Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

11 Easy Ways to Go Green at Work (Without Putting in That Much Effort)

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If I asked you if you believed we should treat our planet better, you’d probably agree. Yet, if I asked how you’re participating in this on a daily basis, you’d probably give me a blank stare. And if not that, you’d tell me you just can’t give up certain luxuries.

That’s a completely normal response. But going green doesn’t require you to give up everything that makes you happy and productive—you don’t have to stop showering, or eating, or overall living and working comfortably (out of respect for everyone you work with, please shower).

In fact, we know plenty of little things you can do in and around your office today to be a better environmentalist and advocate for our planet. So one’s bound to fit into your busy schedule.

1. Recycle!

You may already do this, and that’s awesome! But the majority of us are pretty lazy when it comes down to actually doing it—but it’s silly to avoid doing something that saves us energy, space, and water, and conserves resources.

So, get educated on what you can and can’t recycle (for help, look here), and the best way to dispose of your trash—then, actually do it.

And, if your office doesn’t provide recycling containers, shoot your office manager or boss an email asking if there’s a way to get some. By doing your part (and your part might just be sending one measly email), you’re making the earth a better place.

This alone can have a huge effect (to your health, too!)—transportation accounts for a large chunk of all greenhouse gas emissions, and according to The Union of Concerned Scientists, cars alone contribute to nearly 1/5 of the total US emissions.

So, if the weather’s nice and you’re in walking distance (and it’s safe), trade out your car for your own feet. If that’s in no way an option, team up with co-workers who live nearby and carpool. It doesn’t have to be every day, but once or twice a week could make all the difference!

3. Invest in Tupperware

Fun fact: As of 2014, 50% of business waste is some form of paper.

Another fun fact: The term “brown-bagging” doesn’t actually have to include a brown bag. And, if you want to be environmentally friendly, I suggest investing in reusable containers—or, at least a cool lunchbox.

If you’re a big fan of jotting down notes in meetings, don’t be afraid to reuse sheets of paper—seriously, just flip the paper over or rip off blank sheets from half-used notebooks. Your notes won’t be any less readable.

5. Or, Go Paperless

Nowadays, you really don’t need to print much. So, if your office tends to use a lot of paper for unnecessary means (like printing out PowerPoint presentations for everyone in a room), suggest switching to paperless meetings; or at least printing double-sided to waste less—because, as you’d guess, it saves 50% of paper costs.

6. Say No to Plastic Utensils

Every time you just “grab something quick for lunch,” turn down the restaurant’s offer of plastic utensils and instead keep your own cutlery from home at your desk.

Why, you ask? A very small percentage of plastic supplies can actually be recycled, so you’re basically creating more waste every time you use them.

Going for a coffee date? Bring your own mug and ask the server to fill it instead of using a paper cup (at some places, like Starbucks, you get a discount for doing this!)

8. Share Helpful Reminders

Whether it’s pasting a note by the light switch to remind people to turn them off, or emailing out instructions on how to print double-sided, educate your office and make it easy for them to make smart choices.

Don’t have the authority to do so? Talk with your manager about ways you can create these initiatives. That email might look something like this:

I’m very inspired by Earth Day, and was wondering if our office was working on any initiatives to be more environmentally friendly? I’d love to participate if so, or start the discussion if there isn’t something in the works yet. I already have a few ideas in mind that will barely cost anything!

9. Power Down

You may not have known this, but our devices consume tons of energy, even when were not using them—about “50 large (500-megawatt) powerplants’ worth of electricity” a year, according to a study by the NRDC.

So, unplug your charger when you don’t need it, and put your computer on sleep or off mode when you’re not at your desk. Super small adjustments—such as lowering your screen brightness, reducing the amount of tabs you have open, or even downsizing how many applications you use—can also save power.

Seriously, adding a plant on your desk not only makes it more appealing to work at, but it also absorbs pollutants and emits oxygen (and makes you more productive).

11. Be Mindful of Your Own Habits

Finally, be mindful of what your actions do to the environment. Whether it’s how much paper, plastic, or water you use or how many office pens you go through, you have the ability to help the planet simply by reducing your own intake or switching out bad habits for better ones (Hint: look above for ideas).

How are you going to celebrate Earth Day? Got any great sustainability tips? Let us know on Twitter @TheMuse!