Going Green with Eco Friendly Office Furniture.

An eco friendly office is easy enough to commit to, if one just sticks to superficial environmental advice (save water! Print on both sides of the paper! Unplug that PC after use!). But it takes a real green warrior to meet environmental targets using eco friendly office furniture.

The government has been helpful enough, providing green furniture standards that provide a standard to live up to. The EPA in particular offers procurement guidelines to help you select eco friendly office furniture that lives up to the government’s high standards.

New furniture, then, can be selected using the EPA’s guidelines, which call for FSC-certified wood, water-based or bio-based glues for laminated surfaces, and recycled materials where possible.

New eco-friendly office furniture can also be bought based on their recyclability in the future – tables and chairs made of plywood, steel, chipboard, and plastics can be recycled easily at a processing plant, while compact laminates and MDF are more difficult to recycle in the future.

Go refurbished/remanufactured, if that’s an option for your office – not easy if you have a reputation to uphold, but getting easier due to the glut of furniture (you can thank the recession for bankrupting a significant number of businesses, freeing their relatively pristine furniture for use in the market).

Take the furniture our guys at Cubicles.com are ready to offer you – lower-cost, recycled workstations recreated from used cubicles – processed with eco-friendly procedures to replace and recycle the parts that can still be used.

Cubicles.com uses low-VOC coatings and recycled fabrics in its remanufactured cubicles. They look brand new, but come having already made most of its impact on the environment!

Buy local. Even if your furniture demands can’t live up to the earlier two points, you can still go green with your office furniture, simply by buying from a supplier nearby. By buying local, you cut down on the carbon emissions created by transporting your new furniture from point A to point B.

Green Building Template in Hotel Chain’s Future.

Green buildings are so mainstream now, even hotel chains are getting into the act. Marriott International revealed an ambitious green hotel portfolio last week, a plan underpinned by a green hotel prototype that is pre-certified LEED-compliant.

The new hotel design will be available in April 2010, implemented on the Courtyard Settler’s Ridge property in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As Marriott learns from the prototype’s example, more green hotels will be built as part of a tenfold expansion planned over the next five years.

Marriott claims it can save up to $100,000 in construction expenses, and reduce design time by six months. The green hotels built using the template will use up to a fourth less energy and water compared to the average hotel.  (read more)

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.

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.”

(read more)

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.”

(read more)

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.

Solar Panel Price Drop Delights Green Building Contractors.

The New York Times reports that a crucial piece of the green building puzzle just got a lot cheaper:

For solar shoppers these days, the price is right. [Solar] Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to analysts at the investment bank Piper Jaffray.

The price drops — coupled with recently expanded federal incentives — could shrink the time it takes solar panels to pay for themselves to 16 years, from 22 years, in places with high electricity costs, according to Glenn Harris, chief executive of SunCentric, a solar consulting group.

The price drop can be attributed to worldwide increases in solar panel production, coupled with a global drop in demand. Polysilicon, an essential ingredient in solar panels, has increased in availability thanks to more plants making the stuff in China.        (read more)

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)