Career Facts

By Paul Horn

May 2, 2008 5 min read


The environmentally friendly way to work

By Chandra Orr

Copley News Service

Your appliances are all energy-efficient, you only buy organic and you recycle every piece of paper, plastic and cardboard to cross your path. Your home is an ode to eco-friendly living. But what about your office?

"Ten years ago, if you suggested to a company that it go green and spend more money and care on the environment, you would have been pushed right out of the office," says David Bach in his new book, "Go Green, Live Rich" (Broadway Books, $15). "Today, virtually every major company in America and around the world is putting together teams of consultants to figure out how to be green."

Even if your employer doesn't have green policies in place, there are plenty of little things you can do at work to help save the environment - and you might even save the boss a few bucks while you're at it, which always looks good come review time.

"Going green is not just good for the planet. It's good for the pocketbook, too," writes Bach. "The good news is that there are a number of easy steps that each of us can take right now.

"Show the boss how green improvements can make a positive impact on the office - and increase the bottom line - and you could ultimately earn yourself a reputation for innovation. You might even get a raise."

To help save the environment - and save your company some money - Bach offers the following tips:

- Flip the switch. Turn off the lights in that empty conference room, flip the switch in your office when you leave for the night and turn off your computer when you're done for the day. If everyone took these tiny steps, American companies would save $4.3 billion in energy costs.

- Find the right settings. Enable your computer's power-saving settings. Setting your computer to hibernate, sleep mode or standby will conserve as much as 80 percent of the energy that your computer and monitor would normally use.

- Think before you print. Do you print every important email that hits your in box? You're not alone. The average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper per year, resulting in 4 million tons of paper hitting landfills. We live in the digital age; it's time to start thinking digitally. Ask yourself if you really need a hardcopy. Chances are you could just as easily deal with the digital document. You'll save your employer 6 cents for every sheet of paper that stays in the printer tray.

- If you must print, print responsibly. Print on both sides of the paper. Purchase remanufactured ink cartridges and recycled paper - look for a high amount of post-consumer content. When you're done with a document, recycle it. Be sure to recycle those empty ink cartridges, as well.

- Look into e-cycling. Computers, monitors, fax machines, printers and cell phones can contain toxic materials like mercury, lead and PVC. Visit E-cycling Central ( to learn how to recycle that unused and outdated office equipment.

- Limit the lattes. If you simply can't skip your morning mocha, bring a reusable travel mug. Each year, Americans drink 14.4 billion cups of coffee served in disposable containers, which wastes enough petrochemical energy to heat 8,300 homes a year. And, chances are, most of those cups end up in landfills.

- Drink from the faucet. Ditch your daily bottled water habit. Switch to a reusable water bottle that you fill from the tap and you could save $500 a year. As a nation we spend $15 billion on bottled water. The amount of oil required to produce all those plastic bottles could run 100,000 cars for a year.

- Bring your lunch to work. Pass on the fast food. It's bad for your health, bad for your wealth and bad for the environment. If you spend $9 a day on a takeout lunch, you'll save more than $2,000 a year by brown-bagging it. Plus, you'll help put a dent in the 1.8 million tons of trash generated by takeout-food packaging each year in the U.S. - trash that ultimately ends up in landfills. Instead, bring your lunch from home in a reusable lunch bag or cooler.

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