It's easy being green: 11 ways to reduce your company's environmental impact

Do you feel compelled to “go green,” but don’t know where to start? Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin, authors of True Green @ Work: 100 Ways You Can Make the Environment Your Business, can provide some insight. Here are their top 11 suggestions that businesses can implement to reduce their impact on the environment.

For the individual employee:

  1. Use your own coffee mug. Even though you’ll need to wash it, you’ll reduce energy and waste from using throw-away paper, foam or plastic cups. After 3,000 uses, the mug uses 30 times less solid waste and causes 60 times less air pollution than equivalent drinks in throw-away cups.
  2. Reduce paper usage. Paper can take up to 70 percent of office waste. Employees can reduce the amount of paper they use by ensuring documents are formatted to avoid printing extra pages and by printing double-sided.
  3. Use your computer’s sleep mode. If your computer is on during meetings and lunch breaks, you’re using unnecessary power. Go to the system preferences on your work computer to set your computer to go into sleep mode after 10 minutes or so of inactivity. Sleep mode uses less than 5 percent of the computer’s full-power mode.
  4. Better yet, turn the computer off. Turning the computer off at night will greatly reduce the energy used and pollutants released from your computer. The tale that says leaving your computer on uses less electricity is a myth, according to the authors. A computer left on all day each year will use 1,000 megawatts of electricity and release more than a ton of carbon emissions each year. If you’ll be out during extended times during the day, consider turning your computer off. 
  5. Keep an indoor plant on your desk. A plant will help filter the air by absorbing pollutants and computer radiation. It will also restore oxygen levels and keep the area cooler. Another benefit? They can help prevent you from catching germs from your co-workers.

For office managers/executives:

  1. Use recycled paper in the office. Recycled paper uses up to 90 percent less water and half the energy needed to make regular paper. Currently only about 10 percent of the paper used in the country’s offices is recycled.
  2. Provide good kitchen facilities. A kitchen that allows employees to bring food from home helps workers save on meals and reduces solid waste.
  3. Invest in real utensils to avoid the trash created by disposable cups, plates and utensils.
  4. Create a more casual dress code. Men’s suits can be tough in warmer climates and can create the need to boost air conditioning bills and energy used. Provide a closet where employees can keep more formal clothing.
  5. Create flex-time or tele-commuting scheduling possibilities. Allowing employees to work at home or drive outside of morning and evening rush hours will save fuel and reduce greenhouse gases.
  6. Send electronic documents to shareholders. Correspondence with shareholders can use a lot of paper. Send electronic documents whenever possible.
  7. Eliminate unnecessary lighting. Make sure lights are turned out when employees leave for the day or put them on motion sensors.


Kim McKay is co-founder and deputy chairwoman of “Clean Up Australia and Clean up the World.” Jenny Bonnin is a director of “Clean Up Australia and Clean up the World.”

Adapted from Virginia Business Magazine’s 4/1/08 article entitled “Easy Ways to Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Impact.”


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