Living Green From 9-5

Contributing author Rebecca Goodstein is the Conservation Journeys Manager at The Nature Conservancy.

Your office can be much more than a place where you work 8 hours a day. It can be where you try to save the world, where you work for "the man"? or, in some workplaces, where you surf the Internet all day long! In my case, I recently realized it was a place where I was spending a ton of money (kinda defeats the purpose of a job) and producing a ton of waste at my job (kinda defeats the purpose of my job--I work at an environmental nonprofit).

So I did an audit of my workday to see how much I was spending and what my impact on the environment was. What I found out made my wallet and my growing carbon footprint shudder.

It all started on my commute. Don't get me wrong, public transportation is far more sustainable than driving, but I realized I was spending over $5 a day! So after running through every excuse in the book, I tried biking to work. The benefits are endless: I was able to quit my gym (I save money twice--on my commute and by not belonging to a gym); I don't have to put up with inconsiderate bus riders; I feel healthier and more alert when I get to the office; and the extra $5 in my pocket each day ain't so bad either!

At the office, I would sit at my desk guzzling huge plastic bottles of water. But each bottle of water I bought meant $2.50 less in my pocket and one more water bottle disposed of. I did a little research and found out that we have clean, cool, and safe filtered water right in our office kitchen! Now I refill my reusable water bottle while still taking pride in being the model of hydration.

Coffee is one thing I couldn't do without at work. Just looking at my latte sitting on my desk makes me feel more productive. After some soul searching, I decided that although I couldn't do without buying coffee during the workday, I'd bring my own cup and switch to shade-grown coffee. Boy, was I rewarded! My coffee shop gives me 10 cents off every time I use my reusable mug, and shade-grown coffee beans naturally thrive beneath a tropical forest canopy--not on clear-cut land that's exposed to the sun. Now I'm saving a little, not producing as much waste, and supporting sustainable coffee farming!

This brings me to lunch: the money pit of the workday. No matter how inexpensive a sandwich I buy, it will always cost more than a lunch I bring in from home (not to mention that it is usually wrapped in plastic and tossed in a plastic bag with 1,700 napkins and some plastic utensils stuck in). I vowed to bring my lunch a few times a week. If I'm feeling like an especially upright Citizen of the Earth, I make a run to my farmers market on Sunday and make my week's lunches from local foods. I bought a little green kit? and microfiber towel to eat my lunch and clean up with afterward. However, I do acknowledge that going out for lunch with coworkers is one of the pleasures of working in an office, so I don't deny myself going out once or twice a week for a burger (well, a veggie burger).

When I added up my expenses commuting to and being at work, I realized I was spending upwards of $20 per day! Now when I'm not saving the world, I can spend my time deciding what to do with my newly found $100 a week.

As I was reducing my carbon footprint and limiting unnecessary expenditures at work, it made me realize that my office as whole could do the same. So I've convinced the Powers That Be to make some changes. We're turning the thermostat down a few degrees, asking everyone to bring their own green kit to eliminate disposable cups and plates, revamping our recycling system, and we stopped selling bottled water in our vending machines. If I'm saving $20 a day after my "audit"? I can only imagine what my large office building is saving maybe they'll even consider putting it in my paycheck!

Tags: Green office, Green on a budget, Recycling, Saving money

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