10 Steps toward an Environmentally Friendly Office.

Creating an environmentally friendly office takes baby steps. You don’t just change the lightbulbs, set up segregated trash bins, and expect the Green Office Council to give you a medal. No, it’s a long, hard slog, and may add an element of inconvenience in your office life.

Why do it? It’s worth it. Think of the positive impact you’ll make with an environmentally friendly office – and think of the improved morale in a workforce that knows they’re committed to something bigger than themselves.

1. Power down. Turn off equipment that isn’t being used. Don’t just turn them off – unplug them. Little did you know that equipment on “standby” mode still sucks up juice, to the tune of hundreds of dollars’ worth of energy a year! Unplug these appliances when not in use, or get a smart power strip that monitors electricity use, cutting off the power from outlets that have been idle for a while.

2. Turn down the thermostat. Reprogram your thermostat to be a few degrees warmer in the summer, and a few degrees cooler in the winter. Shaving off the degrees in this way can save you up to eight percent in energy costs per year.

3. Change the light source. Part the curtains, or open the blinds in daytime! The environmentally friendly office isn’t afraid to use natural light – it’s healthier than that sickly green artificial light that’s commonly used in offices.

4. Replace your gear. Newer PCs, for example, may be up to 70% more energy-efficient than PCs from four to five years back. Monitors might also help you cut down on your energy bill – if you switch LCD models for your CRT monitors, you can use a third less power. The lower energy usage will allow you to recover the costs of replacing your equipment within two to three years.

5. Email, but try not to print. Email messages don’t need to be printed out to be fully understood. Make sure getting a printout is absolutely necessary before you click “print”!

6. If you have to print, go with recycled and earth-friendly. Use recycled paper with at least 30% post-consumer waste, and print double-sided as much as possible. Go with soy-based ink, as it has lower levels of volatile organic compounds, and is easier to eliminate in the recycling process.

7. Check the bathrooms. Keep taps tightly shut – one dripping tap can waste up to 10,000 liters of water a year. A more committed environmentally friendly office would use a displacement dam – they place a small plastic container filled with stones in the toilet reservoir to displace some water in the flushing process – the water saved in this method adds up over the year.

8. Use real plants. Not only do they add a nice soothing touch to your office, but they also add oxygen to the surroundings, making the environmentally friendly office even more friendly to one’s health.

9. Ditch the paper or foam cups. Encourage the workforce to bring their own mugs to work. This reduces office waste and saves money.

10. Buy remanufactured office furniture. When you’re replacing your desks and chairs, look at remanufactured furniture as an option for your office. Buying remanufactured saves you money and lessens your impact on the environment, as you’re buying equipment that’s already made its footprint felt before.

This is more than just about being cheap – it’s about making a company-wide statement to your workers and your clients that you are willing to cut out unnecessary purchases for the sake of creating an environmentally friendly office. (Read Cubicles.com’s green office furniture page for more information about remanufactured office furniture.)

Environmentally Friendly Bike Law in New York Coming Through!

Office workers now have one more reason to lower their commute’s carbon footprint: New York City has just passed a new environmentally friendly law allowing cyclists to park their bikes inside their office buildings.

The new Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law is designed to increase bicycle commuting, by giving cyclists access to protected parking while at work. The Queens Courier reports that commuter cycling in New York has doubled from 2005 to 26 percent this year, a green office habit that the government is eager to encourage.

“Biking is a great way to get to work in New York City, and this new law makes it easier for workers to commute on two wheels instead of four,” said NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “By creating a safe, secure place for cyclists to store their bikes, it will help to promote alternative modes of transportation and a healthy, active lifestyle for millions of New Yorkers.”

Councilmember David Yassky, who sponsored the bill, thinks the new law will solve many problems at once. “Allowing bicycles in buildings is an effective way to encourage cycling,” Yassky was heard to say. “This legislation is an extremely realistic effort to cut emissions, improve air quality, maximize public transportation and ease congestion, reaping tremendous environmental and quality of life benefits for New Yorkers.”

A few office managers and owners have put their full support behind the new law, restructuring their offices to permit bike parking. The New York Times hears from one such supporter:

“From my vantage point, it’s a huge positive,” said Larry A. Silverstein, president and chief executive of Silverstein Properties. [...] Although no bike was leaning against his desk that day, Mr. Silverstein said he supported the new law and thought most buildings with freight elevators could comply and that tenants could handle the parking once bikes rolled through their doors.

“If you really want to do this, you find the space,” he said. “There’s always space where you can put a bicycle.”

The new law goes into effect on December 11. More information at the official New York City Hall homepage.

Cool Vespas Resurrected as Office Chairs.


Image © Bel & Bel.

Office furniture that’s been around the block doesn’t usually generate a lot of consumer demand. But what about office furniture that’s been recycled from classic scooters?

Watch out for Spanish design house Bel & Bel’s new creations in your local cubicle farm: super-classy hand-made leather office chairs, made primarily from Italian Vespa scooters. The Vespa’s front shield creates a perfect silhouette for an office chair back rest – combined with a few key spare parts, these make office chairs that make an incredible visual impact.

Also, given the variety of colors that old Vespas came in, you’ll probably find a Vespa chair that suits your office, no problem.

In the old days, Vespa scooters were a symbol of carefree Continental lifestyles, immortalized in movies from the Sixties. But the Vespa’s air-cooled two-stroke engine is dirty and bad for the environment; the proliferation of cheap two-stroke cycles around the world accounts for much of the air pollution in developing countries.

“In the cities of many developing countries, the pollution is horrific,” says acting director of the Energy Efficiency Center at the University of California at Davis Daniel Sperling. “Two-stroke engines are a big part of the problem.”

But Vespa is still tres cool for so many retro-maniacs. Sure, old Vespas kill the Earth a little for every mile they run, but that’s no reason to hate them completely, right? So Bel y Bel made the leap from Vespa scooters to office furniture – rejuvenating Vespa retro cool and rehabilitating its polluting former life at the same time.

Office Furniture: Re-used or Remanufactured?

Office furniture being the expensive, long-term investment that it is, it behooves you to figure out how you can get the biggest bang for your office buck.

Brand new office furniture might burn you in more ways than one – you might end up paying top dollar for chairs, desks and cubicles that just won’t get the kind of use that justifies the expense. (Especially during these parlous economic times.) When your big operation cuts its workforce, what are you going to do with all that extra office furniture?

Consider alternative number one: used office furniture. With office closures being far too common these days, it’s a buyers’ market for used office furniture: barely used, and much cheaper than their brand new counterparts.

How much should you expect to pay for used office furniture? It depends on what’s available, and how much of it you need. Of course, quality will be highly variable, and you can’t expect to get exactly the color or make you want.

Now consider alternative number two: remanufactured office furniture. What’s the difference? Remanufactured office furniture comes from previously-used office furniture, but put through a remanufacturing process that strips off the old surfaces, refurbishes the structure, and refinishes the surface so the whole thing looks practically brand new – despite prices that may be up to 80% cheaper than comparable brand new furniture!     (read more)

Junk Mail – Green (Environment) or Green (Money)?

The era of the green office was supposed to bring us more eco-friendly business processes, recycled office furnishings, and smaller footprints overall. But we’ve yet to find a way to integrate junk mail into the era of the green workplace.

Junk mail is a paradox – more than 40% of junk mail is thrown away unopened, but without junk mail, we’d never be able to afford postal service. Take it from the Postmaster General of the US Postal Service, John Potter -

“Somehow, they think a sale offer coming through the mail — as opposed to a newspaper, a magazine, TV, radio or the Internet — is a bad thing. Ads pay for the Internet, as well as broadcast TV and radio programs,” [Potter] said during a speech at the National Press Club. “So, too, ad mail helps pay for universal mail service in America.”

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Herman Miller: Where Green Manufacturing is Company Tradition.

Herman Miller walks the talk where the green office is concerned.

By 2020, the company plans to minimize solid, air, and water emissions; establish a LEED silver certification for its buildings; use 100% green energy; and sell 100% DfE-approved products.

This builds on a proud Herman Miller company tradition of sustainable design and construction – its headquarters was recognized as one of the first “green” office and manufacturing complexes in the U.S., with corresponding high numbers in employee productivity.

So we’re only following in the revered Herman Miller way when we at Cubicles.com offer remanufactured Herman Miller cubicles in our product lineup.

Our remanufactured cubicles look brand-new, but have been painstakingly reconstructed from pre-used Herman Miller cubes; they’re engineered to look, feel, and work like the brand-new product!

Just look at the extremes we reach to ensure that our cubicles are made with as little impact to the environment as possible:

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Obama, the Green President.

The President of the United States is serious when he says the environment is a top priority of his administration. This week, the President’s walking-the-talk on green issues comes through General Motors, and interestingly enough, the White House.

At a GM plant in Ohio, President Obama hailed the new fuel economy standards that would decrease greenhouse gases and provide clear directions for auto designers.

“For too long,” the president told the autoworkers, “our auto companies faced uncertain and conflicting fuel economy standards. That made it difficult for you to plan down the road. That’s why, today, we are launching—for the first time in history—a new national standard aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in America. This action will give our auto companies some long-overdue clarity, stability, and predictability.”

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Efficiency – Green Energy's Ugly Sister.

Efficiency – the other side of green energy – just isn’t as sexy. You don’t see a lot of celebrities touting efficiency. The few who do (cough cough Ed Begley cough) just aren’t that cool.

People think of efficiency along the lines of reasons other than sustainable living. Take electricity conservation – when asked why they reduce electricity consumption, over 72% of the public named cost reduction as their primary reason, says a new study from the Shelton Group.

Only 26% said they had the environment first on their mind. Another 40% mistakenly believed that generating electricity hurt the ozone layer.

A shame, really – over $1.2 trillion in potential savings can be realized by 2020 if the U.S. invests $520 billion in efficiency improvements, if a new McKinsey survey is to be believed.

The McKinsey report cites a number of “success stories” that could serve as models for other national policies. The list includes federal appliance energy-efficiency standards that have saved Americans an estimated $50 billion over 12 years; California’s incredible efficiency efforts; and heroic local efforts.

One local effort of particular note finances renewable energy and efficiency improvements by raising property taxes, allowing homeowners to avoid skyrocketing up-front costs.

The California plan works this way: the municipality covers the up-front costs. The homeowner then provides reimbursement through taxes.

Getting a Green Office Makeover: Start Small!

You can’t see it from the outside, but the Empire State Building is transforming itself into an eco-friendly building, thanks to a $20 million green office makeover that aims to cut its energy consumption by almost 40%.

By current estimates, its transformation into a green office will reduce the Empire State Building’s annual CO2 emissions by some 105,000 metric tons.

That’s a major step, considering that the tower’s emerald lights on St. Patrick’s day were about as green as it normally got before now!

There’s a simple objective behind any green office makeover, even one as expansive as the Empire State Building’s: reduce the organization’s impact on the environment. Awareness is job number one – most organizations aren’t even conscious of their massive footprint on Mother Earth.

“We depend on paper, plastic and other materials to communicate and transmit goods,” says Annex Brands marketing VP Steve Goble. “Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the amount of resources we use when completing these tasks, but by taking a few simple steps, people can greatly reduce excess waste.”

Taking steps to a green office could be as simple as recycling paper, using electronics with the Energy Star power feature, switching appliances off at the power source (instead of letting them “sleep”, draining even more energy), and installing eco-friendly office lighting.    (read more)