Green Interiors

Greening the home office
by Pamela Portwood

Some people love being able to walk down the hall to work in their slippers, while others can't stand the solitude of working at home. For some, working at home means flexibility, and for others it's just one distraction after another.

Whether you have a home-based business or a personal office, just not driving to an office saves gas and lowers your carbon footprint. There are many other things you can do to make your home office healthier and more eco-friendly.

Start with some simple things to save energy. Change all of your light bulbs to compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs). You can also install a smart power strip that will turn off your peripheral equipment (printers, etc.) when you aren't using your computer.

When you replace your electronic equipment, look for Energy Star models to save energy. Buying a combination fax machine, photocopier, printer and scanner can save money, energy and resources.

All electronic equipment emits air pollutants, but if you've still got a big, old computer monitor, it's time to replace it. Monitors that use cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) release the highest levels of air pollutants in offices. New flat-screen monitors that use thin-flat transistors (TFT) release much lower levels of pollutants. Including houseplants will help purify the air, and they make sitting at a desk pleasanter.

Offices go through tons of paper, so be sure to buy recycled paper and set up a convenient recycling bin in your office. Save paper by printing on both sides of the sheets or by cutting up sheets with a blank side for scrap paper. Reusing your manila folders by re-labeling them, flipping them over or just labeling them in pencil is a simple way to save paper and money.

Of course, there's email. It may clutter up your in box, but it's a great way to save paper - if you don't print every email you receive. Paying bills online reduces paper use, too.

When it comes to office supplies and furniture, think recycled and reused. Buying recycled pens, binders and paperclips as well as refilling printer ink cartridges and mechanical pencils are just a few options. Quality used office furniture is available in many places.

Commercial furniture manufacturers have been ahead of residential furniture manufacturers in producing green products. So if you buy new, green office furniture, you can find amazing things like task chairs with corn-based upholstery that can be completely dismantled so that the parts can be recycled.

In many ways, setting up a green office is like setting up a green home. Use non-toxic paint that has no hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Use natural cleaning products. Install recycled or wool carpet. Better still, use natural flooring like cork. (Cork is great because it absorbs sound and reduces the noise level in a room.)

Design your office up with a lot of natural light or add a solar tube for a quick, inexpensive skylight. Natural light reduces energy bills, and it increases workers' productivity and health. In terms of light, you do need to think about glare on computer screens.

I love having my office desk facing the window so that I can look out at my neighborhood. I've watched some of the kids on my street grow from babies in prams to toddlers following their strollers to kids riding on bicycles - just by looking out my window. For me, that's one of the pleasures of having a home office.

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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly The Tucson Green Times).


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