Have you ever seen lights on at night in a building downtown? It’s easy to forget to turn the switch when you leave work at night — you may be tired, nearly blind from staring at a computer all day, and it simply slips your mind. It’s a small thing, but these type of acts can waste a lot of energy.

Offices are wasting a lot of energy by not implementing sustainable practices, and there is no reason for it. It’s relatively easy to save energy within the workplace. The first step is to use electricity more responsibly. Changing the way office buildings uses this type of energy could have a substantial effect on climate change.

A report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2012 says that electricity has doubled in use over the last 30 years, from 2,200 trillion Btu of electricity in 1979 to 4,421 Btu in 2012 in commercial buildings in North America. Commercial buildings that use the most electricity include office spaces, education buildings, warehouse and storage and mercantile buildings. Space heating is cited as the primary user of electricity in the buildings.

Using eco-equipment that automatically shuts off overnight, on weekends, and on holidays is an can reduce usage dramatically. Or try motion sensor lighting in areas that aren’t occupied most of the time. There are several eco-friendly companies popping up that offer automatic shut-off plug-ins and lighting systems. By making these small changes it can also save companies money on their wasted electricity bills, not to mention it will reduce the number of carbon credits in the upcoming cap and trade arrangement.

Employing green standards in the construction of the building can help eliminate the need to make changes later.  LEED Green buildings and other certification systems are expensive initially, but have substantial savings over time in energy savings and water savings. Solar and geothermal energy usage are common forms of renewable energy that eradicate the need for electricity, helping the planet and your pockets.

Sustainable practices in the office itself include recycling. Make sure to have recycling boxes in all areas of the office, and if you work in an office that doesn’t recycle, take initiative! Go paperless in the workplace if possible as well. Use electronic receipts and invest in online cloud storage to keep files safe instead of printing documents. Cloud storage is a secure online data system that stores files through safe internet programs. Additionally, upcycling old computers by donating them is a good way to contribute positively to society and be eco-friendly.

In the office kitchen, use a compost and create a local rooftop garden with the left-over goodies if you are feeling creative. It is also a fun way to give employees access to fresh and local food and a place to relax during lunch breaks. Green walls are becoming popular in LEED buildings and can help air quality in the office. Eradicate plastic from the kitchen and put reusable cups and forks in the area. Passing out re-usable bags to co-workers helps create an incentive to stay eco-positive and send a green message in the workplace.

If every office space, education facility, warehouse and mercantile area went green, it could change the world. Starting small and leading a recycling campaign or doing something larger like funding geothermal heating could start a green workplace revolution. Go to work and give it a try! Isn’t it worth trying to save the planet one step at a time?


Kaeleigh Phillips is Women's Post sustainability coordinator. She specializes in writing about issues relating to the environment, including renewable energy, cycling, and vegan recipes!

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