Start small in your office for big results 

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Happy Earth Day! Today is the day we take a moment to appreciate all Mother Earth gives us and resolve to do a better job of returning the favor.

While so many of us have made incredible strides in our efforts to live a greener life, many of us have a long way to go. Individuals can certainly lead the way on this front, but businesses have an even bigger responsibility – and often a bigger platform – in which to encourage a green lifestyle.

Last week I had a conversation with a business owner about making his office more environmentally friendly. Many of the products he uses for his business are green, but the office itself needs some improvement on that front (no paper recycling, throw-away cups by the coffee pot).

While this business owner wasn’t opposed to bettering the environment, he questioned the finances – why pay someone to gather the recycling when it can be tossed in the trash? It’s a valid question for businesses concerned about the bottom line, particularly in our current economic climate.

The warm fuzzies of knowing you’re helping the environment doesn’t pay the bills so how best to convince companies to go green?

It starts with the employees. If your boss is hesitant to implement some green initiatives, show him or her why it makes sense. And, Earth Day is the perfect day to begin.

• Gather like-minded co-workers and form a green team. Have lunch together and plan your strategy.
• Start small. What are three green initiatives you can tackle that won’t cost the company any money? Those could include asking everyone to shut down the desktop computers at the end of the day to conserve energy. Ask your co-workers to bring a coffee mug from home instead of using the Styrofoam cups. Put a box near your desk for batteries, e-waste and other hard-to-recycle items and volunteer to take them to the nearest collection agency once a month.
• Track the savings. For example, figure out how much the company is saving when employees print fewer documents – it’s a savings of printer ink, paper costs and printer maintenance.
• Once you have a few months of results, schedule a meeting with your boss and present a proposal for a green office. Provide statistics and hard data to demonstrate that with a little upfront cost, the company could be saving money. And again, start small. Ask that a small amount of money be dedicated to green efforts. As your boss sees the benefits, the budget will most likely grow.

If you work for a small company where the boss’ office is just down the hall, this might be a little easier. But even if your company is large, you can take the same approach and start with the branch manager or department supervisor, who can help you work your way up the chain of command.

For inspiration, we give a Green Thumbs Up to The Center for Natural Dentistry in Encinitas, Calif., north of San Diego. The center is a holistic dental practice “integrating natural procedures with traditional science-based dentistry.”

This dental practice chose April to announce its green initiatives, which not only include use of low-wattage fluorescent lights and low-flow toilets, but a host of other environmentally friendly practices:
• Eco-friendly cleaning solutions.
• Reusable towels to reduce waste.
• On-site, energy-efficient laundry facility to reduce waste.
• Bio-hazard disposal policies to ensure toxic chemicals (such as mercury) don’t pollute the environment.
• Comprehensive Patient Protection Program to ensure mercury vapors don’t pollute the air or patients’ lungs.
• Paperless records to reduce paper consumption and waste.

Please share the ways in which you’ve initiated the green movement at your office. We’d love to hear your ideas.

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