Let’s face it, a lot of offices don’t exactly have the freshest vibe. You thought that one coworker was toxic? Between the dust bunnies hiding behind your monitor, the fluorescent lights, and the ancient carpeting, the conditions in work sites leave a lot to be desired—both for your health, and the health of the planet.
Unless you’re a Machiavellian mastermind, you probably don’t have much control over your coworkers—but one thing you can manipulate is your own workspace. In fact, there are tons of ways to improve the environmental footprint of your own little corner of the office planet. Check it out below!
Kick the Plastic Spoon Habit
If your company provides plasticware and paper plates, it can be easy enough to use them and toss them without thinking about it. According to the EPA, plastics comprise about 13 percent of our national trash—and a lot of that is made up of single-use plastic products, like silverware. Stash a reusable spoon, fork, and knife in your desk drawer, and you’ll feel a lot less guilty about enjoying your morning yogurt.
Green Up the Air Quality in Your Space
When you hear the words “air pollution,” you’re probably picturing a smoggy city skyline studded with smokestacks and skyscrapers. But indoor air quality is just as important, and in offices, pollutants like particulate matter, VOCs, radon, and carbon monoxide lower overall health, and may even affect your productivity and work performance. Air quality experts usually recommend improving a building’s ventilation and filtration systems, but chances are you don’t have much say over that. However, that doesn’t mean you have to submit to unacceptable air quality standards. Several common houseplants actually double as natural air purifiers, and species like spider plants and ficuses do well in offices that receive little natural light. That’s one way to green up your desk—literally!
Your Computer Deserves a Break, Too
Headed out for a cup of coffee? Don’t forget to switch off your monitor! Same thing for meetings, lunch breaks, and any other commitments that call you away from your desk. In fact, the Department of Energy says to save energy, you should turn off the monitor any time you plan on stepping away for longer than 20 minutes—and power down completely if you’ll be gone for two or more hours. If your office allows you to work from home occasionally, you have even more options. Purchase a laptop that’s rated for efficiency through the EPA’s Energy-Star program, and you’ll not only green up your work area, you could save up to $30 a year on electricity.
Nix the Paper Towels
They may be helping you clean your hands, but paper towels are dirty business. According to the New York Times, paper towels could make up to 40 percent of office waste. Even if your office has installed a hand dryer, the environmental benefits are only significant if the powers that be in your company opt for an energy-efficient model. To be sure of your hand towel footprint, simply shake your hands dry to avoid unnecessary waste. You could also bring your own towel from home and take it with you to the restroom. Not excited about carrying around a wet towel? A number of fast-drying eco-friendly paper towels are available for purchase, meant to be placed in your bag and used to eliminate paper towel waste. No one can question your commitment to the environment then!