It’s Earth Day: Easy Ways to Be Green at Work

Going Green in the Office

I’ve always been a little crunchy: my family composts, we have a rain barrel, I use my own bags at the grocery store and I’m a fanatic about turning off the lights. Working from home for the past seven years as enabled me to reduce my carbon footprint, too.  Every little bit counts, but I can’t help feeling that there’s more that I can do.

Did you know? The very first Earth Day was organized in 1971. For more than 40 years, there’s been a concerted effort to help our environment and save the planet. Yet, a study by Office Depot states that 33% of business professionals use energy efficient lights, 48% recycle bottles and only 24% print double-sided copies. Yes, there’s definitely more that we all can do.


  • Use the cloud. Using cloud computing services at work can help reduce the need to download software, thereby freeing up memory on your Mac or PC. It reduces the increased need for servers and data centers, and eventually reduces carbon emissions and energy costs.
  • Stop printing.  Before you print, ask yourself, “Do I need to print this?” Chances are that you don’t need to print an entire email, white paper or PDF file. Only print what you need and when you do, consider using the “economical” setting, two pages per side and both sides of the paper.
  • Power down.  At the end of each day, power down your desktop, laptop, copier, fax and anything else that’s plugged in. Another easy idea is to unplug your cell phone or tablet charger once the device is ready to go. In my home office, I unplug everything on Friday afternoons, including my radio and lamp, and plug them back in on Monday mornings.
  • Turn off lights. When you leave your office or cubicle, turn off your lights. If you’re the last one to leave a conference room, turn off the lights. If you’re lucky enough to have a window, open the blinds and savor the natural light.
  • Bring dishes. This is such an easy way to reduce waste, yet, I am surprised by how many people do not use reusable coffee mugs or water bottles. Do you use a plastic fork every day? Why not bring a dinner fork from home? Have an extra mug in your cupboard? Take it to work!
  • Commute differently. While walking work is not a plausible alternative for many of us, taking public transportation or carpooling may be. Bike to Work Day is an annual event in the United States and Canada that promotes biking as an alternative to driving to work. If you do have to drive, Recyclebank advises “to stretch your gas mileage by keeping your highway speed at 55 MPH and avoiding rapid acceleration and braking.”
  • Recycle supplies. Big box office supply stores like Office Depot and Staples offer ink and toner cartridge recycling. Both offer $2 back in program rewards for each  recycled cartridge (up to 10 per month) and will help you recycle your old electronics, too. My company hosts eCycling days where employees can bring in their old technology to be recycled. Consider checking with your employer to see if a similar program is offered near you.


Do you have a “green team” at the office? Is there someone who would be great at recycling champion? Chances are there is at least one employee who would be great at leading your company down a greener path. Encourage him or her to put together a recycling plan and then seek volunteers to launch earth-friendly efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle.

To help get you started, here are three sites filled with valuable information: Recycle Now, WikiHow and RecycleBank. Please do me a favor? Don’t print this article. Just bookmark or email it to yourself to refer to later.

Reducing your carbon footprint at work

How does your office encourage recycling at work? What simple measures are you taking to go green? What are you doing to help reduce your carbon footprint?

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Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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