Implementing Sustainable Practices in Your Office

By Elizabeth Myer

I try to lead a sustainable lifestyle: I recycle paper, glass and plastic products both at home and at work. I changed out all the bulbs in my apartment to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and I walk, run or cycle whenever I have the chance. Even though I am mindful of my personal carbon footprint, the reality is that I spend the majority of my time each week holed up in my cubicle tweeting, “facebooking”, and blogging all about the environment behind the glare of a computer screen. I recently stopped to think about what the 9-5 crew can do at the office to be more sustainable and came up with a few simple suggestions.

EPA has a variety of programs and incentives for its employees with regard to public transportation. For starters, we have a ride-share program, where carpooling is encouraged. If your office has yet to implement a ride-share program, try forming an inter-office carpooling initiative where the best parking spots are given to those who participate. Some companies use the web, intranet, email servers or even basic bulletin boards to garner interest in/organize carpools.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to bike to the office, try peddling to work. Many local EPA employees bike to the office on a daily basis and often find that their commute is shorter and more enjoyable then the alternative. Promote cycling to work by offering employees secure bike storage facilities and possibly even financial incentives (such as a monthly stipend) for cycling repairs/basic maintenance. Of course, another sustainable alternative to biking to work is to take public transportation, which is always a more favorable substitute to driving. If you can swing it, you may even try asking your boss if you can work from home on occasion. (TIP: If this practice is not commonplace at your office, take initiative by creating a template that employees fill out in order to work from home. The manager and employee should agree upon and sign off on the proposed tasks to be completed in advance, so no one feels taken advantage of.)

Finally, if you are unable to utilize public transportation and face a long daily commute to your office, there’s one practice that is always feasible, no matter where you work: That is, composting! Instead of throwing all leftover food, tea bags, and coffee grounds into the trash, set up a composting system to prevent these organic materials from going to the landfill. Think you lack the space to compost? You’ll change your mind after you check out the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s Indoor Worm Composting seminars. Not a New Yorker? No problem! These guys also provide directions on how to make your own indoor composting bin using red worms.

Do you work in a “green” office space? If so, share your experiences with us in the comments section.

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