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How to Go Green in Your Career

April 22, 2020, will mark 50 years of Earth Day. As a growing number of Americans report concern over climate change and brands become involved in the fight for sustainability, finding ways to go green is more important than ever. 

While you might already limit your consumption of animal products or stay away from plastic straws, going green at work can help reduce not only your carbon footprint, but also that of your co-workers. 

Take charge of the situation

We’ve all heard the saying that if you want something done right, do it yourself. When it comes to taking steps for your company and your personal work habits to be greener, don’t wait for someone else to take action. Spearhead launching an environmental committee for your office to put on monthly “go green” challenges or offer to host a lunch and learn on ways to reduce waste.

Recommended Reading: Tricks for Being Better Aware of Awareness in Your Culture

Finding ways to tie in monetary savings to environmental efforts is a good way to get your leadership team on board with making some eco-friendly changes around the office. While implementing greener methods might cost more money upfront, they often pay off in the long run. You can also report on the available tax credits for going green or how it can be a recruiting tool.

For example, if your company provides plastic utensils for employees to use when eating their lunch, propose investing in reusable silverware packets as part of your company’s swag to employees or holiday gifts. 

That way, each employee can be in charge of their own silverware to wash and keep in their desks, allowing for the plastic to be ditched. This will save money over time, as you won’t have to keep replenishing the stock of disposables. 

Cut back on paper waste

Even though the vast majority of communications between co-workers, clients, vendors, and just about anyone work-related is done electronically, one survey shows that the total amount spent annually by U.S. companies on printed documents is $120 million. 

That same survey also shows that paper makes up 70% of the total waste in offices, 30% of print jobs are never even picked up from the printer, and 45% of all printed paper winds up in the trash the same day. Those numbers are terrible for both your company’s wallet and the environment. 

A 2014 report showed that if the U.S. alone were to reduce the use of office paper by just 10%, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.45 million metric tons (the equivalent to taking 280,000 cars off the road for an entire year.) 

Here are a couple of ways to combat paper waste in the office:

  • Put recycling bins at every printing station. People may not intentionally be lazy, but if they are in a hurry, they might not take the time to drop that duplicate print job into a recycling bin if it’s in an inconvenient area. 
  • When presenting to clients, ask if they mind going green for the meeting. While it used to be common practice to bring printed copies of presentations, outlines, or agendas to meetings, all of those things can now be displayed or distributed electronically. All it takes is a quick email ahead of time, letting the meeting attendees know that your team is working to be more eco-friendly and won’t be bringing printed copies unless specifically requested. Most people won’t mind at all! 
  • Encourage the use of tracked edits in Word (or Google) documents. When giving edits or approval for content, some people prefer to print it out and make their edits in the margins. Encourage your co-workers or clients to leverage the tracked changes features so that it can all be done electronically, eliminating the need to print things out (and in some cases, scan it back in.)

Add some literal green

We’ve all seen the cute succulent gardens on Instagram desks, but did you know that having plants at work is also an eco-friendly measure? Plants absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants, making for better air quality inside the office. What’s more, greenery also helps spur productivity. 

While your company might not be able to make all of these changes right away, developing personal eco-friendly habits can go a long way. Bringing your own reusable water bottle to work, making coffee at home, and packing a lunch are all simple steps that help the environment. Bonus: Your health and finances will thank you, too! 

About Haley Williams

Haley Williams is a PR pro living in Indianapolis. She enjoys her book club, too much Mexican food, and being a cat mom.