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Another Day at the Office: 10 Steps to Green Yours

Green laptop.jpgTime to go to work. You get up, have some breakfast (or not), brush your teeth and...walk ten feet to your desk. If you telecommute, have a home-based business, or have a home office for any other reason, it's time to think about making it a healthier place in which to work. Take your pick of the steps below, or do them all. Your boss will thank you for it (that's you, in case you're looking around):

  1. Recycle paper: First things first...recycling is something that should be a given by now. Since about 1/3 of the waste stream that goes to landfills is paper, you'll be helping to save a lot of landfill space by recycling. In case you're wondering how long you can keep it from the landfill, paper can be recycled about five times before the fibers weaken.
  2. Save paper: Stop more trees from getting cut down: a) Use "print preview" on your computer to review, edit, or format a doc instead of printing it out; b) Email or e-fax docs instead of printing them out (and if you do fax docs, make sure the fax doesn’t use thermal paper; c)Use the duplexing (double-sided printing) functionality when printing and copying; and d) Save paper that is blank on one side to use as scrap paper.
  3. Ok, not just paper: Recycling doesn't just apply to paper. Don’t forget about that can of Coke (not too healthy, I might add) or bottle of juice (better!). Aside from the obvious, some things that might be overlooked include electronics, toner, and office equipment, which you can donate instead of throwing out. There are many sites out there for toner and electronics recycling, so take a look at some that fit your needs.
  4. Save energy: Working from home means your energy bills will be higher, so be mindful, for your pocket and the planet. Electronics still consume energy even they are turned off, not to mention that EMFs (electro-magnetic fields) are not too good for you.
  5. So: a) Turn off the laptop, printer or fax when you're done, and unplug any electronics that are not in use (you can also get a SmartStrip and let it do the work for you); b) Turn off the lights when you're not in the room; c) Replace incandescent lights with CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) and use task-oriented lights when overhead lights aren't needed; d) Enable energy saving features on your computer, printer and photocopier; and e) Adjust the temperature in the room (higher temps in the summer, lower in the winter).
  6. Save toner: Use less toner by selecting "draft" printouts when using the "print" command on your computer; this can also be set as the default. And when you get the "toner low" light on the printer, you may not necessarily need to replace it yet. Just take it out, shake it gently, and put it back in. When it really needs replacing, the toner light will stay on even after you've done that.
  7. Reuse supplies: This includes binders, envelopes, refill pens, tape dispensers, file indexes, and anything else you can think of. This also means sharing - so if you're sharing a home office with a significant other or a colleague, share whatever can be shared instead of buying two of everything (by that, I don't mean use one pen between the two of you or share a laptop, but you get the idea).
  8. Buy recycled: Buy reusable and durable supplies and materials, and paper that is unbleached and de-inked. This goes for your marketing materials as well, so use a printer that uses recycled paper and soy-based inks (EarthEcho has their business cards printed by Tulip Graphics). Check out supplies offered through the Green Earth Office Supplies, Sustainable Group, and Green Home. And with everything you buy, keep the packaging to a minimum.
  9. Food & drinks: Here you are, ready to start the day. You turn on your computer and take a sip of your Starbucks coffee, which you just picked up across the street. Not very sustainable, unless you're using a reusable mug. Same goes for the take-out from down the block.
  10. Transportation: You're ahead of most people since you're not using your car to commute to work. Now take it one step further and be mindful when you run errands or go to appointments. Either take public transportation, walk, or group errands so that you don't have to make multiple trips.
  11. Buy Energy Star electronics: Buy printers with stand-by or sleep features and faxes and printers with energy-saving features. Invest in an "all-in-one" machine that combines printing, faxing, copying, and more, which can be more efficient than powering multiple devices.

We'd love to hear what you've done to make your home office green, so don't be shy!