Going green at work can benefit your business in the same way that eating a healthier diet improves your health. Even small changes in your daily routine can create a business that is easier on the environment, has an improved bottom line and enjoys better client and employee relations.
Many of the changes towards more sustainable business practices are ones that don’t require spending any extra money. In fact, they will often save the business or employees money over time. “Little steps can have an impact too,” said Sweet Pea Cole, sustainability advocate at The Environmental Center in Bend.
A greener workplace can be achieved in many ways, but some of the most effective means are through saving energy, reducing toxics, managing waste and recycling, promoting sustainable commuting and making connections with community members working to build a healthier environment.
Energy costs affect every business, whether large or small. If your company owns the building it is housed in, a lot can be done by having an energy audit to determine your energy efficiency, finding ways to reduce energy costs and choosing renewable energy options.
“If you rent space,” said Cole, “you don’t always have the choice of who provides your energy.” But simple steps like turning off and unplugging computers at the end of the day to save electricity and turning thermostats down in winter and up in summer to reduce over-heating or over-cooling of office space add up over months and years, she said.
Cleaning up in the cleaning supply cupboard is a small task with immediate rewards for the environment. Many common work place products contain chemicals that can be harmful to humans, pets and the environment. And the leftovers contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients that eventually end up back in the environment.
Office spaces – as well as homes—can be cleaned with natural cleaning supplies, most of which cost far less than the so-called heavy-duty ones. Distilled white vinegar, for example, mixed with water, will clean most surfaces, including windows, counters and floors.
Waste and Recycling
Reducing waste by reusing and recycling is an easy way to save resources. Cutting down on paper usage is an important step for office spaces, of any size. Any business that uses printers can save reams of paper every month by simply asking employees to use scrap paper – that has been printed on one side but not the other – when they can, said Cole.
As with other systems that create a more sustainable workplace, establishing frameworks for reuse and recycling shouldn’t be harder if you’re doing them right, said Cole, they should be easier. “If it’s harder, you’re doing it wrong,” she said.
How employees get to and from work can have a large impact on a company’s sustainability efforts, as well as employees’ pocketbooks. Practicing sustainable commuting saves money on fuel, reduces traffic congestion and CO2 emissions, and boosts health and connections with others. Learn how to promote sustainable commuting within your business with safe, reliable and convenient options to driving alone, by partnering with Commute Options.
The Commute Options Partner (COP) program provides a tracking and rewards program for employees who use options to driving alone, such as walking, biking, carpooling, vanpooling, riding the bus and teleworking. For every 45 days tracked using an option other than driving alone, employees of COPs receive a $20 gift certificate for a variety of local businesses. Partners also receive consultation on bicycle commuter and business energy tax benefits, bike parking installation, transit options, carpool coordination and bicycle commuter safety. More at www.commuteoptions.org.
Choosing to connect with other business people, sustainability experts and environmentally-focused non-profits is a very inexpensive way to create a greener business. “It’s a choice you make rather than a bill you pay,” said Cole.
To go a step further, add your business to the Green Spot, a listing of truly green businesses in the community who have completed the required criteria for endorsement by The Environmental Center. The list of criteria and an application can be found at http://envirocenter.org.
Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information about Commute Options, contact Jeff Monson, Executive Director of Commute Options at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org.
Annissa Anderson is a freelance writer and PR consultant in Bend.