By Lea Green
May 3, 2012
The green initiative continues to expand as more and more people adopt environmentally sound practices at home that benefit not just their community but also the planet. Activities such as green gardening, composting, recycling and conserving energy are uniting the population in a common cause; instilling a sense of global responsibility; serving as examples for friends, coworkers and neighbors; and promoting the Earth’s health and longevity. While such grassroots efforts by individuals are highly effective, businesses can make substantial contributions to the environment that will significantly impact its health. Here are a few ways that your business can promote a greener office environment:
Encourage employees to telework part-time
Researchers as well as businesses have long acknowledged that teleworking offers numerous benefits to both employers and employees:
- Flexible scheduling
- Decreased commuting costs and time
- Increased productivity
- Additional family and/or leisure time
- Fewer interruptions
- More relaxed work environment
- Fewer office politics
Telecommuting practices-which can easily be implemented in most businesses-reduce a company’s overall carbon footprint, increase employee productivity and lower office energy costs. Approximately 40 percent of U.S. jobs (i.e., 50 million) could be performed from home, thereby removing commute times, reducing fuel costs and eliminating unnecessary emissions. U.S. businesses that adopt telecommuting practices not only decrease the country’s reliance on oil imports, they spare our atmosphere the burden of additional harmful gases. Consider this data from the Telework Coalition: If the 41 million Americans whose jobs could be performed at home telecommuted just one day a week, $772 million could be saved annually:
- $494 million in commuter costs
- $185 million from 2.3 million barrels of oil saved
- $93 million from 775 fewer traffic accidents
In addition, the Coalition notes that even part-time telecommuting can spare our atmosphere 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas-the equivalent of removing 77,000 cars from the road for a year. Still not convinced? Consider this: by committing to a regular telework practice, your organization can reduce operating expenses and energy costs-quite simply, fewer in-office workers equals less overhead. For example, by encouraging telecommuting, Sun Microsystems saved $64 million in real estate costs and 32,000 metric tons of CO2 with their Open Work Program in just one year.
Providing technology to enable e-Meetings
Travel is a common practice in the business community and, in many cases, represents a major expense for the company that could be lessened or avoided altogether. Whether employees travel by plane to another city or across town by car to attend a meeting, the resultant emissions harm our already fragile atmosphere. While cars produce more CO2 than airplanes (10 percent versus 1.6 percent of total CO2 emissions), both are significant contributors to the greenhouse effect.
Video conferencing and Web conferencing tools enable real-time, face-to-face meetings among individuals, regardless of time and distance. Whether your client, customer or coworker is across the ocean or just across town, you can share face time, files and information without leaving the office-and without harming the environment. Teleconferencing also allows teleworkers, including those who work remotely, to stay connected; it lets them participate in important meetings without the inconvenience of long-distance travel.
Reduce “hard copies” to decrease costs and clutter
Consider transforming your office into a paperless environment. There are both ecological and economic benefits to reducing or removing a business’s dependency on paper, and technology is making that shift easier. By eliminating making paper copies, employees will discover ways to add new dimensions to projects by integrating digital options. Scanners can convert a paper document to electronic form, making it easier to store and share. Cloud computing allows archival documents to be scanned and uploaded offsite, thus eliminating the need for space-eating file cabinets and the all-too-familiar hazard of lost or misfiled paper documents. Cloud storage and shared virtual communities allow teams to collaborate on documents and incorporate real-time edits without printing. Plus, you’ll be free of all those paper copies now cluttering your file drawers, inbox and bulletin boards.
The workplace ideal-as far as office economic and environmental responsibly are concerned-is to stop generating paper in the first place. With alternatives such as cloud storage and virtual workspaces, your office can share documents among teams for online editing and avoid printing altogether. Web conferencing allows screen sharing and dynamic presentations during meetings, and furnishes each attendee an editable document that can be shared, stored and distributed, rather than paper copies that are static and often discarded. Project management tools like Evernote allow users to take multimedia electronic notes that can be saved and shared, providing collaborative, creative tools that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
There are many ways that a business can become more cost-efficient and eco-friendly. In addition to the above suggestions, consider improvements that your business and your employees can make within the office environment. Even small changes in our business routine can make a big difference to the environment and to the planet.
Lea Green is the Social Media Content Manager at PGi and telecommutes regularly. She writes for the PGiGreen blog and is passionate about creative writing, collaborative communications technologies, and improving our planet’s well-being. Contact Green at [email protected].