“Going green” has become such a buzz phrase du jour. But sometimes you can’t help but wonder if people are just talking about the environment or if they’re actually working to improve it.
For years many companies have put recycling bins in their break rooms for employees to dispose their soda cans and daily newspapers in. For a lot of workplaces, environmental concerns ended there, but at least it was something.
Thanks to recent media and political attention on global warming, as well as scientific advancements that make going green easier, companies and their employees have changed the way they do business.
More than soda cans
Companies have gone beyond just recycling aluminum cans and old faxes and are looking for new opportunities for environmental responsibility.
Take for example, Borrego Solar, which produces solar electric systems. It’s a business that not only reduces carbon footprints through its products, it also does so within the company itself.
As you would expect, the company’s offices run on solar energy. The production warehouse is just as involved in the company’s environmental concerns; it recycles every material possible, including the packaging used for the solar panels, scrap metal and used wires. For every tree that Borrego is forced to cut down during the installation of a solar system, it plants 25. The desktops in the company’s recently remodeled offices are made of natural wood and the rest of the desks are made from all recycled material, making each desk 99 percent recyclable.
“It’s very important that Borrego Solar not only talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to being green,” says Mike Hall, the company’s president. In addition to responding to employee demand for green measures in the office, the company also realizes its efforts are good for business. “When potential customers do their research on a solar design and installation company they want to work with, many want to support the team that is actually green and not just selling a green product.”
Borrego has the right idea, says Gail S. Bower, president of Bower & Co. Consulting. By making sure it practices what it preaches, Borrego Solar is preserving its reputation as a green company. “Businesses that say one thing but whose employees do another will quickly have a mess on their hands,” she warns.
How work is going green
As employers continue to recognize the importance of going green, both from an environmental and business standpoint, they have found new ways to save energy. Here are a few ways they’re doing it:
- Architecture firm LPA Inc. relegates some of its garbage to an in-house worm habitat that produces compost, which employees can use for their own personal gardening.
- SCA, a personal hygiene product company, holds employee giveaways of environmentally friendly products, plants trees in order to offset the carbon footprint of its employees’ air travel, and uses paper products made entirely of recycled material.
- Technology company Compellent incorporates green initiatives into its Minnesota headquarters. It uses glass panels and low-walled cubicles in 90 percent of employee workspaces to let in more daylight and use less electricity.
What can I do?
Not every business has the ability to take extensive strides in an effort to go green. Even if you don’t have access to a worm habitat or a desk made of recyclable materials, you can still do your part to reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some tips to help you go green at work:
- If telecommuting is an option, work from home as much as possible in order to reduce car pollution, suggests Kevin Green, executive director of the Clean Air Campaign. He also recommends carpooling to the office if you live near a co-worker or walking or biking if you live close enough to the office.
- When you step away from your desk, whether for a lunch break or for the day, turn off the light at your desk.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs in your desk lamps because they save energy but produce just as much light as incandescent bulbs while having a longer life span.
- Ask your supervisor if you can switch to refillable ink cartridges for the printer.
- Print only documents that you must have hard copies of and, when possible, print on both sides of the paper.
- If you don’t already have recycle bins for plastics, aluminum and paper, find out how to have them put in the office.
- Start taking a reusable beverage container for your morning coffee and water instead of using disposable cups or bottles.
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.