Green Office Guide
- Saturday, 08 May 2010
We live in a freelancing world. About one-third of Americans are independent workers, and that means there are a lot of home offices and workspaces out there. Toss in the telecommuters and the number jumps higher. Some people work at the kitchen table, others have a spacious room, but everyone has a spot somewhere in the home for answering phone calls, printing documents, and doing work. But have you considered a green workspace?
Setting up a green home office might not be the top priority, but it can help you save money while reducing your business's environmental footprint. And since going green is also an important asset in today's eco-conscious business world, you may even be able to attract new customers by promoting your green efforts.
Don't know where to start? Naturally Savvy has five simple foundations for transforming any entrepreneur's workspace into an eco-friendly office.
Many independent workers think about reducing waste, but energy-saving measures can help home-based workers both save energy and reduce costs. One simple solution is to plug all electronics into a smart power bar rather than wall electrical outlets. Electronics often have display lights or clocks that stay on even when devices have been shut down, so they continue to draw power (a phenomenon called "phantom power" because you can't see it). With a power bar, you can turn off all equipment and turn off the power bar at the end of each day to avoid any phantom power use. Another great way to save money is to use a programmable thermostat in your office to drop the heat in that one room during non-working hours. That way you can be warm while you're working, and avoid heating an unused space when you're not.
Reduce Paper Use
There are lots of ways to reduce paper use in the office. First and foremost, back up your email and download it periodically to an external hard drive rather than keeping paper records. Next, when you have to print something, print on both sides of the paper. It may mean a few extra dollars to buy a printer that can print on both sides, but it will save you money in the long run. If you have a fax machine, only use it when absolutely necessary; email is usually sufficient for most notices, invoices, marketing promotions, and other communications.
Reduce Materials Waste
Look for ways to reduce or eliminate waste or donate waste materials to someone who can use them. Artisans, crafters, and fashion designers can develop a line of products that uses scrap materials. Interior designers might turn wallpaper samples into art. Construction workers can donate scraps to local seniors communities that have a woodworking club. Schools can use a lot of materials for arts and craft time, including fabric scraps, wallpaper samples, dowels, ribbon, and so on. The list of possibilities is almost endless.
Choose Recycled Products
Whenever possible, choose recycled products. Recycled paper products are quite easy to find, and they often cost the same or just slightly more than non-recycled products. Look for paper, envelopes, labels, folders and such made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled waste. You can also find staples made with recycled metal, and plastic organizers (such as crates) made with recycled plastics. Also, when you're buying office accessories made from plastic, always make sure they have a recycling number on them so they can be recycled down the road.
Pay for Quality
You get what you pay for. A cheap printer instead of forking over $300 for a better one, but cheaper printers often run through ink cartridges in no time. They also often break down more quickly. Investing in a more expensive unit often provides you with a more reliable, longer lasting, and cheaper-to-operate piece of equipment. The same goes for desk chairs - the cheaper ones usually break sooner and are often a pain in the neck (or back). If you're going to be sitting at your desk eight or 10 or 12 hours a day, don't skimp on the furniture that's keeping you comfortable. When quality products do break down, repair before you replace. Maybe repairing a chair will cost half what a new chair costs, but you've still saved 50 percent, and you have a great chair you know is comfortable.
There are many more ways to go green in your office—from improving air quality through air filtering plants, to purchasing energy-saving hardware—but these five foundations offer you a basis to build on.