Energy Savings at the Office

When you start to green your business operations, you're helping to reduce global warming pollution, preserve forests and biodiversity, and keep our air and water clean. And you can also help protect your bottom line because environmentally responsible businesses are efficient businesses. This guide provides a few simple tips on how your business can start to go green.

Use better paper, and less of it

The average office tosses out about 350 pounds of paper per employee, per year. Reducing your waste and purchasing paper with post-consumer recycled content can help save trees and nudge the pulp and paper industry, one of the most environmentally destructive industries in the world, toward a less damaging path.

  • Set your printers to print double-sided, or designate a draft tray and fill it with paper that's blank on one side.
  • Buy copier paper with a minimum 30 percent post-consumer recycled content (100 percent is best!).
  • Collect used paper separately for recycling, and coordinate with your building manager and waste hauler to set up a recycling system that works for everyone. If you can, also recycle other materials, like aluminum, glass and plastic.
  • Stock bathrooms with post-consumer recycled tissue products. Tissue manufacturers destroy forests when they turn virgin wood into throw-away paper products. See our guide for ecologically preferable brands.

Get energy efficient

Using less energy reduces the demand on power plants, the nation's leading contributors to global warming pollution and mercury pollution. And it saves a bundle on your energy bills.

  • Contact your utility company to arrange for a free (or inexpensive) energy audit. An engineer will examine your operations and provide you with a detailed report about how your firm can save on energy costs, from rebates to improved maintenance.
  • Turn off lights and unplug electronics after hours -- computers and other electronics use energy while they're plugged in, even when they're switched off. (Plug all your appliances into a power strip and you'll only have to flip one switch at the end of the day.)
  • Set computers to sleep and hibernate when inactive, and lose the screen savers. Flying toasters and slideshows can use up about $50 of electricity in a year. Look for power management or energy saving features on the control panel for Windows, or system preferences under the Apple menu for Macs.
  • Use Energy Star office equipment -- most major brands carry energy-saving models marked with the Energy Star label.

Cut water waste

One billion people on our planet can't get safe drinking water. In the United States, some rivers are being drawn down faster than nature can fill them up. Using water efficiently today will help ensure that future generations have access to the water they need.

  • Install faucet aerators and low-flow toilets
  • Check for and fix leaks
  • Recycle water
  • Landscape for maximum water efficiency

Create a greener working environment

Employees are on the front lines of any sustainability initiatives your company chooses to make. Participation from all levels of your staff is a crucial part of any greening effort.

  • Buy less toxic cleaners to improve indoor air quality and reduce risks to employee health.
  • Create a green team with members from all divisions of your organization to help implement plans and bring new ideas to the table.

Stay tuned

NRDC offers comprehensive getting-started guides to green building and to smart paper-use practices. If you are a business owner or manager and you'd like to hear from us when we add resources to help you green your business, sign up here.