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Painless Changes to Green Up Your Office Routine

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Whether you work at home or at an office, there are some tactics to take for a more environmentally friendly office space. Check out these green office tips to adopt!

white desk with compute backgrounded by a bank of green plants

Green office tips for making change

It seems like every household has a home office these days, even if it’s just a computer desk tucked in the corner of the kitchen. It’s where the kids do homework, you pay the bills, and you handle incoming and outgoing mail. It’s easy to continue old habits here, just as it is in the kitchen, but look!

There are some simple steps you can take to go green in the home office. Of course there’s always the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra, but beyond that, see if you can implement any of these changes. Having an environmentally friendly office is just a matter of being aware!

Skip the bubbles

I get packages all. the. time. that frustrate me.

There are so many options for shipping that don’t involve copious amounts of plastic. It’s a simple thing: Instead of mailing or shipping items in bubble mailers or those indestructible Tyvek envelopes from the post office, switch to a more environmentally friendly option.

Envelopes that use recycled newsprint as padding or stiff cardboard mailers are a much better option for the earth than those plastic laden shippers. Of course, if you’ve received something in a bubble mailer, reusing that rather than buying a new envelope is fair game, too.

There are some simple steps you can take to transform your home office into a GREEN office. It's a simple matter of changing some bad habits.

Related: Eco-Friendly Habits that are Easy to Adopt: 66 Small Changes to Make a Big Difference

Stop junk mail

Not only is a mailbox overflowing with catalogs and junk mail a pain, it’s also an environmental waste. All that glossy paper (and oh, the fake credit cards!) wastes fuel as it makes its way to your house. And then what? We throw it away. Not at all environmentally friendly!

One of my favorite green office tips? Reduce the pile of junk mail that arrives on your doorstep! Visit the Direct Marketing Association or Catalog Choice where you can register for free and then opt out of receiving certain mailings.

Don’t make this mistake at the post office

If you toss your paper trash into a receptacle at your United States Post Office, it might be going straight to the landfill. Not all post offices recycle their paper waste due to privacy issues (mine does not). Ask; if yours doesn’t, bring the junk mail home with you and add it to your recycle bin.

Be smart about your copy paper

While not every office supply place will carry it, recycled copy paper is a winner for a green office space. Tip: You can order it online if it’s not available to you locally. You’ll just need to plan ahead a bit.

Related: The Environmentally Friendly Kitchen

batteries on a brown countertop

Switch to rechargeable batteries

Whether you’ve got kids in the house who burn through batteries at an alarming rate or you just use a few in the course of a year, it makes sense to invest in a small collection of rechargeable batteries and a charger. Single use batteries end up in the landfill once they’ve run out of juice.

Rechargeable batteries can be recharged and reused hundreds of times. Once you pop a rechargeable into the charger and plug the whole thing into the wall, you’ll have batteries ready to go in just a few hours.

We’ve had a battery charger for years. Not only does it prevent lots of waste, it prevents emergency trips to the store when our batteries die at a critical moment, and it saves us money.

Single-use batteries will run you about $6 for a 4-pack of AA batteries. Four-packs of rechargeable batteries go for about $10 each. You can get a small battery charger that works for both AA and AAA batteries for around $10. Or you can get a universal charger from Energizer that charges AA, AAA, C, D, and 9V batteries for about $30.

According to this battery guide, it takes less than a penny’s worth of electricity to recharge one battery:

Batteries just don’t store that much electricity. A typical AA alkaline holds about 3 watt-hours — about the same amount that a 100-watt light bulb uses in two minutes! One of our chargers uses 5 W when recharging four batteries at a time. That means you’d have to use it for 200 hours before using even one kilowatt-hour of electricity, which would cost you about 8.3¢ (the national average). (5 W x 200 hours = 1000 watt-hours = 1 kilowatt hour).

If you’ve been considering a charger but never quite get around to it, this is an easy change to implement. Here’s my green office tip when it comes to batteries: Start with a charger and a 4-pack each of AA and AAA rechargeable batteries. Charge them and put them into use. Then, every time another electronic device is in need of batteries, purchase a set of rechargeable batteries instead of single-use batteries. You’ll be able to slowly replace all of your disposable batteries, until your household is entirely converted over to rechargeable batteries.

white desk with compute backgrounded by a bank of green plants, office space

Power down for a green office (and lower bill!)

Instead of leaving your computer in sleep mode, turn it off. Check the copier. Does it need to be on all the time? You can use the power button to turn office equipment off, or consider unplugging completely. Electronics that are turned off but still plugged in continue to draw power.

This is certainly not a complete list of green office tips. What ideas can you offer for creating a more environmentally friendly office space? 

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

1 comment… add one
  • Isa Aug 1, 2016, 11:56 pm

    Save any paper with a blank side, from letters you get, backing/separating paper from anything you buy to order confirmations and printing failures, and use it for notes. You can also cut it into smaller pieces and keep them in a little box for any short note, as bookmarks or whatever they’re handy for.

    Watch out for nice prints and colours in adds and pamphlets or packiging and use if for crafts or wrapping parcels.

    Keep ribbons, little safety pins and decorating items that often come with new-bought clothes. You can reuse these too for crafts etc.

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