Given that many Americans spend a majority of the day at work, finding ways to be green in the office is an important part of reducing climate change and living an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Even if your workplace as a whole isn’t adopting sustainable business practices — though really, there are many reasons management should do so (reducing bills being one of them) — there are things you can do and habits you can adopt as an employee to make your personal workspace more eco-friendly and lower your impact on the earth.

Green Your Commute

Did you know that each working American spends approximately 47 hours per year commuting through traffic? This adds up to 3.7 billion hours and 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year.

Carpooling, riding a bike and using public transport are some of the ways to reduce this stress on the environment. If you are in a position to change your ride, consider a hybrid or electric car, as these truly help to reduce emissions.

The best option, however, if your company allows it, is to telecommute. With more millennials entering the workforce, companies are increasingly allowing employees to work remotely, so as to appeal to this generation’s desires of freedom and flexibility. Not only does this help save the air, but will also save you the time you would usually spend on moving to and from your workplace, thus increasing productivity.

Recycle and Use Green Materials

This may seem like an obvious and extremely clichéd suggestion, but it’s surprising how few people recycle, even though it is so easy to implement. You can start by getting a separate trash can for work to use as a recycling bin at your desk. This way, recycling becomes as effortless as other modes of paper disposal. When possible, choose to go paperless, or at least use post-consumer recycled stationery. Using a whiteboard or blackboard for note-taking is much better than a notebook, as you can easily erase and reuse without wasting paper. Even your work attire can be recycled — going to local thrift stores is the perfect way to upgrade your wardrobe and also give back to the community, all while keeping your expenses low. Give up paper towels and plastic bags, and bring in your own cloth napkins and reusable totes. These are things you can control that don’t require sign-off by upper management, though most superiors shouldn’t have a problem with these measures, anyway.

Push for Green CSR/Volunteering Activities

In today’s society, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is of increasing importance. CSR often ensures that a company takes steps to address the social and environmental side effects of their business. CSR is viewed differently than philanthropy. When properly implemented, CSR should become ingrained in the values and culture of a company. If your company doesn’t have an active CSR policy, or even if it practices CSR in a more social than environmental way, encourage upper management to implement and/or widen their focus.

You could use the company’s lack of CSR as a way to get involved in company culture and managerial decisions, showing superiors that you are strongly vested in the well-being of your workplace and surrounding environment. Offer to head an employee committee to discuss potential CSR and volunteering initiatives — this shows that you are concerned with the company’s public image, and can put you in good stead with the higher-ups. It can also benefit the environment if your proposals are accepted.

If you aren’t in the position to influence, rally co-workers to take part in environmentally friendly team bonding exercises after work, like street cleanups or recycling drives. If sustaining our fragile environment isn’t motivation enough, then remember that making your mark within a company is always worthwhile, and by pioneering small changes that indirectly and directly do so much good, you are sure to be remembered as a leader and action-taker within your workplace.

Choose Local, Organic Foods for Lunch

It’s easy to go to a fast food chain and pick up a quick lunch on a busy day. What we sometimes don’t realize is that fast food comes with a whole slew of environmental issues, ranging from its packaging to its production and transportation. Admittedly, certain fast food chains have been trying to address these concerns through various initiatives, but there is still a long way to go before these become sustainable. In fact, fast food packaging is estimated to take up about 40 percent of all litter, with Styrofoam being the most common food waste. Styrofoam itself takes about 900 years to biodegrade, so you can only imagine how much harm this does to the environment.

By packing your own lunch in reusable containers, you can help offset this harm. If you are ordering in, make sure to do so with co-workers to try and reduce the amount of packaging used. Choosing local and organically produced fair-trade products is a great way to grow your local economy and support area artisans, as well as to reduce emissions produced from transportation of imported goods. What’s more, following these easy food habits will also keep you healthier and fitter.

Be a Leader

Share these basic tips with your co-workers, especially if you work in an office that doesn’t actively promote sustainable business practices. Being an ambassador for the environment will earn you great respect and make a positive impact. Simple things — like requesting your manager buy fair-trade coffee for the break room, or encouraging employees to recycle right from their desks by having a small separate recycle bin, or arranging for everyone to get a mug to eliminate the use of paper cups — can go a long way. Spread awareness and be an example for others so that they are motivated to follow in your footsteps.

As you can see, even if your company isn’t inherently “green,” there are many things you can do to make sure your work practices are sustainable. Remember that even as an employee, you do have the power to change the way you work and to make a positive difference.

Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
How to Finally Go Paperless in the Office
Green Your Workplace: 10 Tips & Tricks to Save Money + Reduce Waste
5 Reasons Why You Should Let Your Employees Work from Home

By Akshata Mehta

Akshata majored in international political economy and English literature and has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. Her interests include entrepreneurship and sustainability. Occasionally, she writes about not-so-serious stuff and her daily doings on her blog here.