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5 Big Ways to Make Your Office Green
5 Big Ways to Make Your Office Green
October 26, 2009 by Emily McClendon
These days, "green business" has become the new bandwagon to jump on. You can't turn on the news without seeing a segment about tips to make your business more environmentally friendly. However, many of these tips are small in scale or worse - completely ineffective. Here, I have provided 5 steps that will have a large effect on the environmental sustainability of your business and improve the economical efficiency of your company. Implementing these steps at an enterprise level, as you would a core business concept, can dramatically change the environmental impact of your entire corporation.
1.) Create Rooftop Green Spaces
These spaces are often the first step a company might take to begin to make a building more eco-friendly. They are relatively easy to convert and are available at various levels of investment. Rooftop green spaces are generally categorized three ways: intensive, semi-intensive, and extensive. Intensive, although the most costly due to the frequent inclusion of irrigation systems, is also the most effective at conferring benefits. These roofs are constructed by adding a thick layer of growing substance to the roof, and then planting shallow rooting, drought resistant plants. Depending on the strength of the roof, and the quality of watering systems, trees and shrubs can also be planted.
Economically, the primary benefit of a green roof is in lowering HVAC costs. Most roofs are flat and covered with a combination of materials that reflect U.V. rays from the sun back into the atmosphere and absorb heat, passing it on to the building. This is particularly important in the summer when there is a higher level of U.V. radiation. By converting the roof into green space, most of the U.V. rays are absorbed and not transferred to the building. In the winter, most buildings have the opposite problem with heat being accidently released from the building and radiating into the environment. The added insulation from the ground cover prevents the heat radiating from the top of the building from dissipating. An additional fringe benefit is that the rooftop spaces can often be designed to allow people to enjoy a relaxing break in an oasis in the city.
2.) Use Alternative Energy
If possible, using renewable energy is the best option in terms of both economic benefits and environmental protection. It's completely free after the initial installation costs, and the solar panels or wind harnessing machines can even be incorporated into your newly developed green space. On the downside, despite recent improvements, there are still impediments to using renewable energy. These include difficulty in transport, environmental obstacles to gathering energy, and high initial investment costs. Microturbines are a great option for companies that are pursuing sustainable energy, but don't yet have the budget to invest in completely clean energy. Some of the major benefits of microturbines are their ability to burn waste fuels while producing lower emissions than is traditional of fossil fuels, their capacity to provide energy at all times, and their use of existing systems to transport the energy produced. When debating whether to transition to environmentally friendly energy sources, you should always remember the economic advantage of drastically reduced energy costs in addition to environmental conservation.
3.) Get Rid of Your Printer: Stop Paper Waste
One of the biggest wastes, both environmentally and economically, is the excessive use of paper products in the office. Between faxes, emails, memos, handbooks and reports, the amount of paper used in an office can really add up. Although recycling is a great option, and should always be implemented, a better solution is to prevent the use of paper products in the first place. The first step is to eliminate your printer. By utilizing enterprise wide management systems, including secure email and messaging and managed file transfer, there is little need to print out copies for meetings or fax notices to employees. The incorporation of electronic reports and memos is another easy step to take, and actually increases timeliness and accuracy in the office. Economically, switching to electronic systems can create savings that quickly add up. Producing paper copies not only involves direct expenses, such as paper and ink, but also incidental costs such as time spent waiting for printing, time spent between mailing and delivery, and time spent correcting and editing paper copies.
4.) Remove "Vampire" Electricity Waste
Vampire electricity use is electricity used by electronics when they are in standby mode. It is estimated that 5-15% of all energy usage is consumed during night time hours, after employees have left the office. Although this seems like a relatively small percentage, when taken as a whole, the amount of energy and money wasted can really add up. One of the easiest ways to prevent this waste is through power strips. Many offices already use power strips due to the large number of electronics in the office, but forget one crucial step: turning the power strip off at night. Two other great options are master control switches that control all the power to a room, and, although more costly up front, energy efficient computers that result in lowered energy bills.
Finally, in order for your energy conservation policies to be implemented, it's important that you educate your employees. Many employees feel differently about conserving energy at work because the costs aren't directly visible to them. Let your employees know that you need them to partner with you for your efforts to be effective.
5.) Water Reservoirs/Preservation
Water reservoirs are an often overlooked way to make your business more environmentally friendly. Particularly in drought areas, water cisterns are a great way to utilize water that would otherwise be runoff. The scale to which you invest in a water cistern is adjustable. Simple systems can be developed to catch runoff and be used for non-potable water, or more complex systems can be developed to allow collected water to be distributed to restrooms and kitchens, where water use should be minimized by low flow appliances. Water cisterns are a great investment that both lower current water bills and provide the potential for complete independence from the current water system.
Transitioning your business into an environmentally sustainable company can benefit you on many levels. Economically, going green involves an initial investment that in many cases pays for itself. Sustainable systems allow independence from paying for services you can now offer yourself. Beyond the civic responsibility to preserve the environment, being classified as a green business is a marketable undertaking that may present a variety of new business opportunities. Whether your motivations are business related, environmental, or a mix of the two, implementing green solutions in your operation is well worth the investment.