Sustainable Efforts in the Office

Submitted by: Amanda Surgens, Assistant Director for Operations, Office of Residence Life and Housing

Many of us can say that we do our best to practice sustainable efforts in our homes; we probably recycle paper, plastic and glass, we don’t run the water while brushing our teeth, we might even have energy efficient appliances and wash our laundry in cold rather than hot water.  This is excellent and hopefully you’re seeing a difference in your energy bills as well as feeling like you’re making an impact on our world.

The truth is though, that most of us spend more time at work than we do at home.  So, what can you do while you’re at work to increase your efforts towards a more sustainable life?  The Student Affairs Sustainability Committee would like to offer some easy tips to make your work life more sustainable.

Let’s start with the lighting in your office.  Certainly, some of us do not control our lighting, but if you do, or if you can talk to whomever does:

  • Ensure that all office lighting, including lamps and other task lights, use linear or compact fluorescent bulbs. Better yet, investigate options for using LED lighting. If you’re remodeling your office space, determine whether linear fluorescent fixtures use T-12 (less efficient, bigger bulbs) or T-8 (more efficient, smaller bulbs) lamps. If they’re still T-12 consider making a lighting retrofit part of the remodeling project.
  • Turn off the lights whenever leaving the room. There is no negative impact of turning lights on and off repeatedly.   Also, now that sun is shining brightly, consider leaving your lights off for the majority of the day.
  • Occupancy sensors and daylight sensors make sense for many applications. Consider requesting to have these installed as needed.

What about your computer?  There are many ways to save energy with just your computer.

  • Instead of scan and print….scan and email. Most scanners have an option to email documents.   Or, use the desktop fax option.  BSU offers desktop faxing to faculty and staff members.  Check it out!
  • Turn off monitors when out for lunch, at a meeting or even when stepping away from your computer for a short break. Leaving your monitor or computer on stand-by mode still consumes about 30% of normal use in some cases. Ensure that all computers are turned off at the end of the day, on weekends, holidays, etc.
  • Change the settings (Start > Control panel > Display-PC, System Preferences > Energy Saver) to automatically switch off monitors and/or shut down the computer or hard drive when not in use. Remember that screen savers do not save any energy. It’s a myth that cycling computers on and off is harmful or inefficient. Computers and other appliances are designed to be operated in this manner—that’s why they have these settings.

The copier and fax machines are the next area that you can reduce waste and save some energy.

  • Most copiers and fax machines have “energy saver” modes. Simply push the button or flip the switch to allow the machine to automatically make use of this feature and save energy.   You can also switch the default setting to print/copy in black and white and double side each document.
  • Think ahead too!  Do you really need an agenda for that meeting?  If so, could you send it via email ahead of time and avoid wasting the paper?
  • Purchase recycled paper for your copier;  and keep a “scrap paper receptacle” nearby for those “ooops” copy jobs that could be repurposed.

Lastly, let’s discuss your office’s appliances. 

  • Consider doing without or sharing such things as water coolers, microwaves, copiers, etc.  If your office is in close proximity to another, talk about sharing these items to conserve.  If buying one is absolutely necessary, investigate the energy efficiency of the appliance being purchased and buy the most energy efficient model. Many of these types of appliances fall under the ENERGY STAR program.

Clearly there are more ways to save, reduce, and conserve energy; however, this is a good starting point for your office’s efforts.  The Student Affairs Sustainability Committee is happy to help with ideas and welcome your input about sustainable efforts and activities.

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