Reports estimate that workers miss 450 million days of work each year in the US due to illness. This translates to $153 billion in annual lost productivity, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Other research conditions place the economic effect of lost productivity at a whopping $1.1 trillion per year!

Here are a few easy steps to help you create a healthier office while saving cash and reducing waste.

Image courtesy of Johan Brook.
Image courtesy of Johan Brook.

1. Conserve Energy

Sleep is recommended at the office—at least for your monitor! Set your computer to switch to sleep mode after 5 minutes of idle time. According to the Department of Energy, office buildings account for nearly 30% of commercial energy demand. A simple change like using your computer’s sleep mode can dramatically decrease office energy use. It requires very little power because it stores the documents you’ve been using in memory. Since 40% of the energy it takes to run your computer goes to the monitor, this can add up to big savings. Notebook computers use less energy than desktops, and when you put them on system standby, it reduces their power from 20 to 30 watts down to 1 to 2 watts.

Money-Saving Tip: Make sure everything in the office -individual office lights, computers, printers, and other office equipment – is powered down during off-hours. It’s been estimated that for every $1 invested in energy efficiency of a building, the asset value increases by an estimated $3.

2. Light Your Way to Savings

More than 25% of all office energy use comes from artificial lighting. Reduce office electric bills by using Light-Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs; instead of the popular compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) which also contain dangerous mercury. LEDs are actually brighter and more energy-efficient than CFLs.

3. Pass on the Packing Peanuts

Styrofoam, also known as expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, does not biodegrade. Unfortunately, EPS is a huge problem with our marine life. The expanded polystyrene foam, like most plastic, floats in water and when disposed of as litter, it ultimately gets into our marine eco-system. In fact, plastic, including EPS, comprises 90% of floating marine debris. EPS will often photodegrade and break down into smaller pieces that marine animals mistake for food, contributing to an even bigger problem. Try instead biodegradable starch-based peanuts that can dissolve in water. PaperNuts are another example of an environmentally friendly loose fill. They are made from 100% recycled materials and are biodegradable and fully recyclable.

HP ink cartridge recycling
Image courtesy of Innovate360.

4. Refill Your Ink

In the U.S., it’s estimated that 375 million used ink and toner cartridges end up in landfills each year. Besides being costly, ink cartridges are not earth-friendly. Be sure to properly dispose of your printer’s ink cartridges since they can take over 450 years to decompose. Recycle your old ones, and next time you buy, pick refilled cartridges, which cost up to 75% less than new ones. Look for remanufactured cartridges that use recycled cartridges and refilled ink reservoirs.

Money-Saving Tip: Save more ink by printing drafts of less important documents. Try setting your printer to “draft mode.”

5. Get Moving

The average person spends between 9 and 13 hours a day sitting (ugh!) which is linked to numerous health issues. Take the stairs! Elevators in North American office buildings usually use between 3 to 5% of the building’s electricity. A 154-pound person burns 10 calories per minute when ascending, and 7 calories per minute when descending a flight of stairs.

If you prefer sitting, you’ll definitely want to check out the Core Chair. Just by sitting you can activate yourself and get fit … while you sit!

6. Carpool

The US is currently 93% reliant on petroleum for its transportation. Commuter Choice programs are designed to help cut pollution, reduce traffic congestion, and conserve energy. If your employer doesn’t have a Commuter Choice program, ask them to start one. In addition to carpooling, public transit can be another great solution. By taking the bus or train you are sharing resources with your local community, and ultimately helping to reduce pollution.

Money-Saving Tip: By utilizing greener commuting, you won’t just be helping the environment; you may be eligible for cash and other benefits. Some of the programs offer workers tax-free transit or vanpool benefits that are up to $100 per month.

7. Video Conference

The average business meeting produces 20 pounds of waste per person (ie: plastic, aluminum, and glass containers and paper and food waste) and many larger meetings take place at hotel conference rooms utilizing additional energy. Why travel for business when you can use video conferencing? With free video calls, you can talk face-to-face with clients, reduce air travel, and reduce unnecessary carbon emissions into the environment.

Money-Saving Tip: Online meetings will reduce the gas consumption of employees required to travel to an office while allowing more effective use of employees’ time.

Twelve reams of paper
Image courtesy of Paw Paw.

8. Conserve Paper

Paper makes up 40% of all our garbage and that is more than any other type of waste. The average employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year for printed proposals, emails, and other documents. Not so good when you consider the paper-making process causes deforestation, water pollution, and demolishes habitats of thousands of animals. Look for post-consumer recycled content paper that does not rely on newly cut trees. Also, go digital as much as possible and make sure you only print what is absolutely necessary.

Money-Saving Tip: Cut down on paper being used in the office by paying your bills online. And, reduce paper by 50% just by printing double-sided sheets. If you want to go further, reduce the margins of what is printed from1” to 0.5”.

9. Use a Smarter Strip

On average, 40% of the energy used in offices today is from electronics that are powered off but are still plugged in. Some electrical devices (ex: computers, power adapters, coffeemakers to name a few) can still be using electricity even when they are turned off. This is referred to as a “standby power,” “idle current,” or “phantom load.”

Money-Saving Tip: Save time, money, and energy by using the Smart Strip brand power strip for your electronics. Besides offering superior surge protection, these power strips have built-in programs that allow them to “sense” when a device is off or on by the flow of electrical current through the strip’s control outlet. It then turns off selected equipment when it’s not in use—so you won’t waste electricity.

10. Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle

Look for electronic items that have Energy Star certification, alternatively powered electronics, and those containing recycled material. Be sure to check here on Earth911 to find an electronics recycler near you to dispose of older items.

If you’ve been dragging yourself through the daily 9-to-5 grind, implementing even just a few of the above steps will help you save money and enjoy happier hours.

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."