How Green is Your Home Office?

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If you’re lucky enough to work from home, you’re already doing your part to be green — reducing transportation impacts by not commuting.  Of course if you’d like to be even more environmentally-friendly, there are plenty of other things you can do. 

By saving energy, we reduce the amount of dirty fossil fuels burned at power plants to generate electricity.  This reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.  Here’s a list of easy things to do:

  • Change burned out, standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).  CFLs use about 75% less energy and last 10 times longer!  There’s a CFL for almost every type of light fixture.  Plus, CFLs throw off much less heat therefore reducing the need for air conditioning.
  • Plug in all of your office equipment (computers, printers, fax machines, copiers, calculators, etc.) into a surge protector.  Not only will this extend the life of these devices, but it makes it quick and easy to turn off everything when the workday is over.  Don’t forget to turn off the lights too.
  • A common misconception is that screen savers reduce energy use by monitors, but they do not.  Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning off monitors is always the better energy-saving strategy.
  • Unplug cell phone and other chargers when not needed, as these gadgets continue to use “phantom” power even when they are not charging.
  • When it’s time for a new computer, consider purchasing a laptop as they consume much less energy.  Look for the Energy Star label to save even more power (50-90% less energy than standard models!).  Energy Star rated copiers, printers, fax machines, and power adapters for small electronic devices, are now easy to find too.
  • Opt to use the ceiling fan (or window fans) instead of air conditioning (central air or window units) to significantly reduce your electric bills during the summer.
  • Plant trees outside your south- or west-facing office window to beautify your surroundings and provide shade in warmer months.  Another way to reduce cooling costs is to keep blinds/shades closed during the hottest part of the day to block out sunlight.

Using paper products wisely lessens the burden on our natural resources.

  • Purchase office paper, filing & storage products, and even pencils, made with recycled content.
  • Recycle paper.
  • Don’t print documents or emails unless absolutely necessary.
  • Pay bills and do your banking online to eliminate the need for paper statements and mailings.
  • Print business cards and promotional materials on recycled-content paper printed with soy-based inks.

Other sustainable strategies:

  • Recycle cell phones and spent rechargeable batteries.  Visit www.rbrc.org to find retail locations that accept these items.
  • Refill or recycle inkjet or toner cartridges.
  • If in need of a new printer, purchase one that uses individual ink cartridges so you don’t have to replace the whole thing even if just one color is used up.
  • If you need to brighten up your home office, why not give it a fresh coat of paint.  Try non-toxic or low/no VOC paints to maintain good indoor air quality.
  • Remember that pressed wood products (shelving, desks, etc.) typically contain urea formaldehyde and off-gas which compromises your indoor air quality.  Sustainably-harvested solid wood products are better as long as they are not sealed with harsh chemical-based finishes.

Be sure to donate unwanted office equipment and supplies to local organizations, or find out when household hazardous waste collections will be in your region so that proper recycling can be done.  Dell and Goodwill have teamed up in some areas to take and recycle unwanted household computer equipment (any brands).  You can enter your zip code at Reconnect to see drop-off locations near you.  Computers and other office equipment contain hazardous substances such as cadmium, lead and mercury, so it is important not to just throw them away.  Plus, the plastic, glass and metal parts can be recycled.

Tag(s): Energy, Greening the Office, Money Saving

Comments

4 Responses to “How Green is Your Home Office?”

  1. Genergize on August 12th, 2009 11:23 pm

    Great tips! I plan to use some of them, like using fans instead of air conditioning. Not only will you save money, you will save energy too! Thanks for the great info here!

  2. Lucas on August 13th, 2009 12:40 pm

    Great article with great tips, you can take it a bit further though with another alternative to air conditioning; it’s earth and wallet friendly.

  3. Michele on August 13th, 2009 6:08 pm

    Thanks for the tips! We live in FL where no air conditioning is not an option, but instead we have turned to geothermal air conditioning. While investing in a geothermal unit is initially more expensive than a traditional system, the annual savings on energy bills more than compensates for the initial output and you can usually expect full payback in three to five years. With efficiency ratings at least three times higher than other heating and cooling systems it is estimated that you can save between 30 to 70% on heating and cooling costs. Plus, you can receive up to a 30% tax credit!

  4. hinkley on August 14th, 2009 1:16 pm

    These are all very helpful, thank you! I must add one little tip though. Using a fan instead of AC is always great, but you don’t have to give up the AC to be environmnetally friendly. Geothermal AC is just as effective as the avergage HVAC system, but it’s 3-4 times more efficient. And the cost of the system is actually cheaper in the long run because of the tax credit and reduced energy bills. Just a thought…

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