4 Ways to Turn Your Office Green This Earth Day

By Art Langer,
business.com writer
Apr 19, 2019
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Follow these simple tips to make your office more environmentally conscious.

On April 22, 192 countries celebrate Earth Day in an annual push to activate the environmental protection movement worldwide. As consumers become more socially driven, corporations are challenged to address ways to make their operations more sustainable and eco-friendly. On Earth Day, companies should evaluate their sustainability efforts and ensure their offices are environmentally conscious. Besides benefiting the environment, many eco-friendly actions are good for business by reducing company spend and fostering office camaraderie and teamwork.

Here are four green tips for celebrating Earth Day.

1. Ban plastics and paper once and for all.

At 25.9%, paper and paperboard products represent the largest portion of all waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. You can stop using and purchasing these products. Digitize company operations by electronically sending clients contracts and notices, moving to a digital document management system, and communicating via email. Invest in permanent silverware, cups and plates for the office kitchen, as well as a water cooler, which will be cost-effective in the long run. If you must purchase single-use items, go for biodegradable or compostable options. They don't cost much more than plastic when purchased in bulk – an Amazon search showed compostable cups cost just $45 for 500 cups.

You may be wondering, "Isn't our recycling program enough?" While admirable, recycling programs are a reactionary Band-Aid solution to our dependency on single-use materials, and many experts doubt that the cost is worth the effort. Their usefulness is particularly questioned now that China has been refusing imported recyclables from the U.S. since 2018, meaning a lot of these items head to landfills anyway. A stronger solution is to end the need for recycling.

2. Host a meatless Earth Day office party.

After burning fossil fuels, meat consumption is the second-biggest threat to the environment. Animals raised for food account for more than half of our water usage in the U.S. Host a veggie-centric lunch at the office. The lunch will surely please your vegetarian employees and raise awareness of the impact meat consumption has on our environment. Take it a step further and host Meatless Monday lunches once a month to keep the momentum going beyond Earth Day.

3. Put your employees to work for the environment.

Make Earth Day a designated day for volunteer time off (VTO), or paid time off for volunteering, specifically for eco-friendly activities like planting a tree or cleaning up litter. Employees can pursue their preference independently, or the office can organize a group activity. Partner with organizations like the Arbor Day Foundation, which has tree-planting programs in urban and rural areas. Research shows that socially conscious companies tend to have better employee engagement and retention. Employees who work for purpose-oriented companies have 20% longer tenure than those that do not.

4. Add a plant or two to spruce up the office.

Foster employees' deeper connection with Mother Nature by adding a few plants to the office – certain types do just fine even in low light. Studies show that spending time near plants makes people happier and healthier, reduces mental fatigue, and aids concentration. Plus, the plants will purify the office air, doing a small part in offsetting company's carbon footprint.

Becoming environmentally friendly doesn't need to involve a financial investment or business overhaul. A few minor changes can make a world of a difference and have a positive impact on the atmosphere within companies' offices.

Dr. Arthur M. Langer is the Chairman and Founder of Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a nonprofit committed to developing the skills of untapped talent from underserved and veteran communities through partnerships with organizations dedicated to diversifying their workforce. He is Professor of Professional Practice, Director of the Center for Technology Management, and Academic Director of the M.S. in Technology Management programs at Columbia University. He serves on the faculty of the Department of Organization and Leadership at the Graduate School of Education (Teachers College). Dr. Langer consults with corporations and universities on information technology, staff development, management transformation, and curriculum development around the globe. Prior to joining the full-time faculty at Columbia University, Dr. Langer was Executive Director of Computer Support Services at Coopers and Lybrand, General Manager and Partner of Software Plus, and President of Macco Software.
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