In Focus: Implementing Sustainability Practices in the Workplace
Small changes add up when building owners, managers, and office workers put sustainability practices into action.
Policies that building owners enact set the tone for an office's eco-friendliness. Owners can include reasonable sustainability provisions in standard lease agreements, and try to accommodate tenants with their own green criteria. Management staff should follow sustainable procedures whenever possible, and report back on what they are doing. Owners should stay updated on public policy mandates regarding green buildings, including tax credits, incentives, building codes, and other requirements.
Staying savvy on sustainability costs and financing alternatives can reduce costs, but weigh these factors against potential financial benefits. Once every three years, conduct a complete commissioning of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.
To help tenants go green, install bike racks to encourage emission-free commuting. Institute a building-wide recycling program, and establish an area for sorting recyclables before they leave the building. Budget for tenant sub-metering, subject to laws and lease agreements. And invest in roofing materials that reduce heat absorption with reflective materials or vegetation.
Property managers also play an important role. To save energy, replace traditional base building light bulbs with high efficiency and low mercury lighting. Don't over-ventilate. It's important to have enough fresh air, but heating or cooling outside air increases energy use. Consistently check and replace filters. And use sub-meter equipment to pinpoint where energy is being used.
Inside the building, use cleaning supplies and restroom products that meet the EPA's Environmentally Preferred Purchasing guidelines, or are certified by organizations such as Green Seal. Install motion-sensitive lighting in emergency stairwells if possible. And follow integrated pest management principles.
Outside, ensure that parking lot lights point only to the ground to avoid light pollution. And utilize high-efficiency irrigation.
Printing wastes excessive paper, so set office copiers to print double-sided. Place recycling bins in central locations and at individual desks. Use recyclable items when renovating or replacing furniture.
Design space to maximize natural light. To cut power use, place motion detector lighting in infrequently used rooms. Install task lighting at employee workstations for late workers. And use software that automatically turns off copiers and printers, and program standby modes properly.
Consider allowing employees to work from home part-time, slashing commuting carbon emissions and reducing office space to lower heating and cooling costs.
To trim restaurant waste, bring lunch from home. Recycle plastic food items, and use a coffee mug and reusable water bottle. Limit printing, and print double-sided when possible. Bring your laptop to meetings to avoid printing presentation materials.
Turn off your computer at night and unplug the adaptor, as it still draws energy when idle. Shut lights in unused rooms, and use task lighting when working late.
Take mass transit or carpool to work if possible. Better yet, walk or bike if you live close enough to the office.
If everyone does his or her part, these practices will cut costs, ensure a healthier and happier workplace, and help the environment.
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