One of the reasons that we, as a society, create so much waste is that it is easier to have something that is disposable, than to have something that must be maintained. Turning an office environment “green” will take some work, but worth it.

It is a bit harder to encourage an office staff to think about a healthy environment, because of the number of personalities involved. As with any new venture, it works best if there is support from the top management.

Following are some very simple ideas that you can use to start to turn your office into a “green” office.

1. Set recycling bins beside your wastebaskets, and have pictures of the recyclables on them

When we decided to start office recycling about 15 years ago, we were told by other environmental people, “It’s nearly impossible to get staff members to recycle.” We optimistically set out recycling bins, and all of the staff’s garbage went into the general waste basket. Thinking this over, we determined that one of the problems was than the employees didn’t know what was to be put into each bin. We took pictures of aluminum cans for one, plastic bottles for another, and we put the pictures on the bins. It worked.

We expand this when we have an event. Not only do we label the bins, we also “seed” each bin with the correct recyclable item. This allows anyone coming by to look in and see what belongs.

2. Purchase mugs for coffee

It became so easy to have disposable foam cups that most offices now use them. In your office, eliminate the foam cups, and purchase some mugs, including enough for your guests. This implies that someone will have to wash the mugs.

3. Use natural insect and rodent control, rather than chemicals

This one is a little harder to implement, because people are very used to having everything killed in an instant. But you can try some natural approaches. Here are a few concepts:

• Don’t leave food out to attract mice and rats; set live traps if you have a suspicion that you have such visitors.
• Ants won’t cross a line of pepper; sprinkle it on counter edges.
• Mud wasps don’t like the color robin egg blue; paint it where you don’t want them.

4. Miscellaneous other “green” ideas

• If there is enough light coming through the window, turn off the overhead lights.

• On nice spring and fall days, try opening a window rather than running air conditioning

• Call vendors who send you things with Styrofoam peanuts, and ask them to ship with recyclable packaging (most of them have the ability, all you have to do is ask)

• Use office paper twice, by printing draft reports on the backs of scrap paper

The key to getting your office staff to think “green” is to have some simple, easy-to-use alternatives. Check your garbage and see what is being thrown out the most and find an alternative for it.

Author's Bio: 

Ruth Haag ( is the President and CEO of Haag Environmental Company, a hazardous waste consulting firm. Ruth is also a business management consultant. She trains supervisors to identify their shortcomings and tame them, while creating management systems that focus on their employees rather than themselves. She is also the author of several books, including a four-book series on supervisory management which includes Taming Your Inner Supervisor, Day to Day Supervising, Hiring and Firing and Why Projects Fail. She and her partner, Bob Haag, host the weekly radio show Manage Living, which can be heard on-demand on her site.