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There are many ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle in an office environment. Many people participate in green-friendly office initiatives without even realizing it through the use of recycled paper products, energy-saving light bulbs, and Energy Star-compliant computers. Small- and mid-sized business owners who take stock of eco-conscious office alternatives often learn “environmentally friendly” also means spending less money on energy and resources. Here are a few tips you and the rest of your office team can use to save money and go green at the same time.

Change Your Coffee Break.
Paper cups are more expensive over the long haul than buying ceramic coffee mugs. Why continue spending money on paper when you can simply purchase a set of reusable ceramic mugs? You can cut the cups out of your budget once and for all by asking your employees to bring their own.

Buy Locally.
Mark McCauley of McCauley Design in Barrington says buying office furniture and other supplies from a local craftsman or vendor not only supports your local economy, but it also lowers the carbon footprint of your office. “Products made in China have a greater carbon footprint because they go on diesels across the Pacific Ocean,” says McCauley. “You have to be sure to buy local so that the shipping doesn’t create more CO2.”

In an age where skyrocketing fuel costs force commuters to pay high prices just to make it to the office parking lot, the office manager who gives employees one day a week off from rush hour is sure to be a very popular person. Telecommuting not only cuts emissions and fuel consumption, it also saves additional wear and tear on an employee’s vehicle, delaying the inevitable trip to the repair shop a little bit longer.

Buy Green.
There are many products made of recycled or reutilized materials you can purchase for the office. Toilet tissue and paper towels made from recycled paper are among the best examples. Do you know which of your local office supply companies sells green products? Before you approve your next office purchase, find out and make the switch.

Lights Out!
Most businesses leave security lights on after hours to discourage vandalism or burglary. The need for security can’t be ignored, but motion sensitive lights are an energy-efficient alternative to the “always on” variety. The two biggest benefits of motion sensitive lighting? In addition to lowering the electric bill, the sudden appearance of bright light where it isn’t expected is a great crime deterrent.

Monitor Your Consumption.
Susan Foley of Abbey Landscape and Design Concepts in Skokie carefully tracks her use of supplies. She says for small businesses this is an important part of preventing waste and keeping costs low. “Mostly what we do is make sure that we pay attention to how we use our paper and how we use our energy. The times force you to be more resourceful; you have to keep your costs down to a reasonable level.”

The first week of results may surprise you; most people don’t realize how much they consume and throw away. Recognizing how much you consume is the first step toward reducing that amount. When it comes to cutting energy consumption in the office, Foley has a simple piece of advice. “Turn your lights out!” Offices with large windows and good sun exposure will reap the rewards of using that natural light first.

Work Closer to Home.
Foley says she used to take her landscaping business to neighborhoods far from home, but by concentrating her work in locations closer to the office, she saves on fuel costs and makes the most of her work day. Instead of wasting time on long commutes, she can get more jobs done locally. “We used to advertise in far off areas, and it’s not feasible for us anymore. We narrow and concentrate our efforts on business close to our community. When you’re [driving long distances and] doing estimates—and most estimates are free—we figured out the cost of energy versus the payment was not affordable for us. A lot of times what’s good for the environment is good for the business.”

“Conservation Fridays.”
Some offices give their employees an extra day or half day off on a monthly basis in order to completely shut down the office or warehouse. The math is simple; no electricity consumption for a half or full day equals a lower energy bill. It also equals higher employee morale and lower demand on the local power grid. W

Adopt A Highway.
Some offices take Conservation Fridays even farther than simply shutting down for the day. Some offices participate in the Illinois Department of Transportation Adopt-A-Highway program, where crews volunteer to clean a two-mile stretch of road. You can learn more about this great program at

Recycling Partnerships.
John Quigley, President and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce, says his office formed a unique partnership with a neighboring, business to recycle the huge amounts of printed material that comes to both offices. “Like us,” Quigley says, “they have a lot of delicate information and they brought in a document shredding and recycling company.”

The two offices share an account with the shredding and recycling operation. Each office brings separately bagged documents—approximately four reams a week—which is then shredded for security purposes and recycled.

Some offices do one or two of these steps already, but consider making an environmentally-aware action plan incorporating more of these measures. You’ll find the benefits effect your bottom line as well as the world around you.

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