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.

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.)

Two Contenders for the Ultimate Eco-Friendly Office.

Get beyond the hype of the eco-friendly office, and you’ll find a workplace that tries to minimize its own environmental footprint. The ideal green workplace also puts systems in place that encourage their tenants/workers to do the same.

Like many ideals, this is harder than it looks. Very few workplaces meet the gold standard of the ultimate eco-friendly office, usually by meeting the tough standards set by the US Green Buildings Council through their LEED program. Which green offices made the cut?

Architectural firm Perkins + Will constructed their Seattle office with lofty green standards in mind – lighting that’s almost 50% more efficient than comparable spaces, water savings of up to 40%, and 80% of building materials sourced within 500 miles of the site.

The office’s design is plenty innovative, what you’d expect in a green design pioneer like Perkins + Will – a “solid white box” fixes the office’s center, from which the open design studio radiates. The box contains the conference rooms and service spaces; the rest of the office uses natural daylight and open furniture arrangements, all the better to encourage closer work between colleagues.

Perkins + Will’s eco-friendly office cost $1 million to build, covering 12,000 square feet in a six-story brick building. It achieved LEED Platinum on October 2006, the first platinum-certified project in Washington State.

Over in San Francisco, Google’s Bay area office pulls out all the stops to earn its LEED gold certification. Past the spectacular views of the Bay Bridge, Google’s workplace utilizes natural light to decrease energy costs (by making artificial lighting superfluous).

Building waste was minimized, through the re-use of partition walls, door assemblies, and furniture. New material used in construction was mostly sourced from local, sustainable sources.

What was thrown away was recycled – up to 64% of it, by Google’s estimate. Efficient water facilities were installed in bathrooms and kitchens. And indoor air quality was preserved by using low-VOC paint, adhesives, furniture, and sealants.

For Google, this kind of attention to detail isn’t a fluke – it’s company policy. In the following video, an employee chronicles the many steps that Google takes to earn its “ultimate eco-friendly office” stars: