by Lisa Thompson

Not all of us have the skills or background to work in a green career. That doesn’t mean we can’t do our part for the environment. There are simple things both you and your employer can do to be greener.


Reduce energy

Energy consumption can be a significant expense for businesses. And, while you can’t completely eliminate your energy needs, there are a few easy ways businesses can lower their bills:


  • Program your copiers, printers, and computers to power down into “standby” or “sleep” mode when they’ve been idle for more than 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Switch to ENERGY STAR-qualified computers and office equipment.
  • Rework your office space to maximize natural light.
  • Switch to more efficient light bulbs.
  • Use a programmable thermostat to control your heating and cooling.
  • Designate someone to turn off copy machines and other office equipment at the end of the work day.
  • Turn off conference room lights when meetings are over.
  • Encourage everyone to turn off office lights and task lighting when they leave the office.
  • Turn off your computer (unless they’re backed-up overnight) and monitor when you leave the office. Encourage your co-workers to do the same.


If you are curious about careers in the energy efficiency industry, check out the industry’s career pathways.


Reduce waste

Office waste is generally out of sight and out of mind. But it not only fills up landfills. It also affects a business’ bottom-line. Encourage your employees or co-workers to:


  • Print on both sides of paper to reduce paper waste. If possible, program office copiers and printers to do this automatically.
  • Eliminate fax cover sheets. If possible, install software so faxes can be sent directly from the computer.
  • Save copies of important documents on the computer rather than printing them out.
  • Use e-mail instead of paper memos.
  • Route one copy of documents and reports rather than printing copies for each person. Or circulate them electronically.
  • Proofread documents on the computer before printing them out.
  • Avoid printing out e-mail messages and other documents.
  • E-mail meeting agendas rather than printing out copies.
  • Bring lunch from home to reduce lunchroom and restaurant waste.


Learn how to become a paper-less office.


Reuse resources

Another way to reduce waste is to reuse materials and supplies rather than buying new. Many office supplies can be reused over and over again, including binders, folders, hanging files, paper clips, rubber bands, interoffice mail folders, and so on. Remanufactured office equipment may be a good option as well. Corrugated boxes, packing peanuts, and other shipping materials can also be reused for outgoing shipments. You can even use paper printed on one-sided for printing drafts or for note paper. Bring your lunch in a reusable container and use a coffee mug or reusable water bottle instead of paper cups and disposable plastic bottles. One way to streamline your reuse efforts is to create a reuse station for office supplies.



There will always be some things you can’t reuse, but that doesn’t mean they’re trash. Many office materials can be recycled, including paper, aluminum, glass, plastic, and cardboard. Shipping pallets are also recyclable (and sometimes reusable!).  Many toner cartridges can be recycled too. The key to recycling at work is to make sure everyone knows what can be recycled and how to do it. It’s helpful to have properly-labeled recycling receptacles in central locations throughout the office as well as paper bins at individual desks. Learn how to set-up a recycling program at work.


Buy Green

When you need to replace items or purchase more office supplies, consider recycled items first. Nowadays, recycled office products are plentiful and often don’t cost much more than non-recycled products. Buying green goes beyond simply recycled paper, paperclips, and toner cartridges. Even pens can be made from recycled plastic or biodegradable materials. Better yet, buy pen refills rather than replacing the entire pen. Use a stapleless stapler. Replace your lunchroom and bathroom supplies with more eco-friendly counterparts. Consider setting up a green purchasing program.



For decades, “reduce, reuse, recycle” has been the mantra of the environmental movement. But at its core, it’s all about rethinking the way you do things—little things and big things—in the hope of finding better and greener solutions. And if it helps your bottom-line, all the better.


2 thoughts on “Greening Your Employee Footprint

  1. A lot of it is about the little things, since not all of us can afford hybrid cars or super efficient appliances, air conditioners, or furnaces (let alone build a green home from the ground up). Creating a space for a simple recycling center at home is a good start. And it doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. Thinking ahead is key too. When my ancient laser printed died, I recycled it and specifically looked for a replacement that could print on both sides and where used toner cartridges could be returned to the manufacturer at no cost. I also keep paper already printed on one side in the manual-feed tray so I can print drafts easily and quickly. I sympathize with your apartment recycling issue. I briefly lived in an apartment in Kansas with no recycling of any kind. Like you, I committed myself to loading up my car and hauling all of it to a recycling center. These days, I recycle almost 2/3rds of my total “garbage”. And, contrary to the nay-sayers, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort once you develop a system for (and a habit of) recycling.


  2. I agree.  I think that being 'green' is a lifestyle choice.  We can be green in so many ways, not just at our jobs.  I like the emphasis that you put on being green at any job.  As a current student, I feel that I waste so much paper for notes that ends up being mostly tossed at the end of the term.  Our apartment doesn't have paper recycling, but I need to make an effort to BRING it somewhere that recycles!  I am talking piles of paper.  I also reuse some of it for my kids to do artwork on.  I have debated not printing off notes,just looking at them on the computer, but have debated about my studying ability on the computer.


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