A greener workplace can mean a lighter ecological footprint, a healthier and more productive place to work, and good news for the bottom line. Whether you’re the boss or the employee, whether your office is green already or still waiting to see the light, some practical steps can lay the groundwork for a healthy, low-impact workspace.
From how you get to work — we recommend telecommuting — to helping your company walk the walk through corporate financial investment in green, to getting a new green job that matches your career with your ideals, to starting your own green business, we break down your green workplace. Read on for all the details.
1. More Work, Less Energy
For many people, a computer is the central tool at work. Optimizing the energy settings for computers and other devices can be more than a modest energy saver. Set computers to energy-saving settings and make sure to shut them down when you leave for the day (“standby” settings will continue to draw power even when not in use). By plugging hardware into a power strip with an on/off switch (or a smart power strip), the whole desktop setup can be turned off at once (make sure to power down inkjet printers before killing the power–they need to seal their cartridges). Printers, scanners, and other peripherals that are only used occasionally can be unplugged until they’re needed. And of course, turn off lights in spaces that are unoccupied.
We often think fine clothing must be dry cleaned, and for delicate and shrinkage-prone fabrics, alternatives are scarce.
Dry cleaning is notorious for its heavy use of chemicals and, over time, can rob wools and silks of the oils and proteins that naturally protect garments. Unless you have very soiled or stained items, put off visits to the dry cleaners by freshening clothing at home with these three easy steps.
Brush it up!
The valets and lady’s maids in period movies are always brushing clothing. In fact, it’s still a great way to remove surface soil. Go over the garment with a soft brush or a microfiber cloth before storing it.
Steam clothing with a home garment steamer (available in clothing, department or big box stores, starting around $25). They smooth rumples and wrinkles with ease and heat up the fabric, killing off microbial beasties. (Let garments cool and dry completely before wearing.)
Every costumer knows this trick: Fill a spray bottle with cheap vodka (not rubbing alcohol; it has additives). Spritz your garment, concentrating on areas where perspiration has collected. The alcohol kills the bacteria that cause odor, then dries quickly.
A Better Clean
For the sake of the environment and your clothing, choose a cleaner that uses the pressurized CO2 process; they usually advertise themselves as “green” or “organic” cleaners, but be sure to ask about their process because these labels are unregulated. Almost all others use perchloroethylene, a neurotoxin and respiratory, skin and eye irritant that the EPA deems a “probable human carcinogen.” Plus, according to the EPA, it breaks down into other chemicals that contaminate air and groundwater, and deplete the ozone layer.
Hand wash wool and silk sweaters and simple, unlined garments, but don’t clean structured garments (anything with a lining and shoulder pads) with water, as it may distort their shape.