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How to Go Green in the Workplace

Showcase that eco enthusiasm and join forces with the folks who share your office. Working as a team, you’ll be even more likely to accomplish your goal of having a Go Green workplace. So grab the bosses and the staff, sit down with some fair-trade organic snacks, and discuss ideas for establishing a Go Green office and environmentally responsible business practices.

Reduce Waste

Rather than nonchalantly dropping items into the trash bin, take a break and think about how you might limit the environmental impact. Determine if any of these products are suitable for reuse, recycling, or replacing with nondisposable versions.

The snack room offers a terrific opportunity to reduce waste. Equip the food service areas with washable plates and utensils. Encourage staffers to bring in their own mugs so they’re not tossing away plastic, foam, or paper cups.

When shopping for office products, look for items that are durable, reusable, or returnable through stores that offer take-back services. Toner cartridges are a prime example of a product that’s easily recycled. Take the used ones back to a store that collects the empties and replaces that one with a remanufactured version. Remanufactured toner cartridges work just as well as new ones and are significantly less expensive.

Another way to reduce waste is to take advantage of items already available, such as packaging supplies. Rather than tossing out shipping cartons sent to the office, reuse them. And don’t forget to save and reuse the packing material.

Green Office Supplies

Make a point to buy paper and office supplies made with recycled materials.


Using paper with recycled content for stationery, brochures, and other office documents is a great way to highlight that your business puts a priority on environmentally preferable practices. It’s available in an array of hues and styles and textures. Some recycled paper even includes flecks of color from the inks on the old paper that was recycled.

When shopping for recycled paper, note the specific amount of recycled content, which generally ranges from 30 percent to 100 percent. Opt for the 100 percent versions if possible, to reduce the demand for virgin pulp. You can also choose papers that blend recycled paper with tree-free fibers, such as sugarcane waste.

Other Office Supplies

Various other typical office products also are produced with recycled content. GreenLine Paper Company, for example, sells rulers made with a blend of recycled plastic and old blue jeans. They also sell trash bags made of 100 percent recycled content.

The Sustainable Group in Seattle, Washington, offers presentation folders with pockets among its products made with recycled material. The firm also offers custom screen printing using the client’s logo.

The accessories from Green Earth Office Supply in Redwood Estates, California, include ball-point pens made from post-consumer rubber tires and recycled plastic, paper clips made from recycled steel, lamps made from computer circuit boards, and chlorine-free telephone message pads made with 100 percent recycled content.

Set Up a Recycling Center

Make it easy for co-workers to feel good about doing the right thing for the planet by setting up bins for bottles, newspapers, and other recyclables in a handy location so workers are less tempted to toss these items in the garbage. For employees who use lots of paper, but individual paper recycling bins at each desk.

Ask the local recycling service which types of items they accept and how they want those items sorted. Label the bins accordingly.

Promote the recycling program. Provide information at staff meetings, through e-mail, and in bulletin board postings. Another tool to emphasize recycling is a customized poster. The Paper Industry Association Council offers a feature on its website that allows users to print out recycling posters customized for individual businesses.

Log on to type in the business name; and select the specific items from a list, including envelopes, cardboard, direct mail, magazines, and newspapers, that the firm wants employees to recycle. Set up the poster in the recycling area as a friendly reminder. To help get people in the recycling habit, you might start a contest to see who can contribute the most.

If the local recycling service doesn’t offer pickups at the office, ask employees to take home their own bottles and other recyclable items and add them to their residential bins.

After an office recycling program is established, ask fellow workers for their input. Determine what they like and what they don’t like; then implement their suggestions to enhance the program even further.

Office Supplies

In addition to conventional recyclables, such as glass, plastic, paper, and aluminum cans, recycling services are available for other types of office waste, including old printer cartridges. Some businesses offer take-back programs for such items. “Each cartridge reclaimed conserves, on average, the equivalent of half a gallon of oil compared to manufacturing one from scratch,” according to Office Depot, one of the businesses that accept cartridges for recycling in their stores.


For food-related businesses, recycle leftover edible products by offering it to services that provide food to people or animals. Nonedible foods might be valuable to a composting service. In some areas, recycling services are available for grease and cooking oil.


Other potential recyclables include desktops, laptops, printers, and other electronic equipment and related computer accessories, such as DVDs and disks. The equipment might be refurbished or dismantled to salvage usable parts. In some areas, old electronics are accepted in free drop-off programs run by the government or a nonprofit organization.

Check with your local municipal waste department to see whether it has a special electronic recycling program. Remember to remove hard drives from old computers or have a professional wipe clean the drives to avoid identity theft from discarded equipment.

As you can see, it’s easy, economical, and sometimes even fun to help your employers apply green office practices. And in the long run, by saving energy through recycling, reusing, and efficiency, you, your bosses, and your co-workers will be helping to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions related to your business. This, in turn, helps fight the effects of global warming.

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