1) Ask employees to turn off their computers when they are away from work. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, users can save energy by turning off monitors that won’t be used for 20 minutes and CPUs that won’t be used for two hours. In case you’re wondering, computers with the very best power-down features still use 30 percent of the power that they use when in normal operation.
2) Pay employees a living wage. Much attention has been paid of late to fair trade issues, which are couched almost exclusively in terms of international commerce, but the basic tenants are applicable to domestic workers as well. By paying employees well enough that they can afford to live, employers will lower attrition rates and improve productivity, thereby recovering a portion of the additional cost. The Society for Human Resource Management has a turnover cost calculator that may help employers determine how much they could save by decreasing attrition.
3) Ban bottled water at work. Plastic water bottles are the epitome of waste. Enticing people to buy bottled water might just be the greatest marketing coup of all time. Do you realize that water costs $5.33 per gallon when purchased in 12 oz. bottles priced at $0.50 each? And we think gasoline is expensive! The worst part is that bottled water is often less pure than tap water. If employees complain about chlorine taste in water, install a filter on your tap.
4) Ban space heaters at work. Although employees may be tempted to use electric space heaters to keep warm, they are a bad idea for several reasons. They are often left on when offices are vacant and may be used to raise the temperature above what is really needed. Furthermore, they use 1,500 watts of electricity, making them prone to overloading standard 15-amp circuits. And they are a common cause of fires. Consider issuing fleeces with corporate logos to workers to help them keep warm.
5) Encourage recycling. Many communities have single-stream recycling available for residences, but still lack recycling for commercial properties. Nonetheless, recycling generally saves money because it can reduce dumpster tipping fees by an amount greater than the cost of having recycling hauled away. Try placing a recycling bin next to every trash can in your workplace and explain why it’s important to make the effort. Recycling one 12 oz. aluminum can saves enough electricity to power a TV for three hours.
6) Consider allowing flexible work schedules. By allowing employees to vary their work hours, employers can benefit in many ways. Higher employee morale will increase creativity and productivity. By avoiding the peak rush hours, employees’ commuting costs may be reduced and their quality of life improved. Often employees granted flex time will be better able to balance their work and personal lives, leading to better attendance and fewer distractions at work.
7) Offer healthier snacks to employees. Consider substituting several healthy choices in snack vending machines. Typical snacks are great for taste buds and horrible for the rest of the human body. They are full of simple sugars, salt and cholesterol. Try replacing the least popular items with nuts, dried fruits and trans-fat-free, whole-grain crackers.
8) Hold virtual meetings. Airline travel is the least energy-efficient form of transportation, yet it is often used by business travelers. Often business representatives fly to distant cities simply to attend a meeting. Now that free, internet-based video conferencing tools, including Skype, have evolved to a point where the meeting experience is quite satisfactory, it makes less sense to travel. Save time, money and the environment by staying put more often.
9) Inspire your customers with incentives. Offer discounts to clients who have demonstrated green achievements. Programs of this sort have a two-fold benefit; they position the sponsoring company as a leader in sustainability, and it inspires customers to go out and do good things.
10) Say no to polystyrene. Every year, Americans throw away 25 billion polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups. Benzene, a known carcinogen, is used to make Styrofoam. When stored or heated, Styrofoam may leach the possible human carcinogen styrene into foods, according to www.ehow.com. Most polystyrene products end up in landfills where they will never decompose. Many firms are establishing their facilities as polystyrene-free zones where cups, lunch trays, packing peanuts and plates are banned. Alternatives to Styrofoam include paper food containers and biodegradable eating utensils made from corn and sugar.
Happy New Year!
This article first appeared on www.GreenBusinessMatters.com.