Top 10 Ways Your Business Can Go Green

Be bright about light
Artificial lighting accounts for 44 percent of the electricity use in office buildings. Turn off the lights when you’re leaving any room for 15 minutes or more and use natural light when you can. Also buy energy Star-rated light bulbs and fixtures, which use at least two-thirds less energy than regular lighting, and install timers or motion sensors that automatically shut off lights when they’re not needed.

Maximize computer efficiency
Computers in the business sector unnecessarily waste $1 billion worth of electricity a year. Turn off your computer –- and the power strip it’s plugged into – when you leave for the day. Otherwise, you’re still burning energy even if you’re not burning the midnight oil. (Check with your IT department to make sure the computer doesn’t need to be on to run backups or other maintenance.) During the day, setting your computer to go to sleep automatically during short breaks can cut energy use by 70 percent. (Remember, screen savers don’t save energy.) Also invest in energy-saving equipment and properly recycle old equipment.

Print Smarter
The average U.S. office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year. Print on both sides or use the back side of old documents for faxes, scrap paper or drafts. Avoid color printing and print in draft mode whenever feasible. Buy chlorine-free paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content and consider switching to a lighter stock of paper or alternatives made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton or kenaf. Recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy remanufactured ones. According to Office Depot, each remanufactured toner cartridge “keeps approximately 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic out of landfills … and conserves about a half gallon of oil.”

Go paperless when possible
Think before you print: could this be read or stored online instead? When you receive unwanted catalogs or junk mail, request to be removed from the mailing list before recycling the item. Post employee manuals and similar materials online, rather than distribute print copies. They’re easier to update that way too.

Ramp up your recycling
Recycle everything your company collects. Just about any kind of paper you would encounter in an office, including fax paper, envelopes, and junk mail, can be recycled. So can your old cell phone, PDA, or pager. Place recycling bins in accessible, high-traffic areas and provide clear information about what can and can not be recycled.

Close the loop
Purchase office supplies and furniture made from recycled materials.

Watch what (and how) you eat
Provide reusable dishes, silverware and glasses for your employees to use at work. Switch to Fair Trade and organic coffee and tea, and buy as much organic and local food as possible for parties and other events. Provide filtered drinking water to reduce bottled-water waste.

Rethink your travel
Take the train, bus or subway when feasible instead of a rental car when traveling on business. If you have to rent a car, some rental agencies now offer hybrids and other high-mileage vehicles. And invest in videoconferencing and other technological solutions that can reduce the amount of employee travel.

Reconsider your commute
Carpool, bike or take transit to work, and/or telecommute when possible. Encourage telecommuting (a nice perk that’s also good for the planet!) and make it easy for employees to take alternatives modes of transportation by subsidizing transit passes, offering bike parking or organizing a carpool board.

Create a healthy office environment
Use nontoxic cleaning products. Brighten up your office with plants, which absorb indoor pollution. Buy furniture, carpeting and paint that are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and won’t give off-gas toxic chemicals.

Source: The Sierra Club, www.sierraclub.org.