ISSUE 1  |  Office Space

6 Ways to Green Your Office in the New Year

January 10, 2014 5:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

Itching for a little office sprucing in the new year? If applying for a LEED-certified renovation isn’t in the cards, consider these six easy ways to freshen your office and make sure that your work space is doing its part to make the environment (inside and out of your own four walls) a priority.

Photographs by Erin Boyle.

1. Add more plants.

Offices are often places rife with volatile organic compounds that leach from industrial carpeting, printers and copiers, and office furniture made from synthetic materials–not mention paint, varnishes, and even copy paper. While scientists disagree on plants’ ability to filter the air completely, even if plants can’t soak up all the office air nasties we’re convinced that introducing hard-working houseplants will at the very least brighten the mood. Looking for a quick fix? Build the lazy person’s version of a living wall. See DIY: A Living Wall for the Office.

2. Recycle.

We know that it’s 2014 and we’re all supposed to already know how to recycle, but offices are notorious for skimping on recycling services. Make sure you have a devoted bin for recyclables and commit to being a low-waste workspace. Limit your use of takeout food containers, switch to paperless invoicing, and for goodness sake, bring a reusable coffee cup to the corner cafĂ©. (Bonus points for buying organic beans. See Shopper’s Diary: No. Six Depot Roasters in the Berkshires for more on one of new favorite roasters.)

3. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. 

Despite the overstated hype of the January 1, 2014 incandescent light bulb ban in the US, the truth is that there are still plenty of ways to purchase incandescents (this Verge article parses the nuances of the confusion). Voluntarily switching to compact fluorescents, however, will save on energy costs and make you feel virtuous.  

4. Use zero-VOC paints.

Headache from those paint fumes? Your brain is trying to tell you something. If you feel like adding a fresh coat of paint to your space, opt for a choice with zero organic compounds. The Green Depot’s Ivy Coatings Custom Color Paint is a high quality option with great results. 

For more choices, see 10 Easy Pieces: Eco-Friendly Paints.

5. Commit to tap water.

Turn your afternoon chat around the water cooler into an afternoon chat around the water pitcher. Bottled water and water delivery systems are the norm in many offices, even when there’s perfectly good tap water just a faucet away. If the water in your building is safe to drink, use the resource you already have. You’ll save on delivery costs and reap the cosmic benefits of knowing that fewer carbon emissions were emitted on your behalf. See Sip On This: Cleansing Citrus Herbal Water if you need motivation. 

6. Scour thrift shops for solid wood furniture.

If buying beautiful Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood furniture is prohibitively expensive, consider thrifting solid wood furniture and sprucing it up with a zero-VOC paint job. Inexpensive office furniture made of particle wood and cheap wood is often coated in formaldehyde and finished with VOC-rich paints, varnishes and lacquers. Embrace vintage furniture made of real wood and breathe easier.

What did we miss? What little changes are you making in your work space this year?

See more office-inspired posts in this week’s issue: Office Space.