Elance Blog

Going Green in Your Workspace

If you’re dreading the inconvenient truth of going green in your workspace, don’t worry - an environmentally friendly office doesn’t have to mean major sacrifices or major expenses. There are several ways to design or makeover your workspace to meet the new standard of the office - green, budget friendly and best of all, efficient for your work.

Go Paperless
The biggest inefficiency in the office in terms of not only the environment but also space is the paper trail. Overflowing file cabinets, ceiling-high stacks of paper and boxes of office supplies are out, and high tech, digital media is in. With today’s technology, there’s no longer the need to have a paper copy of emails, client files and every bill received since the Carter administration. Most can be found in your online utility accounts, computer files, or be stored on digital media. (Don’t forget to have a backup!) PDAs and smartphones can easily take the place of files and reports on the road, and as a bonus, they’re becoming less expensive with more user-friendly and connectivity features.

Not only do computer-stored records take up less space, but they save paper and time, not to mention a few hundred trees. Make sure to use an offsite file storage service to protect your business from the loss of files from computer crashes. Companies such as Carbonite offer backup services for nominal monthly fees, and the cost is offset by using much less paper at $4 per ream, not to mention costly and space-gobbling filing systems.

While it’s best for the environment to go completely paperless, it may not be best for the IRS when tax time rolls around. Make sure you check the IRS website  to determine exactly which hard copies need to be kept and filed for backup with your taxes.

Save Energy
Saving energy takes front and center stage in the green workspace. Heat producing lighting and energy hogging office machines can be replaced with more efficient and modern pieces that bring down electrical bills while maximizing space and reducing your carbon footprint. Making the most of natural lighting in the workspace not only lightens the burden on the environment but is easier on the eyes as well. Windows that are placed on South-facing walls offer the most natural lighting throughout the year. While that’s the best placement in most environments, those in hot climates, such as South Florida, need to weigh the pros and cons, as the increased heat from the windows will also mean increased air conditioning usage.

Go Wireless, Cordless and Strip
The high tech office space used to be a jumble of cords, surge protectors and cables that not only drained electricity but were unsightly and a tripping hazard to boot. Take advantage of wireless technology with printers, modems and telephones and cable routing/management accessories to simplify, increase safety and save space in the office.

Using power surge strips not only protect your office equipment but can be a convenient way to make sure all office equipment and lamps are turned off at night. Computers in standby mode still draw electricity, as does that cell phone charger “harmlessly” left plugged in the wall and other equipment left in standby mode (Game consoles, audio amplifiers, televisions, etc).

Recycle Wisely
Recycling is the norm in today’s home and office, but make sure the pros of any recycling program outweigh the cons. While you may feel good about recycling a small container with two soda cans, if you’re driving your SUV to a recycling center 10 miles away, it doesn’t make sense for time, efficiency or the environment to do so. On the other hand, if you have curbside recycling in your area, take advantage of it. Just make sure to shred documents before placing them in the recycle bin.

Environmentally Friendly Décor
Using furnishings and flooring that are made of natural and sustainable materials is a big part of the going green process. Bamboo flooring in particular has become extremely popular, as it is durable and attractive. Bamboo is also more eco-friendly than hardwood as it has a five year harvest time compared to the 20+ year harvest time of typical hardwoods.

While your office furniture is not going to be made of 100% natural materials, you can choose furniture that is Greenguard certified. The Greenguard certification process involves testing products to ensure that chemical and particle emissions meet acceptable standards.

And speaking of those emissions, consider paints and carpets that have low VOC’s – Volatile Organic Compounds, which are elements in paint, carpets and adhesives that can be harmful to your health, particularly in freshly painted and carpeted rooms. VOC’s are the primary cause of ‘sick’ buildings, which in turn causes health problems for the workers. If you’re considering new flooring for an office, or in the process of decorating a home office, bamboo flooring with a natural fiber rug is a great choice and looks sleek and modern to boot.

Choosing Eco-Friendly Products
Going green in the office can mean wading through tons of information and differing opinions as to what qualifies as being environmentally friendly. It does vary for different products and situations, but some of the questions you can ask yourself are:

Is a product recyclable?
Does the product come from renewable materials?
How long is the life cycle for the product?
Will it impact indoor air quality?

Buy Local
What’s one of the biggest impact on the environment? Transportation! Buying locally made products cuts back on the carbon footprint of the methods of transport to get that product to your office. An added benefit, buying locally can also lead to valuable networking opportunities.

The Bottom Line
Going green in the office doesn’t necessarily mean dramatic changes to your workspace, décor or lifestyle – it’s about making conscious decisions for your situation that will be best for you and everyone else in the long run.

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I found this great resource that offers tips and links to help companies go green. There are even industry specific tips.


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