Easy Ways You Can Be More Eco-Friendly at Work

We spend so much of our time at work, but even if you try to maintain eco-friendly habits in your personal life, you might find it tricky to remember when you’re on the job. After all, you can’t control everything about your workplace. If the powers that be have decided to keep the air conditioning on full-tilt year-round, or use bleached paper towels in the bathroom, you probably can’t singlehandedly change it.

However, there are easy things you can do to make an impact while you’re at work. If you are mindful about the choices you do have control over, your good habits can carry over from your personal life into your work life.

On the way to work

  • Bike, carpool or ride the bus—or get there any way that isn’t you in your car alone.

At your desk

  • Print as little as possible, and encourage your colleagues to share documents via Google Drive, Dropbox or whatever program you use.

Illustration of man being eco-friendly by shutting off the lights. pbs rewire

Don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave a conference room. Credit: Rewire

“In the digital age we live in this may sound crazy, but many people do still print out documents to share around the office that are totally unnecessary,” Bank My Cell CEO Ash Turner said.

  • Don’t throw away ink cartridges.

“Various stores and other places will take your old ink cartridges, refill them and resell them,” said Izolda Trakhtenberg, a former environmental educator for NASA now known as the “Earth Lady.”

  • Turn on your workplace devices’ automatic power saving functions. Better yet, unplug your stuff when you leave work, or use a smart power strip that does the work for you.

“Most devices will control their own battery and CPU speeds automatically,” Turner said. “However, if you… go into the settings and change the power saving and sleep mode you can reduce your phantom energy consumption further. … You will not only prolong the device’s lifespan, you can also slash electricity consumption in personal computers after hours or regulate dormant conference room devices.”

  • Keep scrap paper to use for notes. One-sided printoffs can be fashioned into eco-friendly notebooks.

“Put aside all paper that can still serve a purpose,” said Marieta Ivanova, a home improvement expert and blogger for Fantastic Services Brisbane. “This could refer to envelopes, sticky notes, any old documents. They can be used for making a quick daily work schedule or just for notes.”

  • Turn off the lights when you leave a conference room.
  • Don’t automatically throw everything away.

“Do some research on what your company recycles and then recycle as much as you can,” Trakhtenberg said. “Most places recycle paper, but there are other products that can be recycled that we don’t think about. Different areas have different requirements and a little research will get you the information on what you can do.”

  • Get some desk plants.

“Plants would improve your workplace by cleaning the air, reducing the noise and stress levels,”  said Diana Vicheva, a content marketing executive at ExpoBeds who said she’s taken actions to be more Earth-friendly at work.

In the break room

  • Bring your lunch.

“Instead of ordering takeout, bring your own lunch in a reusable container or go to a nearby restaurant,” Vicheva said. “Imagine how much paper and plastic waste is generated every day by lunch deliveries to offices in the form of bags, boxes, single-use forks and spoons, napkins, condiment packets, menus and so on.”

  • Use reusable plates, bowls and utensils at lunch instead of grabbing plastic ones from the break room. And supply your own coffee mug, too.

“You’ll save tons of paper or styrofoam,” Trakhtenberg said. “Plus, you’ll have the fun of seeing your favorite mug at the office, which will brighten your day at the same time.”

In the bathroom

  • Don’t leave the faucet on when you wash your hands.

“Turn the water on. Wet your hands. Turn off the faucet while you’re soaping up. Then, turn it back on again to rinse,” Trakhtenberg said. “For every minute you leave the faucet on, eight gallons of good, clean water run down the sink.”

  • If you don’t have a hand dryer, go easy on the paper towels.

“After you wash, shake your hands several times over the sink to get rid of excess water,” Trakhtenberg said. “Then, when you pump the paper towel dispenser, do only two pumps and then use the paper that comes out to dry your hands. You don’t need nearly as much paper as you think you do in order to dry your hands fully.”

Share your new eco-friendly habits

“If you see the benefits of your eco-friendly habits, then don’t hesitate to share them with your colleagues,” Ivanova said. “Why not even make a presentation to show results and also introduce improvements you can all do around the office to make it more environmental-friendly. When everyone’s involved, the results will quickly follow.”

This story is part of our partnership between Peril and Promise and Rewire. Rewire is a public media national initiative that offers smart, fresh, original, thought-provoking content that inspires individuals to make their lives better. It’s for people who are getting started in their adult lives—people who want to grow, thrive and build a better world.