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Going Green: At Work

We spend 90% of our lives inside buildings, so healthy indoors are essential to our health and wellbeing. Most people mistakenly think that the air inside their building is cleaner than the outside air, but this is rarely the case. Unhealthy offices cost more than health. Productivity losses of up to 6% have been identified in staff working in buildings where air quality is poor.

Employers, building owners, product manufacturers, engineers, architects and builders are increasingly at risk from litigation arising from claims based on indoor air pollution.

The traditional way we run offices is not sustainable. Here are some tips on how your office can go green, improving the state of the environment and staff well-being.

Every improvement that you make is important but the decisions that your workplace make when purchasing new equipment or fitting out a work space are those that have the biggest and longer lasting impacts. Where possible, we′ve listed tips in order of their importance in reducing your impact on the environment.

  • Improve building features
  • Reduce waste
  • Improve air quality
  • Conserve energy

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Top 10 Easiest Ways to Green-up Your Office

Do you want to talk more than just gossip next time you′re at the water cooler or in the office kitchen... Think green. If enough of us make a few eco-friendly changes in our daily routines (and spread the word around the office), it′ll add up to big benefits for you, your colleagues, and believe it or not, will give your business greener credentials.

Here′s the top 10 of simple habits to help the environment from your office:

1. Make Your Computers Sleep.

Set computers to enter sleep mode after 5 min of idle time. When you′re in a meeting, wandering round the office, out to lunch or other outings you′ll be saving energy. And don′t forget to shut them down at night there′s a lot of energy being used even when sleeping. How often have you heard your computer fan switch on for no good reason, and you haven′t been using your computer.

2. Reduce Residual Energy Bills.

Ensure all your office equipment is plugged into a power strip easily accessible so you can turn them all off at night, or when you′re not using them. Most equipment uses some redidual energy even when it is is a ′sleep′ mode. Switching them off will stop your devices from generating phantom electricity loads when they′re off but plugged in. Imagine how much is energy is wasted in an office full of ′sleeping′ electronics over night and at weekends.

Suggest that lights be converted to energy saving light bulbs for the environmental impact and the potential cost saving to the company. Many offices leave lights on overnight. Suggest these could be switched off for the extra energy saving.

Many offices have thermostatically controlled heating and cooling. Suggest temperatures be set 1 or 2 degrees cooler in winter and 1 or 2 degrees warmer in summer. Staff won′t notice the slight difference in indoor temperature but your environmental impact will be greatly reduced - and so will the company′s power bills!

3. Kick the Bottled Water Habit.

Each year, 1.5 million barrels of oil go to making plastic water bottles used in the United States. Less than 25% are recycled. Choose a reusable bottle instead, or reuse one you bought previously...or at least try to convince your company to use a dispenser (but beware wasting plastic cups!).

4. Purify with Plants.

Studies have shown that the presence of an indoor plant can help to increase your happiness and well-being through your working day.

It doesn′t take a forest to clean the air in your office, only about one plant for every 10 square yards. Plants like philodendrons and peace lilies absorb airborne pollutants, keeping the air you breathe clean and clear. It also makes for a more pleasant environment to work in, and people do actually notice the difference in the more pleasant smell of the air around them. Believe it or not it is still more popular to inhale more oxygen than carbon dioxide too.

And don′t forget you can always take your own plants to work.

5. Watch out for convenient (bad) chemicals.

Think twice when you decide to give your keyboard a clean. Standard keyboard cleaners contain chemicals you definitely don′t want to inhale. Just one 10-oz can of aerosol cleaner has the same greenhouse gas creating effect as burning 100 gallons of gas. Wise-up when you clean up. First turn your keyboard upside down, give it a little shake to remove the ends of the potatoe chips you had last month. Use a piece of adhesive tape between the keys to get rid of stubborn pieces. Use a soap & water damp cloth to run over the keys....but please don′t throw water at it.

6. Paperless Office?

We all know by now that it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to have a paperless office. But how much paper do we consume unneccessarily. Raise your personal bar as to when you need a paper copy of something from your computer. Unless you′re printing something superimportant, save ink and paper by tracking your changes in electronic documents. If you really do need to print something, consider printingt double-sided, or re-use the other side of already printed paper.

Re-use any paper from photocopiers, print-outs or reports. Cut scrap paper in half and then staple pieces together to form notepads or scribble pads. Once both sides have been used, put the left over pieces into the shredding recycler. Donate any cardboard boxes to a local school for use in arts and crafts.

7. Stop the Snail Mail clutter.

You probably already do it at home for convenience, but reduce your paper clutter at the office too by banking and paying bills online. Phone companies alone use 23,280 tons of paper per year just to bill U.S. residential customers for single lines of service. It also has the added bonus of not having to pick up so much garbage from the mail man.

8. Re-inking.

Are you happy knowing that an Ink cartridge can take up to 450 years to decompose? Recycle your old ones, and next time you buy, go with refilled cartridges, which work just like conventional ones and cost up to 75% less. If you′ve got a big office, this can soon mount up both in savings and environmental health. Recycling points specifically for ink cartridges are beginning to appear. Many comuter shops now also have a disposal bin for the public.

9. Your Lunch Pack.

Convenience is the norm when bagging up your self-made lunch. Plastic ′Baggies′ are piling up in landfills at a frightening rate, And the and toxins in plastic aren′t getting any less. Reduce waste by taking your lunch in reusable, safe containers. And check the type of plastic they′re made from. Some plastics, like PVC (#3), polystyrene (#6), and polycarbonate (#7) contain hormone disruptors or other nasty chemicals. Stay healthy with plastics #1, 2, 4 or 5. For more information on plastic identifications see Plastics Identification Code

10. Climb Your Way to Green.

A surefire way to avoid awkward elevator silences and save energy? Take the stairs instead. No surprises here: Climbing stairs burns up to 10 times more calories than standing in an elevator. And, depending on type, capacity, and usage, an elevator′s yearly energy usage can equal the energy used to power seven homes annually. We could all do with a little more exercise, and this is one your doctor would prescribe.


The Plastics Identification Code continues to be one of the most successful and enduring Product Stewardship programs run by industry. The simple, effective "1 to 7" numbering system identifies the resin composition of plastic containers (and other items intended for recycling). This voluntary coding system has been a key element in the successful collection, recovery and management of used plastics in Australia.

The coding system was launched in 1988 by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in the United States and was introduced to Australia in 1990. In 2001, PACIA recognised that the guidance material for using the symbols needed updating to meet the changing needs of the marketplace and a review of the Plastics Coding System was undertaken with funding from EcoRecycle.

Click here to view the "PACIA review of the Plastics Coding System"