Energy conservation is becoming increasingly popular as we strive to protect our planet, but going green isn't just environmentally friendly--it can also improve the bottom line of a business. Whether you're an employee with a green conscience or a business owner who wants to set an example, there are many simple ways you can make green choices that will both conserve energy and conserve funds.
Replace the bulbs in desk lamps with Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs--these bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Even using fluorescent bulbs can save energy because they use a quarter of the electricity that incandescent or halogen bulbs do. Keep bulbs and light fixtures clean because removing dust can increase the output of lights. And, of course, always turn off lights when you leave your office, the bathroom, or a conference room. Install motion sensor switches on lights in seldom-used areas such as supply closets.
Computers and Electrical Equipment
Turn off computers, monitors, printers, and other office equipment when it's not in use, especially overnight and on weekends. Use a power strip to disconnect the power supply completely because even when they're turned off, electronics use a small amount of electricity if they're plugged in. You may want to purchase "smart" energy strips that automatically turn off items when they're not in use. Change your computer's automated settings to turn off your monitor when it's not in use--screen savers don't save energy. Employers may want to consider having employees use laptops because they use 80 percent less energy than a standard desktop computer.
Heating and Air Conditioning
Keep air vents clear of papers and office supplies--it can take up to 25 percent more energy to pump air through blocked vents. During cold weather, sit farther away from cold windows and dress in layers so you can adapt to the office temperature. Draw the curtains and close the blinds at night to minimize heat loss. In the spring and summer, open windows and use fans instead of air conditioning and use blinds to keep the sun from heating rooms. Employers may want to install a locked cover on the thermostat to maintain a steady temperature and prevent employees from changing the settings.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Set up recycling stations throughout the office with separate containers for paper, plastic, and aluminum. Print double-sided and reuse paper that's printed on only one side--keep a box of such paper by copying machines or fax machines. Don't print emails unless you must. Use reusable plates, cups, and silverware when possible. If you use non-reusable products, look for the highest post-consumer recycled content available.
Laura Moss is an editor and writer in Atlanta. She began writing professionally in 2005, and her work has appeared on HowStuffWorks.com and VacationPlanning.net and in Group Travel Planet, World Scholar, Rejuvenate and S3 magazine. She holds a master's degree in mass communication from the University of South Carolina.