Small changes can bring green results

It’s no doubt that green is in; everywhere we look we are surrounded by messages to save the planet, save money, buy local, and so on and so forth. We’re encouraged to drive less, reuse more, and adjust our lifestyles to reduce our carbon footprints. So, how exactly can we do this? Even more importantly, how can we do this to integrate with our lives, versus being forced to adapt to something uncomfortable?

The truth is that we don’t all need to drop everything and sell our cars for hybrids to save the earth. The collected small efforts of millions have a tremendous impact. Good habits, such as turning off the lights or optimizing sleep mode on your computer, echo with great resonance into other aspects of your life.

So the question remains: what are these small efforts? What can be done in the eight or so hours that I am in my office to help save the earth?

• Don’t forget step one: Reduce. Reusing and recycling items such as plastic bags is great, but it’s even better if the bag doesn’t need to be produced in the first place. Created from petroleum, many plastic products wind up as waste that will sit in landfills for thousands of years, leaking chemicals into the environment. Reducing the usage of such products greatly decreases the percentage of plastic that you’ll see on the roadside or sitting in a landfill.

• Mugs and reusable dishware: Styrofoam cups never decompose, and even biodegradable products such as paper cups cannot properly break down in the conditions of a landfill. Mugs are a great alternative and greatly reduce waste. Also, having a few reusable bowls or plates can greatly reduce the usage of disposable dishware. If purchasing plates isn’t an option, buy paper plates made from recyclable sources to reduce the impact on the environment.

• Computer Usage: A huge portion of the electricity going into a computer is used to light the monitor. Turn off the monitor while stepping away or going into a meeting or, even better, utilize sleep mode to put your computer in a low-power state from which it can start very quickly. Power strips are great for preventing “vampire” energy usage. The same goes for printers, scanners, and copiers; 30–40 percent of all office equipment is left on over the weekend.

• Paper Conservation: Utilize duplex printing, scrap paper usage, and digital drafts. Many software programs, such as Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Word, have great markup tools that help reduce the need to print paper drafts. Utilize these features and e-mail drafts back and forth before running off copies. Reduce paper usage by using a half-sheet if an agenda is short. Purchasing recycled paper can also have a positive impact.

• Spread the word: Use recycled paper for mailings and signs. Unique flower-seed paper allows messages such as thank-you cards and invitations to be planted and grow flower assortments after use. Eco-friendly alternatives are easy to find and are strongly advertised nowadays, so be sure to take advantage of them.

• Lastly, good habits are contagious: Taking part in simple, Earth-saving actions can easily catch the attention of those around you. That nifty reusable water bottle or beautiful thank-you card made from seed paper is a great way to “show off” your green attitude in style. It sends a great message that you are Earth-conscious and are taking steps to help out.