Green Tips for the Office

Ideas for Making Your Office Environmentally Friendly

Woman holding a recycling bin in at her desk
Green tips for the office. Image (c) Jamie Grill / Getty Images

The typical office provides lots of opportunities for going green. From adjusting your office's lighting system to the types of office supplies you choose and use, there are hundreds of things you can do to make your office more environmentally friendly. This guide presents a selection of going green tips for the office that are easy to implement and will make a considerable difference over time.

General Green Tips for the Office

  • Place a recycling center in a prominent location in your office. If a complete set of recycling containers would take too much room, put a waste paper recycling box near the printers and a general recycling box in the staff room. Empty the recycling boxes regularly and organize bottle and can returns.
  • Encourage staff to use mugs, glasses, dishes, and cutlery rather than disposables. It takes just seconds to wash a mug.
  • Use coffee filters that are made of recycled paper or, even better, get a coffee maker that doesn't require paper filters. Compost coffee grounds if possible.
  • Make sure your office has at least one large live plant in it.
  • Make sure that your office is being cleaned using green products that are not damaging to the environment.
  • Try to go paperless by only printing documents if necessary. There's no reason that inter-office communications can't be done electronically.
  • Get in the habit of asking customers if they want their receipts rather than just automatically printing them.
  • Use mobile devices or overhead projectors to display meeting agendas rather than printing and distributing them.
  • Find a place to recycle used recyclable batteries and cell phones near you and use it.
  • Practice green procurement (sourcing and purchasing the least environmentally damaging goods).

Green Tips for Office Supplies

  • Look for and purchase green products such as staple-less staplers and pens that can be refilled repeatedly rather than sent to a landfill.
  • Find products that are made from post-consumer content (materials have been collected back from previous products and remade into new ones) such as paper and plastic products.
  • Cut down or eliminate your use of products that have no green alternatives, such as rubber bands.
  • Recycle used office supplies whenever possible.

Green Tips for Printers

  • Purchase and use a multifunction printer rather than separate machines for different functions if you need to be able to print, copy, scan, and fax. Be sure the printer you purchase has duplexing (the ability to print on both sides of a piece of paper) and energy-saving features.
  • Buy and use recycled paper.
  • Save paper by not printing whenever possible. Put a prominent sign up in the office to remind users to print only when necessary.
  • Save paper by printing on both sides of a sheet of paper whenever possible.
  • Use your printer's eco-mode if it has one. Ink- or toner-saving modes are fine for drafts and other printed material that doesn't require high-quality output.
  • Refill your used ink and toner cartridges if possible; otherwise, recycle them.

Green Tips for Computers

  • Turn off your computer when not in use. It doesn't hurt it. Really!
  • Check computer settings for standby mode—computers should be set to go into standby mode when left unused for periods of time.
  • Keep computer equipment updated; current new computers and monitors are more energy efficient than those more than a few years old.
  • When replacing computer equipment, donate the old equipment to a charity or nonprofit if possible. If not, take it to an electronics recycling facility. See Where to Recycle Computers in Canada and Computer Recycling in the U.S. 

Green Tips for Lighting

  • Turn the lights off in rooms when they're not in use. For instance, there's no point in having the lights in an office staff room or washroom on all day.
  • Replace standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs wherever possible. These use around 75% less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs while delivering the same light output.
  • Do not leave your office lights on overnight.
  • Use light wall colors; light paint colors and higher gloss sheens reflect daylight, meaning your space will need less overhead lighting. BC Hydro has an excellent guide for making the most of natural light to light your office space.

Green Tips for Heating and Cooling

  • If you have access to your office thermostat, heat your office to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and cool to 78 Fahrenheit when occupied. Adjust those down and up by between 7 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, when the office is unoccupied to maximize energy savings.
  • Make sure your furnace, heat pump, or air conditioning systems are serviced regularly and working properly.
  • Use weather stripping and caulking to minimize heat loss from windows and doors.

Green Tips for Washrooms

  • Use cloth towels or hand dryers instead of paper towels.
  • An old-style toilet can use up to 7 gallons per flush. If your office still has these, put a sand-filled soda bottle in the tanks. This will displace an equivalent amount of water, using less when the tank fills. (The ideal, of course, would be to replace old toilets with new ultra-low-flush models.)
  • Always turn off taps completely, ensuring that they don't drip. A tap leaking at a rate of only one drop per second can waste more than 5.5 gallons of water a day. That's 2,082 gallons a year.
  • Install low-flow faucet aerators to reduce the flow of water from taps. Even better, install motion sensor faucets.
  • Get continually running toilets fixed. They're huge water wasters and it could be just a simple fix.
  • Make sure all washroom cleaning products are eco-friendly.