Making Your Office or Home Greener

By Melanie Chongolola-Nestor

Hello, Melanie here. I’m the account and office manager for Yikes, Inc. and one of my responsibilities is making sure that in our day-to-day operations our behaviors reflect the office’s shared beliefs of environmental altruism and sustainability.  (This is the first in a 3 part series on making your office greener.)

The YIKES office is located in a Platinum LEED certified building and is powered by 100% Renewable electricity through The Energy Cooperative. YIKES recycles, composts office waste and prints on recycled paper with soy ink. The YIKES office uses green cleaning and paper products. YIKES is also a 100% replanted office.

Your office or home may not be LEED certified, but you can still be just as green in both places. There are many levels of behavioral change that anybody can make to decrease their carbon footprint and create less waste. AND all of these behaviors can help you save money; so Mother Earth and your bottom line both get a boost.

Easiest changes

  1. Side by side trash and recycling. – recycling is a ‘matter of convenience’ for a lot of people. If there is a recyclable bottle in their hand but the only receptacle available is a trash can; guess where the bottle is going to end up? Put a recycling bin next to every trash can you have, and you will see an almost instant increase in recyclable waste and a decrease in the amount of waste headed to the landfill. In Philadelphia you can co-mingle all of your recyclables, meaning everything can go in one bin. Find out what the rules are for your city and start recycling.
  2. LED Lightbulbs – When your next lightbulb burns out, instead of using another halogen or standard bulb begin replacing them with LED bulbs. LED Lights are energy efficient, cost effective, durable, energy efficient, have a long lifespan.
    A standard 50W halogen lamp turns 90% of electricity used into heat with only 10% into light. The benefit of LED Lights are that they use only 15% of the energy a standard halogen uses, provide up to 85% of the light output and create less heat making them so cool to touch.
  3. Control the thermostat – if it’s July and the people around you are wearing sweaters, the air-conditioning temperature is set too low. If it’s December and you have people sweating in tee-shirts, then your heat is too high. Keeping your AC set to 78 degrees in the summer will keep your space cool without exerting too much demand on your system. Keeping the temp at 70 degrees in the winter will keep your place comfortable in the chilly months.The easiest option is to a programmable thermostat and set it for an ambient temperature that’s appropriate for the season.  One can program the thermostat to cycle the system off when there is nobody occupying the building.
  4. Natural light – unless you work in a location where the public has constant access to the inside of your building, open the blinds and turn off a few of the overhead lights during the day. This will lower your electric bill and help with your natural circadian rhythm.

Moderate changes

  1. Using Recycled products – Recycling all those things as your first step was easy, right? Now give the products with new life a second spin in your home or office. Nature thanks you
  2. Water filtration system – a water filtration cooler is a fixed-cost alternative to bottled water. You can have a cooler installed directly into an existing cold water supply. This will ensure that your household of business has a continuous supply of clean, refreshing water at a single set price. Almost all of the popular water cooler companies offer this option.
  3. Going paperless – this is pretty self-explanatory. Unless it is federal law that you have to keep physical copies of your paperwork turn to electronic copies for all of your needs. PDF and email invoices, pay your bills and people through your bank account and keep all of your correspondence in your email. Though people find reassurance in the old school way of tactile paper management, streaming lining to all electronic paperwork makes it easier to find documents and payment receipts with keyword searches.
  4. Cleaning chemicals and bathroom supplies – There are so many reasons why you should cut back on our chemical exposure in life, and the best place to start is you cleaning supply bucket. Here are my top reasons why you should make the switch to a natural product next time your bleach spray or bottle of ‘The Works’ runs out.
    • Healthier Home – Studies have shown that using a household cleaning spray, even as little as once a week, raises the risk of developing asthma. Snow says that using green cleaning products can reduce the chances of developing asthma, which “today is the most common chronic illness and the leading cause of school absences due to chronic illness across the country.”
    • Purer Environment – Changing to greener methods, “helps reduce pollution to our waterways and the air and it minimizes your impact on ozone depletion and global climate change with fewer smog-producing chemicals,” advises Snow. Many green products also use recyclable packaging which minimizes waste.
    • Safer Products – Conventional cleaning products pose risks such as chemical burns to the cleaner’s skin and eyes. Green cleaners aren’t corrosive and meet strict standards regarding inhalation toxicity, combustibility and skin absorption.
    • Less Expensive (I’m noticing a theme here…) – For home cleaning, vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, etc. can do the trick for pennies on the dollar, compared to buying conventional cleaning products,” Snow says. Why go out and buy products when you can use things you already have in your pantry?
    • Less Antibacterial exposure – We’re now told by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that washing with antibacterial soaps isn’t any better than regular soaps, and the American Medical Association says that the frequent use of antibacterial ingredients can promote bacterial resistance to antibiotics,” Snow says. Most green or environmentally friendly cleaning products don’t contain antibacterial agents.”

Big changes

  1. Electronic waste recycling – Old hard drives, printers and LCD screens collecting dust in your storage space. Don’t throw them out with the trash. They will not degrade over time, and will sit forever in a landfill. Instead recycle them through an electronic recycling program. Yikes, Inc. uses greendisk.com. In this service we receive a box to fill up at our own pace with anything technology related that has run its course. If you feel like you don’t have enough electronic waste. search your local listings for a community shredding event.
  2. Potted Plants – this is only as difficult as you perceive your green thumb to be. Plants offer pretty decoration and improve the air quality in your home or office. Here’s a list of 24 of the easiest plants to grow and another of the 7 best houseplants for beginners. Find one and introduce some more life into world.
  3. Composting – you don’t have to have a farm to compost. If you live in an Urban Area check out your local community gardens and see if they collect compost. You can also subscribe to a service, where it is picked up from your home. By returning your natural foodstuff byproducts to the earth, you can help create a Humus that will improve the pH and moisture level in the soil. This will create more bountiful harvest, and who doesn’t like more food.
  4. Rain Barrels – you can collect the rain runoff from your gutters and reuse it at a later date to water your garden, flower boxes or grass. It’s a perfect solution to keeping your water bill low and lilies blossomed in the thick of summer. The City of Philadelphia has a (FREE!) rain barrel program for homeowners. If you’re not a Philadelphia resident check with your municipal programs for either a rain barrel program, or reimbursements for installing one. Rain barrels help keep the sewer system from getting overwhelmed during flash storms, so it’s in every city’s interest to support this effort.

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