Earth Day: Take Action At Work

April 22, 2003
Looking for ways to celebrate Earth Day (April 22) at work? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests encouraging your employer to participate in the Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative, reducing energy use, and reusing and recycling office products as good ways to start.

Commute for the environment

Start a carpool or walk, bike or use mass transportation instead of driving, if you want to befriend the Earth, says EPA. Employers are encouraged to join the Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative (www.commuterchoice.gov), a voluntary business-government partnership that promotes employer-provided commuter benefits. Many employers offer such options as compressed work weeks (for example, four, 10-hour days as opposed to five, 8-hour days, saving employees one day of commuting, parking fees, bus fares, etc.), telecommuting, reduced-price transit passes and bike lockers. Why not be recognized for these programs? The Society for Human Resource Management estimates as many as 40 percent of the nation's largest employers offer at least two commuter benefits: a condensed work week and telecommuting.

As of March 14, 2003, 1,329 employers have joined the initiative, representing more than 679,000 employees nationwide. A Business Benefits calculator, which estimates the financial, environmental, traffic-related and other benefits of joining the program, is available at www.commuterchoice.gov/resource/calc.htm.

Reduce energy use

EPA makes a number of suggestions to reduce energy use in the workplace.

  • Buy and use energy-efficient office products. The Energy Star program can help you find good ideas. Make sure that you turn on the energy saving features. (www.energystar.gov)
  • 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. Visit www.eere.energy.gov/erec/factsheets/eelight.html for more information.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle office products

EPA suggests purchasing recycled content, remanufactured and recyclable office products when possible, and recycling them whenever possible. At a minimum, buy recycled paper and recycle it again. See the small business guide to pollution prevention for more information at www.epa.gov/p2/assist/sbg.htm. Other suggestions include:

  • Clean out your 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. In general, suggests EPA, minimize the amount of paper you use.
  • Buy reusable office supplies instead of disposable supplies, and 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.
  • Use environmentally preferable cleaning supplies. For information, visit www.epa.gov/oppt/epp/cleaner.htm.
About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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