This was written by Maria Samuels, a designer at In Style Modern Furniture.
The office is meant to be a safe place where people can focus on their work and increase their productivity. Such is the reason for strict adherence to safety measures and ways to make it a work-efficient place. There is always the misconception that workplaces with productions lines such as factories and packaging are the only ones in need of safety standards. The average office may not have the heavy machinery of the manufacturing section, but it only means that there are so many things that office workers take for granted. These seemingly-insignificant things can actually be hazardous not only to health but to the environment in the long run. Below is a checklist for you to start on, to see if your workplace is safe not just for people but for the whole planet as well. After all, even small things can have a serious impact on the planet and on all living things if left unaddressed.
1. CRT computer monitors – Cathode ray tube desktop monitors use a lot more power than liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors. It also has more parts and components made of hazardous substances such as lead and mercury. LCD monitors are 66% energy-efficient, generates less heat, takes up less space and has low-intensity lighting that is easy on the eyes.
2. Old freon-based refrigerators and air conditioners – Aside from freon being phased out and banned in the manufacture of new refrigerators, emission of CFCs (chlorofluocarbons) contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. You may think that, by using an old refrigerator your office, you are saving money, but the long-term effects are critical and can cause dire consequences for your health and the environment. New refrigerators use tetrafluoroethane, a less harmful ingredient than freon, and are designed to use less energy than their old counterparts.
3. Aerosol sprays – the use of CFCs in aerosol spray may have been phased out, but hydrocarbons in spray cans are still an environmental and health hazard, as these may not damage the ozone layer but still contributes to air pollution. You can replace them with refillable spray bottles made from 25% recyclable plastic.
4. Incandescent light bulbs – It is a proven fact that compact fluorescent lamps and LED-based lighting consume significantly less electricity than traditional incandescents. CFLs and LED lights may cost more, but you don’t just save energy and money, you lessen the environmental impact that energy consumption causes. A 6W LED lamp can give as much light as a 60W incandescent without the energy expense.
5. Disposable styrofoam cups – The polystyrene material in the disposable cups we use in the office water cooler may be easy to recycle, but it presents both health and environmental hazards as it can release hydrocarbons, which contributes to air pollution. Encourage office staff to bring their own drinking mugs to work and create group awareness about how seemingly small actions can produce ecological concerns.
6. Non-recyclable printer ink and toner cartridges – These items tend to contribute massively to landfill waste, not to mention that manufacturing them releases greenhouse gases. Petroleum-based printer products are also toxic. Use refillable cartridges and vegetable oil-based printer ink.
7. Toxic cleaning products – Items like disinfectants and antiseptics may be useful in eliminating germs and disease in the office, but these cleaning products are also harmful to you and the environment. Their residues can be ingested or inhaled, cause skin irritation and poisoning, and when washed down the drain into the town sewage system, can easily pollute the water and soil. Replace them with plant-based and water-based cleaning agents.
8. Unhealthy office food items – Vending machines and the office pantry are often filled with junk food, candies and other items contained in non-biodegradable wrappers and packaging. Not only is it a source of excessive amounts of trash and is cause for health concerns, consumption of junk food also puts a strain on Mother Earth. Junk food manufacturers acquire cheap bulk ingredients from factory farming industries that use huge amounts of pesticides, fertilizers and petroleum, both for making plastic wrappers and fuel used for shipping these items. Do a petition and ask your office managers to have healthy options during meetings, office parties and potlucks. Order more organic food and, if possible, vegetarian items at least twice a week. Not only are you helping officemates to be healthy, you’ll be contributing less to the human carbon footprint.
9. Plastic-based office supplies – Instead of using plastic folders, binders, envelopes, mousepads, and table mats, why not opt for recycled paper products? Plastic office items tend to mostly end up in the trash bin and are difficult to recycle. Manufacturing plastic items also uses massive amounts of petroleum-based materials and can contribute to pollution during factory production and excessive energy consumption when shipping.
10.Bottled water – Instead of keeping bottled water in the office pantry or having them on vending machines, install a water dispenser and ask everyone to bring their own drinking mugs. Not only do you save money, you also prevent accumulation of office trash due to empty plastic bottles. Less plastic bottles to manufacture, the better for the environment.
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