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
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
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).