Are you an earth-loving individual that is looking to live consciously in every aspect of life? All too often, we leave our green intentions at home when we get to the office.
People are always checking their emails while spending time in nature -- now it's time to bring nature into your work-life. You may be amazed to see how many planet-friendly improvements you can make to your work space!
Start by buying locally so that you are investing in your community's small businesses.
Recycling furniture by buying vintage is a great choice for creative types.
Bamboo furniture looks like wood but is actually considered a grass. It grows fast so you don't have to worry about sustainability and is rarely grown with pesticides.
Glass and metal furniture are sleek, modern options that are easy to keep clean and very eco-friendly because they don't release gasses into the air.
If you do decide to go with wood, make sure it is solid wood that is harvested and labeled FSC Certified. The FSC creates sustainable forests and can even tell you where your wood was harvested.
Watch out for stains and finishes that may contain formaldehyde or VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which compromises air quality and can damage internal organs.
The greenest way to light your day is with natural lighting. Placing work-spaces near windows and sky-lights will ensure that your employees are bright-eyed and productive, while also cutting down on energy costs. If you do need bulbs to light your office, choose energy efficient ones such as LEDs ( Light Emitting Diode) or CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights). These bulbs cut down on costs, are mercury free, cool in temperature and long lasting. They come in all your common style such as: tube, flame tipped, tracked, diffused bulbs, globe and flood lighting. Installing motion-sensitive light switches in sporadically used places like the bathroom, break room or copy room is also a must if you want an earth-loving office.
This improvement is not only good for your environment but also your health. Researchers have found high levels of VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde in new carpets and flooring that remain in the material for many years after it's installed (1). These carcinogens fill the air in your office and put you and your employees in danger.
If you need carpet, avoid synthetic products. Opt for a natural material like wool, which absorbs toxins and will not re-introduce them into the air even if heated. Other materials like jute and sisal are safe, as well.
Make sure you have an eco-friendly company install the carpet. Many of the glues used for installation have toxins in them, so tacking it down is your best bet. Earthweave is a phenomenal company that offers 100% biodegradable flooring options as well as earth-friendly installation. Harvested solid wood flooring is a very classy, clean and green way to go and you can find your wood through the FSC, as mentioned in the furniture portion of this article. Bamboo is becoming a very popular sustainable green flooring alternative, because of its durability and its water and mildew resistant properties.
Lastly, there is always the choice of tile or linoleum which is easy to clean and toxin free.
You know that stinky smell that tends to fill the air in a freshly painted room? There is a reason why your nose doesn't like it. The Environmental Protection Agency says it's really bad for you (2). The smell comes from chemicals that are put into paint that can damage your central nervous system, liver and kidneys, not to mention the damage it does to the ozone layer. Fortunately, there are tons of paints out there that are pleasing to the earth and eyes. The absolute greenest way to go is natural paint made from casein (Lime, milk proteins and toxin-free pigments). It comes in a powder form that needs to be mixed with water. The downside is that they aren't quite as durable or colorful as other paints. You can also look for certified green paints that have no VOCs and are also free of vinyl and toxic biocides. These paints will be labeled with the environmental certification seal. You can find them through Green Seal (Link: www.greenseal.org), an organization that certifies companies that meet sustainable green standards.
Once you have created an earth-friendly office, be sure to inform all your employees and customers of the change. This will help to create more conscious individuals who have pride in their planet and in your company!
1. Rumchev, Krassi, Jeff Spickett, and Janelle Graham. "Exposures to Organic Pollutants and Respiratory Illnesses in Adults and Children." Effects of Persistent and Bioactive Organic Pollutants on Human Health (2013): 384-399.
2. Wallace, Lance A. "The total exposure assessment methodology (TEAM) study: summary and analysis: volume I." Office of Research and Development US Environmental Protection Agency 600 (1987): 6-87.
Garret Stembridge is part of the team at Extra Space Storage, a leading provider of self-storage facilities. Garret often writes about sustainable practices for homes and for businesses. Many Extra Space Storage locations, including several in San Diego, have been retrofitted to reduce energy consumption.