We’re always interested in achieving a more sustainable practice in our office. To this end, we’ve found a useful infographic that quantifies office-related emissions (viewable at the link below). This resource contains good suggestions for reducing your workplace impact.
For example, office emissions can be cut by at least 60% depending on your choice of equipment, insulation, and lighting. We’ve switched from halogen to LED bulbs in our office. Each bulb has an estimated life of 45,000 hours; if kept burning for a full work day, this translates into 21.6 years of use, so with luck we’ll never have to buy bulbs again! We use track lighting with directed spotlights for critical areas only, and work by natural light as much as possible. It goes without saying that we shut off lights when not in use.
As is common in the design world, we use Macs for most of our computing needs (with one PC on the side). Two of us use laptops exclusively, while the other two use both a desktop and a laptop. Most sources agree that laptops are more efficient than desktops; an article at Macworld.com says that according to their in house research, laptops are more efficient if plugged in fully-charged.
Some additional energy reductions are realized by reducing the brightness on the computer screen; using sleep mode on printers and computers when not in use; and turning all components off at the end of the day. We also tend to unplug small appliances in order to avoid “vampire” power use. Our hot water heater is permanently turned off — for washing hands or dishes, soap and scrubbing are more critical than hot water.
On average, office workers use 10,000 sheets of paper per year PER PERSON, equivalent to two full cartons of paper. To cut way back on this we send and receive very little snail mail, preferring electronic billing, news, etc. We’ve stopped printing file copies of most invoices, statements or other documents in favour of electronic storage. Internally, we share electronic files, and send external correspondence, invoices and statements by email. Any paper that we do use ends up shredded and/or recycled.
This saves both paper and printer ink. We learned that 60-80% of ink/toner cartridges end up in landfill. To lend perspective: in the U.S., this is equivalent to 9600 kgs of aluminum, 40 tons of plastic, and 1 million litres of oil. Our local recycling depot doesn’t accept loose (ie, non-installed) ink or toner cartridges. For these, there are recycling programs at Staples, Island Ink Jet, and most major ink cartridge producers. However, reducing use (and waste) is still the best strategy.
Other items that we’ve addressed include a ban on paper towels; only cloth is used in the kitchen or bathroom. Paper cups are replaced by reusable mugs and glasses (the average office worker uses 500 disposable cups per year); and those cups are filled with fair trade coffee purchased from our friends at World Community. We’ve reduced our kitchen garbage via composting – in the absence of a municipal composting program, this is collected and done at home by one of our staff. We’re still trying to reduce packaging waste and energy costs associated with transportation. Buying in bulk, shopping local, and using bicycle couriers as much as possible are all good options.
There’s more to come as we evolve and fine-tune our carbon-reduction strategies. In the meantime, we’ve summarized some of what we’ve learned in this chart: Week 3 carbon footprint table. We welcome any suggestions from others who have found ways to ‘green’ their office via comments here.
For the infographic on greening your office, go to http://www.visualistan.com/2014/10/greenhab-office-cut-carbon-footprint-of-your-office.html.