Office paper recycling

Small and large businesses alike can be great places for instituting greener practices that will benefit the health of employees, the community and the environment in general. Here are a few simple ways to "go green" at your place of business:

1. Ditch the Styrofoam cups. Styrofoam cups, bowls and plates can be eliminated in the workplace by replacing them with biodegradable alternatives that can be purchased in bulk. Encourage employees to use ceramic coffee mugs that can be washed after each use, instead of using several Styrofoam cups throughout the day.

2. Install a water filter in the kitchen or lunch room area to encourage drinking tap water instead of bottled water. The number of plastic water bottles that can be reduced will most likely be in the hundreds if not thousands per month, depending on the size of your company.

3. Replace toxic commercial cleaning supplies. If you use a janitorial service, ask them to switch to biodegradable cleaning products. Companies such as Simple Green make industrial strength cleaning products that are as effective as the traditional ones, but without the harmful chemicals that affect the air quality of the workplace.

4. Upgrade your kitchen area or lunch rooms with energy-efficient appliances. Not only is it a greener practice, it can also save on your monthly electric bill.

5. Recycle used paper. Put recycling bins in copy rooms, common work areas, break rooms and conference rooms to encourage employees to recycle standard size copy or print paper as well as larger size paper that is often used for plotters or large-scale print jobs. Sensitive or proprietary materials can be shredded and recycled as well.

6. Discontinue multiple subscriptions of newspapers, trade journals and magazines. Often times, companies receive several copies per month of a particular periodical, each addressed to a different company employee that may or may not still be employed with the company. The amount of junk mail and unread issues of weekly or monthly magazines and trade journals can be staggering. Much of this waste can be reduced simply by polling the employees to find out which periodicals they can do without.

7. Encourage carpooling. Carpool programs and incentives in mid-size and larger companies have been used for at least a decade or more. If your company is not fully utilizing a previously established carpool program, or your company has yet to incorporate one, now is the time to get it up and running. Small companies can also institute a carpool program. For example, working with other businesses in the same industrial or commercial complex can increase the number of available carpool participants.

8. Keep the HVAC systems maintained regularly. Changing out the filters on your office heating or cooling systems can greatly improve the indoor air quality, which in turn improves the health of your employees.

9. Check the plumbing. Leaky faucets and pipes or toilets that constantly run can use hundreds of gallons of water unnecessarily each month. Install low-flow plumbing wherever possible, and be sure to install aerators on bathroom and kitchen sinks to reduce water consumption.

10. Reduce printing. Consider instead creating scanned or PDF versions of documents that reside on an accessible network drive, which can be printed on an as-needed basis. Add the following sentence to your e-mail signature: "Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail." It's a great way to encourage your employees as well as your customers to reduce the amount of paper that is generally used for printing.

A collective eco-friendly attitude can go a long way in successfully implementing greener practices at work.