Celebrating Earth Day at Work

On April 22, the world celebrates Earth Day, and there are a number of ways you can promote Earth Day at work.

"Earth Day is a time to celebrate. We, the American public, have accomplished so much. Gone are the days when air pollution could turn noon to night, when rivers caught fire, and toxic waste was poured down drains," claims EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt.

Saying the environment "knows no boundaries," Leavitt notes that "We all cause pollution every one of us. And working together, we can find the solutions and effect the changes needed to protect our planet."

The government offers these suggestions to take Earth Day action at work:

Commuting

Start a carpool or walk, bike or use mass transportation instead of driving. Also, encourage your employer to be a "Best Workplace for Commuters" (www.commuterchoice.gov). This program publicly recognizes employers whose commuter benefits reach a National Standard of Excellence. Providing commuter benefits helps employers address limited or expensive parking, reduce traffic congestion, improve employee recruiting and retention, and minimize the environmental impacts associated with drive-alone commuting. Participating companies earn the designation "Best Workplaces for Commuters" a mark of excellence for environmentally and employee-friendly organizations.

You can check out how every trip you take can affect air quality at www.italladdsup.gov. It All Adds Up offers information about the connection between transportation choices, traffic congestion and air pollution, and emphasizes simple, convenient actions people can take to improve air quality and reduce congestion.

In many U.S. cities, the personal automobile is the single greatest polluter, as emissions from millions of vehicles on the road add up. In fact, vehicles account for more than 25 percent of all air pollution nationwide. Traffic congestion is no longer just a big-city problem: the time commuters spend stalled in traffic in small and medium-sized cities has more than quadrupled since 1982, costing hours of delay, billions of gallons of wasted fuel, and billions of dollars in time and fuel costs.

Green Buildings

Apply these green building principles (www.ofee.gov) to your office buildings. They impact natural resources, land use, energy use, worker and public health, and community well being.

  • Green purchasing: Includes the acquisition of recycled content products, environmentally preferable products and services, biobased products, energy- and water-efficient products, alternate fuel vehicles, and products using renewable energy.
  • Reduce waste and recycle materials: According to EPA, the United States generated 232 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2000. The good news is that we recovered and recycled 30 percent of the materials in this waste stream. The bad news is that we still disposed of more than 128 million tons of MSW in landfills. Many of the materials in the MSW can be reduced, reused or recycled if there are markets for the materials. The long-established hierarchy for managing the trash and materials that are generated every day is waste prevention (including reducing and reusing materials), recycling (including composting), incineration, and landfilling. Integrated waste management requires a mix of these activities, which each facility must determine based on its location, resources and markets for recyclables.
  • Sustainable buildings: Constructing and operating buildings requires enormous amounts of energy, water and materials and creates large amounts of waste. Where and how they are built affects the ecosystem in countless ways. The buildings themselves create new indoor environments that present new environmental problems and challenges. As the environmental impact of buildings becomes more apparent, a growing field called sustainable design is leading the way to reduce that impact at the source. Sustainable design is the practice of creating healthier and more resource efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, and demolition.

Reduce Energy Use

Use Energy Star's energy-efficient office products, and make sure you turn on the energy-saving features. You can find more information about Energy Star products at www.energystar.gov.

Other energy-saving tips include:

  • Turn off your computer monitor, printers, copy machines and the lights when they are not being used.
  • If possible, take the stairs instead of using the elevator.
  • Use high-efficiency, fluorescent lighting or natural light (www.eere.energy.gov/erec/factsheets/eelight.html)

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Office Products

  • Buy recycled content, remanufactured and recyclable office products, and recycle them when appropriate (including e-cycling electronics). At a minimum, buy recycled paper and recycle it again. See the small business guide to pollution prevention for more information at epa.gov/p2/assist/sbg.htm.
  • Clean out files and recycle papers you no longer need. Many organizations sponsor cleaning weeks; check with your office management staff.
  • Use spell check and proofread before you print or copy. Print double-sided copies whenever possible. Minimize the amount of paper you use.
  • Buy reusable office supplies instead of disposable supplies.
  • Set up an area to store and exchange reusable office supplies, such as binders
  • Recycle fluorescent bulbs properly to prevent hazardous mercury from entering the environment.

Cleaning

Use environmentally preferable cleaning supplies. Find out more about them at www.epa.gov/oppt/epp/cleaner.htm.

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