Although not everyone is hitting the books after Labour Day, there’s no better time than fall to turn over a new leaf and reassess your workspace sitch—especially if you’re making a conscious effort to go green.
“The office is somewhere we spend a lot of time and they have a huge spectrum when it comes to environmental impact,” Jill Doucette, coauthor of Greening Your Office: Strategies That Work, tells the Straight by phone, “so it’s a great place to start.”
Whether you’re preparing to get your study on or looking to revamp your home office or coworking space, here are three easy tips for doing it the sustainable way.
Opt for ecofriendly supplies
School- and office-supply shopping never seems to lose its charm, but it’s worth considering the environmental impact of your basic pen and stationery sets once you hit the shops. “Eliminate products that are highly disposable,” suggests Doucette, “those that aren’t refillable and that you know you’re going to waste.”
Look for markers and pens with refillable ink cartridges, for example, as well as products that use 100-percent-postconsumer paper. These sheets are made from recycled waste and thus have a smaller carbon footprint than their plain “recycled” counterparts, which are crafted from paper scraps or trimmings that never actually hit the trash.
When it comes to work or late-night study-sesh sustenance, be sure to steer clear of single-use coffee pods, too. Not only do they cost more than ground coffee or beans in the long run, a hard-to-break-down combination of foil and plastic-lined packaging also makes them extremely difficult to recycle.
Do a digital cleanup
We’ve all done it: let hundreds, thousands, and—eek—millions of messages pile up in our inboxes without a second thought. However, this “digital hoarding” may cause more harm to the environment than you think.
“When we used to have paper-based offices, we would never let files become millions and millions deep,” notes Doucette, “but we do that on cloud storage and Internet, and it doesn’t have a zero footprint. It’s consuming energy somewhere else in the world.”
In addition to the greenhouse gases that are produced by computers and routers, the same Earth-affecting compounds are emitted in the running of the servers that store and manage digital files. Therefore, making a weekly habit of cleaning out your inbox and cloud not only offers you peace of mind, it’s a lot nicer to the environment, too.
Invest in furnishings that are durable
Tables and chairs for your workspace probably aren’t items you’d prefer to be allotting much of a budget to, but it’s worth investing in long-lasting pieces.
“Very cheap items usually end up in the landfill in a few years, so it’s better to shop smart when it comes to furniture pieces,” says Doucette. “Try to get something that’s going to last a decade or more.”
The sustainability expert recommends considering how repairable a product is when shopping for new or used office furniture. Try to thrift, “upcycle”, or refurbish items whenever possible, and most importantly, shop local at companies that carry eco-friendly office supplies and furnishings. (Vancouverites can check out Mills Office Productivity and the Vancouver Island–based Monk Office.)
“It’s great to shop local and find a store that carries those kind of products,” adds Doucette.