Where Have All the Office Workers Gone? 
See all those high rise office buildings in your city? Full of corner offices and cubicles? Filled with managers and their staff toiling away, working hard...

Wait a minute. Perhaps there aren’t that many people in all those office buildings after all.

Greenbiz.com in an October 27 article , talked with John Anderson, president and CEO of PeopleCube in Framingham, Mass. Anderson, according to the Greenbiz.com article, says that “[r]eal estate executives and facility managers at medium to large companies are sometimes way off when it comes to occupancy rates.... Most think their facilities are being used 80 or 90 percent of the time. Upon tracking the data, they are often surprised to learn that they are using their space less than 50 percent of the time.” (Emphasis ours.)

The reason employees aren’t there as much as one would expect?

They’re working at home. They’re telecommuting.

“Facilities represent the second highest expense for large businesses and the No. 1 manufacturer of emissions, according [to] Anderson. Many employers are paying too much to heat and cool conference rooms that are hardly used and to illuminate cubicles too often left empty. Allowing employees to telecommute from home at least part of the week could cut costs significantly.”

Darn straight! If half of your employees worked from home, just think of the cost savings in energy usage. Have half your employees telecommute and the savings would allow you to purchase all your telecommuters a great ergonomic desk chair for their home offices....



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Friday News of the Green 
We’d be quite remiss if we didn’t mention some good news coming from our beloved-but-battered Golden State.

Voters on November approved Proposition 1A , which gave the green light to a bond measure to fund a high-speed rail line between San Diego and San Francisco via the inland part of the Los Angeles area (Riverside County) and the San Joaquin Valley, with spur lines to Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as to Sacramento and other cities in the inland northern part of the state.



The rail line won’t be cheap of course (estimated at approximately $44 billion). Neither will it be built quickly (estimated completion date: ). But ticket prices should be relativley low ($55 one way between LA and San Francisco) and the travel time between So Cal and the Bay area? About 2.5 hours, which is as long as it takes to get from downtown Riverside to downtown Los Angeles on a Monday morning.

Naturally, we’re pleased as punch. Dancing on air. Tickled pin...um, green.

***

Here’s an idea we could call, “so genius in its simplicity and, slap our forehead, why didn’t we think of it?!”

A company in Britain called Envirowise, is suggesting that companies put a twist on the “show me the money” mantra and show their employees “the gas, electricity, water and recycling bills,” in order to encourage workers “to take more responsibility for reducing company outgoings and lessen their environmental impact.”

We do think this makes sense. Show people the truth in black and white (or in red ink) and they’ll often make a change in their behavior. Or at least be more likely too.

“Envirowise says that the more transparent businesses are about the effect rising utility costs are having on the bottom line, the more staff will be encouraged to take a proactive stance towards waste minimisation and adopt the same approach to cost cutting in the workplace as they do at home.

According to Envirowise research, individuals committed to cutting waste at home are lapsing into bad habits as soon as they get to work. The survey of more than 1,800 UK office workers found that a third took no action whatsoever to reduce the amount of resources they use during the working day - meaning vast amounts of resources and money are being lost without trace.”


Now, if companies were to take some of the cost savings and place it into employee’s paychecks, just watch as employees hustle to go green in order to get more green.




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Proof That Efficient Office Environments Create a Healthy Bottom Line 
Ever wonder just how much your office could truly save if you decided to utilize green building design?

Well, the Natural Resource Defense Counsel (NRDC) walked its talk and over the last couple of decades has either built or renovated its offices “with the goal of putting our environmental principles into practice.”

The results have been astounding. The self-described “action group,” has offices in four U.S. cities, Santa Monica, CA; New York, NY; Washington, DC; and San Francisco, CA.

Using their San Francisco location as an example, they state on the website that the remodel of the San Francisco facility “began with a commitment to create an airy, energy-efficient and healthy environment without paying higher than market-rate construction costs. The resulting office is a showcase of renewable materials and energy-efficient solutions. What's more, nearly 75 percent of the waste generated by demolition and construction was kept out of landfills, either through re-use or recycling. And we met our goal: the project didn't cost any more than a traditional renovation.”


(NRDC's San Francisco office)

Overall, just in cost savings, their green practice resulted in:

• current annual operating cost savings of $65,000
• savings in operating costs of $650,000 in ten years energy savings
• energy savings of more than $1 per square foot from 1993 to 2003


But here’s the kicker. If all “commercial buildings were as efficient as NRDC’s offices,” they say, “ we could reduce annual energy consumption nationally by over 100,000 megawatts -- enough to power the cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Dallas, and Houston. This would avoid the need for almost 300 large power plants.” [Emphasis by us.]

This boggles us with the possibilities. We hope it excites you, too.









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The Power of One Small Green Step 
So you’ve convinced the folks at work to recycle all the paper they can. You’ve changed all the light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs. You’ve purchased your cubicles’ walls from Greenguard Certified manufacturers .

You’ve gone a lovely shade of green at your office. You truly have.

“But,” some of you may be saying, “we are but one office. Of millions. Surely what we do here has no impact on the planet’s environmental health. Can these little things we do add up? Really add up?”

In a (biodegradable) nutshell – yes .



Perhaps not directly, the article states. But,

“Small behaviors are important not only for the direct environmental impact they have, but because they often lead to more and more pro-environmental behaviors over time.”

In additon,

“Numerous psychological studies have shown that people are more likely to agree to take a big action if they've previously agreed to smaller, similar actions. Thus, changing a light bulb may lead to higher impact behaviors like giving up plastic water bottles, insulating one's house, living closer to work, reducing meat consumption, and actively supporting legislation that will likely require personal sacrifice. When ExxonMobil hears about people changing lightbulbs and buying Priuses, they should expect public policy changes to follow.”

We think the folks at Grist are on to something. After all, look at the power of a few small steps in other historical happenings even over recent times. Smoking in restaurants and airplanes and even in offices? Just a few years ago you were a pariah for asking someone to step outside with their “cancer stick.” Now who’s the outcast (literally, as smokers now must get their fix outside the office building.

Remember when it was just old fogies and MADD mothers who wanted people to stop drinking and driving? And don’t forget driving while on a cell phone. The devices have been in widespread use less than a decade and already a few cities and states ban their (handheld) use while driving.

How did those changes come about? By one person – and then another and then one more and then several more, hundreds more, thousands more, millions - taking a stand and taking action: Writing their legislators. Asking the sm oker to setp outside. Deciding to be the designated driver for the evening.

One step. One person.

One sheet of copy paper recycled.






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Friday News of the Green 
As a seller of office furniture, you’d probably think we’d be totally against the idea of working at home.

Not so fast. Many of our products are perfect for a home office (wouldn’t you just love to sink your pajama-clad tush into this lushness?).

That said, you gotta love this great overview of the joys, wherewithals with a roundup of why working from home makes more and more sense.

Their number one reason: “it’s better for the atmosphere.”

Despite slow growth in jobs and travel, traffic congestion continues to worsen, researchers say, costing Americans $63.1 billion a year. The 2005 Urban Mobility Report measures traffic congestion trends from 1982 to 2003, reflecting the most recent data available. If today’s higher fuel prices are factored in, the cost jumps another $1.7 billion. It's even worse than that because the UMS report doesn't seem to count the many health costs associated with stress, air pollution, etc.



The Treehugger.com overview cites this nifty finding from Sun Microsystems, via Planet Green.com :

Employees saved more than $1,700 per year in gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles by working at home an average of 2.5 days a week.
Office equipment energy consumption rate at a Sun office was two times that of home office equipment energy consumption, from approximately 64 watts per hour at home to 130 watts per hour at a Sun office.
Commuting was more than 98 percent of each employee's carbon footprint for work, compared to less than 1.7 percent of total carbon emissions to power office equipment.
By eliminating commuting just 2.5 days per week, an employee reduces energy used for work by the equivalent of 5,400 Kilowatt hours/year.
Working from home 2.5 days per week saved the employees in the study an average of 2.5 weeks of commute time (8 hours/day, 5 days/week

The study showed how good telecommuting was for the environment, but didn’t delve into productivity of the at-home workers. Did they work more? Harder? Smarter? Don’t know.

Still, how cool would it be to call the Big Guy and say “Boss, I’m feeling green this morning and so I’m working at home.
How well would that go over, we wonder....


***


And, lastly, we leave you with this: a little ditty about dirty diesel engines becoming clean , sung by no other than Garrison Keiller, a man who’s voice can make even the worst poem sound weighty and important. There’s a video, too (we especially love the bunnies in their noise ear muffs). Watch and listen. Then just try – try – not to sing along.



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