff essential documents on USB sticks, and when you do need to print try using new software like Greenprint. It can eradicate blank pages from documents before printing and can also convert to PDF for paperless document sharing.

Using Recycled Paper

Greening Your Workplace Eco-Bite: Producing recycled paper takes 60-70% less energy to produce than paper from virgin pulp. Recycled paper also saves 55% more water compared to un-recycled paper production.

If you source your office’s supplies look for a high percentage of post-consumer content and the least amount of chlorine bleaching when buying recycled paper. You can also buy a wide variety of recycled stationery such as envelopes, fax paper, labels, files, flip charts, storage boxes and sticky notes. The Green Office is one business that supplies green office products and recycled paper.

Recycling Paper in Your Office

Greening Your Workplace Eco-Bite: Each year every office worker uses two whole trees-worth of paper! And the vast majority of office waste – a huge 80% – is made up of stationery products, so there’s lots of potential for recycling paper wastage.

We’ve talked about cutting down on printing and copying, but there’s still likely to be some paper waste in your office. We’ve all gone to the copier to make just one photocopy and hit the start button before realizing it’s going to churn out 20 copies because it wasn’t re-set after the last user.

Recycling paper waste is obviously better than just tossing it in the nearest trash, and to encourage recycling it needs to be as convenient as possible. Locate your recycling collection boxes in clearly visible areas close to desks, printers, and photocopiers. If you do need to print on one side only you can re-use wasted sheets as notepaper and fax cover sheets. Also, if your company sends out packages, shred your recycled paper and use it for packing.

Printers and Copiers

Rushing out and buying lots of new equipment may not be on the cards in these cash-strapped times, and the old equipment then becomes more waste to be dealt with. But, when your company needs to replace your photocopiers and printers buy ones with double-sided copying capabilities and ask the IT guys to set double-sided as the default printing and copying setting.

Recycling Printer, Fax and Photocopier Cartridges

Greening Your Workplace Eco-Bite: A standard toner cartridge is made up of 5% aluminum, 26% steel, 35% plastic and 32% cardboard packaging. All of this material can be recycled and used in remanufactured cartridges and other things like rulers and park benches.

Most cartridge suppliers and several charities collect used cartridges, and buying recycled cartridges can often be cheaper than buying new ones. National companies such as Staples offer a recycling scheme for disused electronic and computer equipment and of course, they’d also be local options.

Reducing Energy Use


Greening Your Workplace Eco-Bite: According to Microsoft Small Business Centre, Setting your PC to “Hibernate” overnight powers down your monitor to about 5 watts of energy and your PC to 2.3 watts; not bad.   That’s nearly the same as turning it off overnight.  Doing either saves as much as US$90 a year in power costs compared to a PC left on with a 3D screen saver running.

There are a few simple things you can do to green your workplace when using your office computer. Enable the energy-saving features on your computers, or ask your IT team if you’re not sure where to look. Using a screen saver also consumes more energy so put the monitor to sleep when you’re not using it.

At the end of the working day we’re normally focused on getting home, to the supermarket, the gym or out with friends. But remembering to shut down your PC when you leave the office will save a lot of energy – leaving it on “stand-by” means it’s still wasting lots of energy. You could also try using a “smart power strip”, or a “stand-by killer” device that only uses power when the hardware is in use.


Greening Your Workplace Eco-Bite: A conventional incandescent bulb turns around 5% to 10% of its consumed energy into light, the rest goes out as heat. Energy efficient lighting consumes 80% less energy than old filament light bulbs.  

As well as converting to energy-saving bulbs, you can green your workplace by maximizing sources of natural daylight. Not only is it a free source of lighting it’s also known to improve happiness and productivity. On brighter days think about whether you can reduce the number of lights turned on in brighter areas of your workplace.  Energy-saving light bulbs have gained a bit of an image problem – according to the stereotype you turn them on and wait for 5 minutes before any sign of life and then they give out a flickering and dim light… not great for an office. But CFLs – Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs – don’t conform to the negative stereotype of many green light bulbs. You can use between 60% and 80% less energy than incandescent lights and don’t have to change your whole lighting set-up.

And don’t forget to switch off the lights in unoccupied rooms and when you leave in the evening!


Greening Your Workplace Eco Bite: In 1970 the number of cars in the Canada was 8.5 million. By 2010 it had risen to around 22 million.

The car is still one of the most common forms of transport to work, and can often seem preferable to being squashed up next to absolute strangers on a bus or train, not to mention having to endure their musical choices… So if you’re really averse to public transport, or it’s just not feasible, have a chat to your colleagues and see if a car-pooling scheme is workable.

Or how about cycling, or even walking if you live near your workplace?


© Joe Britto and Green Ray Coaching, 2014. All rights reserved

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