Go Green in Your Home Office

Many large corporations and small businesses are making the effort to go green; part of these new policies include more flexible telecommuting. Working from home can reduce pollution and landfill waste, when workers are not driving in and packing their lunches. However, this shifts most of the green responsibility to the shoulders of each individual worker. There are several opportunities to "go green" at the home office -- here are a few of the best and simplest to choose from. Start with small changes that will add up to a big difference.

Paper Usage

Paper can still be wasted at home. Chances are e-statements and online bill paying are second nature for the household bills, but now consider the same for the office bills and statements. Switch all fax items to email attachments, print on both sides of the paper, and use one-sided documents for extra scrap paper, eliminating the need for sticky pads and extra notepaper.

 

Use recycled printer paper and close the recycling loop by keeping a recycle bin next to the desk. If shredding paper is just the cost of doing business, save the shreds and use them as packaging in place of Styrofoam packing peanuts.

Take it a step further and purchase all business prints such as business cards, flyers, and brochures from a green printer. They offer the same quality product but use recycled/compostable paper with soy-based inks to prevent further pollution. All of these options will decrease the home office carbon footprint and office supply costs.

Equipment

When outfitting the home office, choose Energy Star or Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tools (EPEAT) appliances. Energy Star ensures the equipment is energy efficient and meets minimum guidelines for power usage. EPEAT certifies that equipment is made from recycled/sustainable materials and that the manufacturing has minimal impact on the environment.

When replacing older equipment, don't just throw the used items into the nearest landfill. Donate it to a local library, childcare center, or goodwill for someone else to use. Most often, equipment donations are also tax deductible.

Use rechargeable batteries whenever possible and recycle the old. The same can be said for refillable ink cartridges. Both are often cheaper than name brand products and batteries as well as empty ink cartridges can be recycled at most office supply stores if they are not returnable to the company they were purchased from.

Furniture

Garage sales and thrift stores were the first true furniture recyclers. Shop the neighborhood yard sale and used furniture stores for items that might need a little TLC but are still in working order. Not only will this reduce initial set-up costs, but it will keep a usable piece of furniture from rotting away in a landfill. Some items might require refinishing or at least a little cleaning, but this is just one more excuse to get outdoors. If it's hard to find that perfect piece, consider crafting it out of several pieces such as a re-purposed door tacked onto two short filing cabinets.

If new furniture is a must, choose items that were produced sustainably and that can be recycled when no longer in use. For instance, Herman Miller, Steelcase, and Wilkhahn are just a few of the companies that provide eco-friendly furniture for the home office. Stay away from items made of particle board as these emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Another option is to include items with a Cradle to Cradle certification that are made from sustainable sources, are intended for eventual recycling, and are made from renewable resources. Cradle to Cradle also certifies cleaning products that are safe for home use. Consider making a switch to extend the green from the in-house office to the rest of the home.

Energy Use

Energy will be an ongoing expenditure for the new home office. Traditionally, houses stand empty while the family is away at school and work. Now someone will be home at all times. To curb some of this cost, treat the house like an office building.

Install timers on the water heater and thermostat. Although someone is home now, there really is no reason to have hot water throughout the day. Set the timer for when everyone is most likely to be done showering and plan for any daytime housework to be done with cold water. This will cut back on the use of electricity, natural gas, propane, or whatever source is used for the water heater, saving both money and emissions.

A timer on the thermostat will mean choosing a livable temperature for the homeworker all day. During the winter months 68 degrees is a safe temperature for the house structure, but is might not be very comfortable. So, consider dialing it down two or three degrees to see how it feels all day long. Again, set the timer to turn down (or up during the summer) the thermostat whenever most of the habitants are gone. Then throw on a sweater or open a window according to the season.

Having a timer for both devices is an easy installation process and will prevent the temptations of a midday hot shower or playing with the temperature gauge at will. Just a few degrees difference on either device will cut back on costs. Both options will save dollars, energy, and emissions.

Next, put all office electronics on a power strip that can be shut off with a flick of the switch. It is easy to leave printers, laptops, and other electronic devices plugged in. Unfortunately, they will still suck power from the grid. These so-called vampire electronics do not need to be plugged in all the time. Using a power strip will bring them back up together and will keep the beckoning lights of the devices from drawing the home worker's attention from family life. Choose set office hours and stick to them whenever possible. When the work day is done, hit the switch and refrain from looking back.

Choose a home office space that allows in plenty of natural daylight. If there are not large windows available, consider installing tubular sky lighting to shine spotlights of natural light onto the work area. Daylight has been shown to improve moods and therefore productivity in workers who spend most of the day in front of a computer.

Even all-glass rooms will need the assistance of a lamp or light fixture every now and then. Again, choose options that are energy efficient and that will spot-light the work area to prevent eye strain. Equip every light source with compact fluorescent light bulbs for long-lasting quality lighting that's also energy efficient. They are more costly than incandescent bulbs, but last much longer and require less electricity to power them up.

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