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Eco-Offices

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An outdoor boardroom with a deep blue sky

Everyone from Google, WalMart, Nike, Barclays and HSCS international banks, to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, are going green, setting corporate examples of sustainability. Some savvy and ethical individuals like the late Anita Roddick built a multi-million dollar green empire —The Body Shop— without compromising her environmental principles.

Company Audit

Most companies begin with an energy audit to ascertain baseline energy use and to understand how much greenhouse gases the business is producing. Numerous companies are able to provide auditing services and increasingly governmental organizations are also offering free or subsidized energy audits for both businesses and homes. The U.S. DOE Buildings Energy Databook reports that buildings represent 70% of US electricity consumption. Once a company has been energy audited it is easier to find ways to reduce carbon emissions, save the company money and make the workplace healthier by implementing some of the following suggestions.

Standby power accounts for 10% of US residential power consumption, or more than $6 billion dollars annually.
—The Green Party Canada

Turn Computers Off

Turn off computers, lights and any other electrical items left in the office at night. Computers and other electronic devices left in standby or vampire mode are a major contributor to energy waste. The Green Party Canada reports standby power accounts for 10% of US residential power consumption, or more than $6 billion dollars annually.

Each computer in the office should be set to sleep mode (standby or hibernate) as a sleeping computer uses up to 80% less electricity than a computer running in normal mode. Trent University estimates an average desktop computer consumes about 120 watts of electricity; 75 watts for the monitor and the CPU consumes 45 watts. Employees may need instruction and visual reminders to turn off their computers, office lights and any other equipment when they finish their working day.

Update Old Equipment

Updating older equipment can also be helpful in achieving more energy efficiency. Gradually more offices are choosing to recycle old desktop computers and energy hungry cathode ray video display units, switching to new energy efficient LCD monitors instead. LCD monitors are also better for employee health with reduced exposure to magnetic fields and X-rays.

All electronic equipment must be properly recycled, as electronic or e-waste remains a growing problem in landfills around the world. Greenpeace International estimates globally more than 20-50 million tons of e-waste are generated each year. Discarded electronics now take up as much space in landfills as plastic packaging. By 2008, more than 2 billion personal computers will have been sold around the world.

Recycle Paper

Even though paper has been banned from landfills in many countries, North American offices continue to consume millions of tons of paper annually. 370 million tons of paper products are used each year in the world. Americans use 750 lbs of paper per person yearly; Asians use less than 100 lbs of paper per person per year. If the United States cut office paper use by just 10% it would prevent the release of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases — the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road according to The State of the Paper Industry, published by American paper watchdog group The Environmental Paper Network.

Businesses can choose to utilize office papers and supplies that are old-growth forest free and certified sustainable. In Canada, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) works to promote sustainable management of the world’s forests by certifying paper products are grown and managed in accordance with the FSC principles.

Reduce Paper Print Out

Encourage staff to reduce printing unless absolutely necessary. Many documents have an option to remove a ‘header’ or ‘cover’ page, and printing back to back on paper will significantly decrease paper use. Additionally, companies should place a small reminder on all documents, including e-mail, which reads: Please do not print this e-mail/document unless absolutely necessary. Our business is making efforts to reduce paper use and waste.

Transport

When conducting an energy audit some businesses choose to exclude staff’s carbon dioxide emissions as part of their overall greenhouse gas emissions, but employee transportation is a contributor to greenhouse gases. Within the transportation sector, the largest source of greenhouse gases is from personal vehicles, mainly cars and light-duty trucks. Businesses can therefore make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases by assisting employers in becoming less car dependent.

Employers can organize a company mini-bus route so people can car-pool and save on gasoline and parking costs. Parking spots, near the front door, should be reserved for motorcycles, scooters, electric bicycles and mopeds, encouraging employees to drive more energy efficient vehicles. Issue employees free or heavily discounted bus passes. Encourage people to walk or bicycle to work if possible– secure bike racks can be installed at the office and a shower facility should be made available for those who bike to work. A corporate membership may be purchased for a car co-op so employees have access to cars when needed for inter-city business meetings.

If every US household replaced one light bulb with an energy efficient compact fluorescent, it would be equivalent to removing a million cars from the roads.
—Energy Star Appliances

Lighting

Most conventional offices are designed so only upper level employees have access to natural lighting. The majority of employees work under unnatural lighting such as fluorescent lights. Lighting, in addition to being a great drain on electricity, is also a contributor to employees’ health and well-being. Increasingly more green businesses are redesigning their interior space to ensure employees have access to lighting in common rooms, cafeterias or lunch areas, and in meeting rooms.

Replacing energy inefficient lightening will also be a significant contribution to reducing the environment footprint of the company. Energy Star Appliances reports if every US household replaced one light bulb with an energy efficient compact fluorescent, it would be equivalent to removing a million cars from the roads.

Reduce Travel

An Aviation and Global Climate Change study, from the UK-based Friends of the Earth, found air travel is the world’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Their study indicates that the world’s 16,000 commercial jet aircraft generate more than 600 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year.

...once you've put a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere there's nothing offsetting can do to stop it changing our climate.
Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace UK


It is important for businesses to make efforts to reduce airline travel by using tele-conferencing, video-conferencing, flying economy class or as a last option, purchasing carbon offsets for their flights. If employees must fly, consider requesting they fly economy, pack lightly and avoid flying in the evening. The more people there are on the plane with higher density economy seating, with the least amount of weight, will help reduce carbon dioxide emitted per person on the flight. Purchase carbon offsets for any flights. However Charlie Kronick, head of Greenpeace's Climate and Energy Campaign UK, explains, “The truth is, once you've put a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere there's nothing offsetting can do to stop it changing our climate”.

Carbon Neutral

Organizations committing to reduce their carbon footprint often choose to purchase offsets or green energy certificates for any existing energy use or greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be reduced to zero. Carbon offsetting is not an exact science and there are a variety of companies and not-for-profits offering various methods of offsetting. Currently the highest certification for voluntary carbon offsetting standards is the Gold Standard. The Gold Standard is a Swiss based non-profit foundation that works to provide quality labels to carbon offsetting businesses and organizations. Gold Standard certified carbon-offsetting projects must adhere to the criteria of “using renewable energy or energy efficiency technologies and promote sustainable development”.

Green Energy Certificates or renewable energy certificates can be purchased to ensure any electricity your business is using comes from a renewable source. Businesses have the ability to purchase renewable energy certifications even if they do not have direct access to green energy with their local supplier. Similar to carbon offsetting, businesses can make a voluntary commitment to sustainability.

Establish Green Credentials

Establishing a charitable, or green component, of your company will provide numerous goodwill public relations’ opportunities and may actually save the company a substantial amount of money. Statistics show employees perform better for a company that appears to have their well being at heart. However, it is important to legitimately work to promote sustainability as opposed to 'greenwashing' your company’s bad habits. Employees, stockholders and customers will see through an insincere green façade.

Innovative Business

Be a business leader. Frankly all the above suggestions are great, but what the world needs is more green business leaders. Entrepreneurial individuals who are willing to structure their entire business/company around the concept of offering sustainable goods and services while doing no harm to the environment, are proven to succeed. Being business savvy is still an important component for success, but creating a sustainable company is now seen as a way to improve product and service quality, reduce risk, attract and retain employees, and enhance brand value and costumer loyalty, explains WorldChanging.com. Companies are moving the onus from saving money to earning money without destroying the earth.

Resources

City Green: http://www.citygreen.ca/
Forest Stewardship Council: http://www.fsc.org/
Gold Standard: http://www.cdmgoldstandard.org/
Greenstat: http://www.greenstat.co.uk/
Green-e: http://www.green-e.org/
Green Enterprise Toronto: http://www.greenenterprise.net/

Green Pages

The Green Stationary Store in the UK offers everything you ever wanted for a green office, from elephant poo paper, solar powered phone chargers, water powered calculators, recycled Post-It Notes, recycled scissors, and biodegradable adhesives: http://www.greenstat.co.uk/