Green Your Workspace with These 12 Simple Tips from NSF International
Sustainability Experts Offer Advice on Protecting the Environment While at Work
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In recognition of Earth Day on April 22, NSF International, a public health and safety organization, has developed a list of 12 ways to be greener at work. The tips are designed to help workers make more environmentally conscious choices while on the job.
“Americans are becoming increasingly aware of how their everyday actions impact the environment,” said Cheryl Luptowski, Public Information Officer for NSF International. “Consumers turn to us for advice on how to go green at home, but many don’t realize that in the U.S., office buildings consume almost as much energy as residential buildings.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that office buildings spend $15.8 billion per year on energy. To help workers reduce their environmental footprint in easy-to-implement ways, NSF International suggests these 12 tips for a greener office:
- Green Your Air. Plants do more than just pretty up your work space. They can also absorb indoor air pollution and increase the flow of oxygen and can help prevent "Sick Building Syndrome" -- a condition where office decor, carpeting and furniture can release odors or fumes into the air that can cause illnesses such as upper-respiratory colds, allergies and eye infections. When possible, encourage your office manager to buy sustainable office furniture and carpeting to keep your indoor air cleaner.
- Use Green Cleaning Supplies. When cleaning your desk, choose products that are certified for “green cleaning.” These products will still be hard on germs but easy on the environment.
- Drink Smart. The Natural Resource Defense Council suggests coffee itself is less sustainable than the coffee pot. Look for coffee that is organic, shade grown and fair traded. Using stainless steel filters rather than paper filters, unplugging the pot when not in use, and bringing reusable mugs and glasses to work will also cut down on waste.
- Bring Your Lunch. Bringing lunch to work in reusable containers is more sustainable for the environment and your wallet. If your workplace has a cafeteria, encourage the use of washable trays, dishes and utensils rather than disposable versions. If you order out, ask the vendor to package your food in recyclable containers and forgo the plastic utensils and plates unless they are BPI Certified to fully degrade in a composting facility. Consider walking to the location to pick up your order rather than having it delivered.
- Don’t Be a Paper Pusher. The Sierra Club estimates that the average U.S. office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year. Instead of printing out copies of important documents or agendas for meetings, save those documents on a shared drive and pull them up for everyone to view collectively.
- Revamp Your To-Do List. If you prefer to write out daily lists and cross items off as completed, you can make this method more sustainable by writing them on a smartphone, computer or even a dry erase board, which allows you to organize your tasks without harming trees. You can even purchase refillable dry erase markers.
- Reduce over Reuse. Recycling office paper is good, but reducing the amount of paper waste altogether is an even better move because it cuts down on the amount of material that needs to be collected, transported and processed. If you’re not ready to ditch the printouts completely, use recycled paper. Producing recycled paper uses 55 percent less water compared to virgin paper and it uses 60-70 percent less energy to produce than paper from virgin pulp.
- Adjust Your Print Settings. Color printing generally uses more ink, so print in black and white when you can or in draft mode to conserve even more ink. Reducing your margin and font settings to fit more text on a single page will help save paper. Also, change your default print settings to duplex or double-sided.
- Use Paperclips Instead of Staples. Paper clips are sustainable by design. Many today are produced from recycled materials or materials such as traditional plain aluminum that are readily recyclable. Make sure to recycle your paper clips when you have exhausted their use and reuse them if people leave them in meetings.
- Forget the Screen Saver. Screen savers use excess energy when you are away from your desk so removing them is a simple way to save energy. Change your screen settings to “hibernate” or “sleep” when you’re away from your computer for more than 10 minutes.
- Avoid Hidden Power Usage. Many devices have "standby" settings that draw power —sometimes as much as 15 or 20 watts — even when they're turned off. To make sure that your computer, monitor, printer, photocopy machine and other office equipment are completely off, pull the plug rather than flipping the switch before heading out the door. To make it easier, try plugging hardware into a power strip with an on/off switch (or a smart power strip) so the whole desktop setup can be turned off at once.
- Turn Out the Lights. When you leave your office for meetings, shut all lights off, including task lighting or overhead lights. It’s surprising how much energy can be saved by this small gesture.
"Making small changes to your everyday routine can add up in a big way. Over the last decade, Americans have 'greened' their homes by recycling, using sustainable cleaners and using energy efficient appliances," said Luptowski. "Now it’s time for us to look at how we can change our offices to be more environmentally friendly also."
For additional information on NSF International’s sustainability offerings and more great green living tips, visit NSF International Sustainability Tips.
About NSF International: NSF International (www.nsf.org) has been testing and certifying products for safety, health and the environment for nearly 70 years. As an independent, public health and safety organization, NSF is committed to protecting and improving human health on a global scale. NSF is working hard to protect families by testing and certifying thousands of consumer goods each year, including kitchen products and appliances, cleaners, dietary and sport supplements, bottled water, toys, pool and spa equipment, water treatment systems, plumbing fixtures, and many other products used in homes every day. Look for the NSF Mark on products you purchase. Through its National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF develops sustainability standards for a wide array of products, including office furniture, carpet, building and constructions materials and water quality, developing the first American standard for residential gray water treatment systems.
Operating in more than 150 countries, NSF is committed to protecting families worldwide and is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment. In addition, NSF also and certifies organic and gluten free food and personal care products through Quality Assurance International (QAI).
Contact: Greta Houlahan