Seven Easy Ways to Create a Green Office

by Chicago Agent

By Jake Swenson

Americans are becoming more environmentally conscious, and many businesses, from home offices to large corporations, are also taking steps to help the environment. They’re finding that “going green” not only helps the planet, but it can also save lots of money.

Making your real estate office green is easy whether you have five agents or 100 agents. Staples has seven tips from the company’s EcoEasy program to get you and your office started with helping the environment and saving money in the process.

1. Look for the Energy Star label
By using energy-efficient technologies, such as Energy Star-qualified computers and other office equipment, you can cut the cost of powering your workplace by up to 80 percent.

2. Reduce Your Energy Use
Energy-efficient lighting, ventilation, insulation, heating and cooling technology can cut energy bills by 30 percent or more. If every U.S. household replaced just one light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, each year our country would save $600 million in energy costs and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to emissions from over 800,000 cars. Imagine what would happen if every office did the same!

Also, setting your office’s thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter (to 68oF) and a few degrees higher in the summer (to 78oF), you can save nearly 10 percent on heating and cooling bills. Even a simple step such as disabling your screen savers to “none” or “blank screen” can cut computer energy use by 70 percent.

3. Be Smarter With Paper
To save money and reduce the impact on trees, cut your office’s paper use in half by reducing the margin sizes on the documents, printing double-sides and selecting the “printer-friendly” option on Web sites. Conduct more transactions online and e-mail documents or post them on a company intranet. Minimize the impact of the paper you do use by purchasing paper made from post-consumer recycled content and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Small changes can have a big impact: Last year, Staples’ sale of recycled paper products saved the equivalent of 1.6 million trees, approximately six times the size of New York City’s Central Park.

Additionally, there are now some alternatives to traditional tree-based and recycled papers. For example, Staples offers paper supplies, such as notebooks, filler paper and memo pads made from 80 percent sugar cane waste, the plant fiber residues remaining after sugar cane is processed and crushed to make sugar. Staples’ line of eco-friendly paper supplies are a forest-friendly approach that allows your business to be kind to the environment without sacrificing quality.

4. Invest in Renewables
Investing in wind, solar, biomass, hydropower and geothermal energy technologies reduces greenhouse gas emissions and long-term expenses. You can save 40 to 80 percent on electric or fuel bills by replacing conventional water heaters with solar heating systems. Maximize available tax subsidies and various rebates for investing in renewable energy technologies.

5. Recycle Old Equipment
An estimated 133,300 computers enter landfills each year, polluting the air, water and soil. Reduce e-waste by utilizing the many easy recycling programs across the country. Through its EcoEasy recycling program, Staples offers everyday, in-store recycling for a wide range of items, from cell phones and PDAs to computers, printers, fax machines and other office technology, and will accept any amount you drop off. Earth911 (earth911.org) enables you to find the nearest recycler near you. Many retailers, Staples included, now reward customers with coupons for select ink and toner cartridges they recycle.

6. Use Smart Transportation
For every employee who leaves his or her car at home two days a week, 1,590 pounds of CO2 emissions are cut annually. Encourage employees to bike, carpool or use public transportation with carpool incentive programs or subsidies for public transportation. This may be tougher in a real estate office where your car is so important, but if you don’t have any listings, try to ride your bike or take a trip on the El. If you are showing a green-friendly client a listing, they might appreciate seeing you show up on a bicycle. Another idea is to introduce telecommuting to the office, either part or full time to help save gas and reduce carbon emissions.

7. Lead By Example
Many businesses have enhanced their reputations and acquired new customers by taking leadership on environmental issues. Your bottom line can benefit by taking these positive steps to help the environment.

Jake Swenson is the manager of sustainability for Staples. For more information, visit one of Staples’ 42 Chicago area store locations or staples.com/ecoeasy.


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