The world is undoubtedly warming. The scientific community’s consensus regarding the science of global climate change is this…global warming is largely the result of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities including industrial processes, fossil fuel combustion, and changes in land use, such as deforestation.
Considering the dangers of global warming while managing your many responsibilities at the office may not be a high priority for you. Like many, you’re far too busy to wonder why the dinosaurs vanished, or worry about cleaner air. Besides, what can just one person do to help the planet?
Well, I’m as apathetic as the next guy, but then I stumbled across a recent report prepared by the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development, which details the ways in which offices can reduce resource consumption and improve environmental performance. Seems if you work in an office, you make daily decisions that are likely to affect global warming, air pollution, and other environmental issues. What’s more, the report says, decisions made in favor of a ‘greener’ office will help to cut expenses and boost your bottom line. OK, now you’ve got my attention.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting accounts for approximately 29 percent of the energy use in a typical office. By replacing outdated fixtures with those more efficient, offices can save 50 to 80 percent of their lighting energy. Newer fluorescent lighting has better color, less flicker, uses 20 percent less energy and can be operated with dimmable ballasts, allowing you to adjust the lighting to suit your needs. Desk lights using traditional light bulbs can be updated with CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, which are more efficient and much longer-lasting.
For the sake of making-a-greener-office, helping to manage the lighting can pay big benefits over time. For example, in a small office where lights are on unnecessarily just two hours a day, annual energy waste adds up to $10, an amount that would grow exponentially. Start by developing the habit to shut off the lights when leaving the room. Better yet, install occupancy sensors, which detect the presence of people in a room, and turn off the lights when there’s no one there, and back on when someone enters the room. (Besides the energy savings, it’s just plain cool…visitors to your office will be impressed!)
Office equipment accounts for 16 percent of an office’s energy use. The low-tech typewriter, fax machine and copier-furnished office of yesterday has become the hi-tech, multiple computer, networked, printer/fax/scanner/
copier model of today and it requires more energy. One of the best cost-cutting actions you can take is also the easiest. Turn it the equipment at the end of the day. Think that can’t make a difference?
A Lawrence Berkeley Lab study from 1999 estimated that one workstation (computer and monitor) left on after business hours is responsible for power plants emitting nearly one ton of CO2 (carbon dioxide) per year. If every US computer and monitor were turned off at night, the nation could shut down eight large power stations and avoid emitting 7 million tons of CO2 annually. That’s a pretty convincing reason to shut down every night, even if you believe the myth that says your computers shouldn’t be shut down. By the way, there’s another myth about how screen savers save energy…also not true.
Printers and copiers are energy hogs requiring energy all day (and night) even though used a small fraction of a time. As impatient consumers, we demand that our copiers and printers be warmed up and ready to regurgitate paper at all times, so our machines of reproduction are rarely allowed to power down. Pity. Think of the energy we could save.
And fax machines are rarely, if ever, powered down. Just don’t think of it, do we? Even worse, the paper that is wasted using these archaic little boxes must be in the millions of tons! Bet I could wallpaper the walls of the Pentagon with discarded fax cover sheets alone. The Green solution to faxing is to use your computer! There are dozens of faxing software that can be used for this purpose, which allow you to send and receive faxes from your computer. There’s even online fax programs that do it all for you… you don’t even have to use your computer’s hard drive space. Fax programs don’t just save time and energy, they save on paper.
And that leads us to the paperless office. Talked about for years, but still more hype than reality. In a nutshell, our offices produce paper. Lots of paper. According to a survey taken by the U.S. Small Business Administration, offices use nearly 1.5 pounds of paper per person per day. I’ve read where it takes 17 trees to make a ton of paper. Do the math.
The fix—use less paper — is easy, but is going to require us to change some long-standing, time-honored habits and business practices. Here’s how to use your computer to eliminate paper:
Write communications on letterhead templates in your word processing software. Incorporate an always up-to-date letterhead design on all letters, thereby eliminating outdated, leftover paper letterhead stock. Print forms and memos directly from the computer instead of using pre-printed forms. Preview database and spread sheet printouts on your screen to ensure best use of computer paper. Send and receive faxes from your computer instead of using print-outs. When using the copier, use the two-sided option for half the paper use. Use e-mail instead of memos and faxes. Printing a copy of all e-mail correspondence defeats the purpose! Transfer documents on disk or through e-mail for editing and review. Offer annual reports and major documents on disk to interested recipients. Develop an Internet web page for frequently requested information. If your business has a client list, create client folders and store client files on your computer. Think of the space you could save by removing those outdated hanging files!
But what if my computer crashes, you ask? Backup your files. Frequently. And, store those backed-up files some place other than your computer’s hard drive. I recently purchased an external hard drive… cost me under a hundred bucks, stores 250GB, (huge!), and attaches with a USB “plug and play” cable. If you prefer an online solution, there are dozens of services on the Internet now which offer online storage solutions for a monthly fee, the amount of which is contingent upon the storage space required.
Heating and cooling accounts for 39 percent of the energy used in a typical office, and here in Texas, that percentage is probably higher. As with lighting, turning your heating/cooling off when not needed is a simple way to save. An automatic setback thermostat is the most efficient way to accomplish this task. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an adjustment of just three to four degrees can produce savings of 10 percent or more.
The City of Portland’s report covered a number of other energy-saving actions, such as the use of solar shading, reflective roof coatings and insulation and weather stripping. All great suggestions, but all requiring capital investments. What I learned from their report was the number of things each of us can do on a daily basis.
As you look around your own office, take a few minutes to perform a “green office” assessment. Even if you’re not interested in the whole global warming debate, you might be interested in saving a few dollars here and there. Isn’t that worth practicing better file management on your computer and shutting off your lights at night?
On the Mark appears every Saturday. NanC Mark is the owner of TechMark Solutions, LLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.techmarksolutions.com.”