Greening Offices in 2012. Tips From Jim Lynch
The following post, third in the Net2 2012 Look Ahead series, focuses on protips for making the way you run your office more environmentally friendly. The article is authored by Jim Lynch who is TechSoup Global's Co-Director of the GreenTech program, as well as the Community Driven Innovation team member. Jim has been involved in creating all of TechSoup’s environmental programs. He has written extensively on electronics recycling and reuse, cloud computing, greening offices, and many other green IT subjects. Over the years he has been interviewed on computer recycling and related issues by the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Voice of America, PC World Magazine, and many other news outlets.
Most NGOs and libraries work out of small- and medium-sized offices – and it’s not just the social sector. In fact, the vast majority of people everywhere work out of offices with fewer than 250 people. That’s actually good news for those of us interested in greening up (i.e. making more environmentally friendly) our workplaces -- using less paper, electricity, and other resources as well as exposing ourselves to fewer toxins. It’s much easier to do that in smaller workspaces.
Office greening strategies are tried-and-true: recycle, use less paper, use less electricity, and use fewer toxins. Those 4 recommendations have been offered for years. What’s new are the types of products that are always coming out to save energy and resources. Conservation in the office most often saves money as well.
Tip 1. Recycle More and More
Paper is getting easier to recycle in most places. Harder are electronics -- not only computers, but also mobile phones, batteries of all types, old CDs and DVDs, lights, and sundry cables and cords. In 2012, lots of offices are also finding ways to begin collecting food waste and composting it either industrially or arranging for it to be picked up by a community garden.
Tip 2. Use Less Paper.
Of course it’s great to recycle paper of all types, but it’s even better to buy recycled content paper, and better yet to use as little paper as possible. Tools for using less paper have been making major progress recently.
In 2012, new cloud services are arriving to make using and sharing electronic documents ever easier. Online faxing services are now available in most places, as well as a much broader use of free online document sharing services like Google Docs or Microsoft Office Web Apps. You can even sign contracts online with services such as Docusign.
Tip 3. Use Less Electricity
It’s easy and free to set all computers, monitors, copy machines, and printers to go to sleep after a few minutes of non-use -- and newer IT equipment now wakes in almost no time. Doing just this one things saves a good deal of energy and money each year.
Energy efficient lighting is also a big topic in office greening. We’re now in the era of energy efficient compact fluorescent or conventional fluorescent lighting, but in 2012 look for even more energy efficient LED lighting to become more affordable.
In 2012, buying energy efficient IT equipment is now about the same cost as non-energy efficient IT equipment, and there’s a great new NGO online registry for environmental IT equipment now available in many countries. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a project of the NGO, Green Electronics Council. The EPEAT Web site offers easy-to-use search tools in many languages to find new computers, monitors, and printers that use less electricity and also have fewer toxics in them. This noncommercial free service rates IT equipment on a bronze, silver, and gold scale. It’s a great international resource for 2012.
Tip 4. Use Fewer Toxins
Finally, office greening also means using less toxic janitorial and cleaning supplies. It’s a blast from the past: the cleaning products people used in 1912 still work well in 2012. Check out the roster of green cleaning products at GreenDepot that are now available. For cost-conscious greeners, it’s pretty easy to make your own non-toxic cleaning supplies out of common materials like baking soda, vinegar, borax, etc.
Of course there’s a good deal more to greening up offices than just these four things, but at TechSoup I’ll be very pleased if we can do more recycling, composting, and energy and paper conservation. There’s always more we can do.