Going green is a term used for conservation of energy and preservation of the environment. Facing with environmental hazards of pollution like the global warming, citizens from every part of the world are doing their contributions in lessening the emissions of green house gases . A world agreement like the Kyoto Protocol is one of the manifestations that the world is serious in preserving the environment for future generations. This paper describes the current situation of pollution brought by offices and the process of ‘going green’ as a makeover for workplaces.
It also identifies and analyzes the impacts of the ‘going green’ process on the attitudes and behaviors of the workers.
The first step of contributing to the conservation of our Mother Earth is starting the deed at home. However Lisa Cullen (2007) argues that conservation at home is not enough when at work in the office, people become “triplicate-printing, paper-cup-squashing and computer-running earth befoulers.” Office works have their shares of pollution in the world with their computers and lights running non-stop, printers producing thousands of paper leaves, and plastic bottles and other wastes being thrown as garbage.
According to Brandi Cummings (2007) an average American employee in an office produces 150 pounds of paper annually as wastes. Also, 38 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are generated by the usage and production of electronics like computers, fax machines, printers, and copying machines.(Cummings 2007)
Cullen (2007) adds that “heating, cooling, and powering office space” contributes to 40% of total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States as well as the 70% of the total electricity usage.
The electricity is consumed up by computers which spend 1 billion US Dollars worth of electricity every year. The disposal of electronic machines produces toxic chemicals like “lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)”, and other harmful chemicals.
According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) 50 metric tons of e-waste is being disposed worldwide. Most of these e-wastes are transferred to developing countries where workers who process them are unaware and unprotected of the possible hazards of e-waste. (Responsible Purchasing Network) Aside from those findings, office workers who commute to their workplaces send out 1. 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) yearly. (Cullen 2007)
According to Portland Office of Sustainable Development (2001), “energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, and other resource efficient practices” are essential for the environment and the future generations. Aside from those benefits, resource-efficient products and practices makes more cost savings. Cummings (2007) indentifies the three areas where everyone can contribute in saving energy and the environment. These are:
For paper, Cummings (2007) mentions several ways on reducing the consumption of paper in offices.
One is the usage of recycled papers rather than the purchase of new sheets of paper. (Cummings 2007) Recycled papers are cheaper and are of good quality like the new ones. Aside from saving money, cutting of trees will be prevented since there will be lesser purchases of new paper sheets. More trees mean lesser carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. New American Dream proposes the purchase of unbleached paper with a “post-consumer waste (PCW) content” of 30 percent or more. Another way of saving papers is printing on both sides or making them scratch papers to make the full use of them.(Cummings 2007)
There is nothing wrong with using the other side of paper since the ink does not penetrate the back side of the paper which incurs reading difficulties. Cummings (2007) mentions other ways such as proofreading and editing in computer before printing, and re-using file folders through replacement of labels. She also suggests using an Internet fax instead of a fax machine in order to minimize the use of inks and papers. (Cummings 2007) Amy Novotney (2008) notes psychologists are also practicing the same ways in order to save trees.
Thomas Doherty, PsyD in Portland, says that we should review the resources that we consume in our daily lives and make some modifications as needed. He recommends buying “post-consumer recycled paper” since confidential documents are often shredded and recycled. Novotney (2008) also mentions psychology professor Michelle Vereges, PhD, of Indiana University who uses both sides of the paper for her syllabi and other course information. Another psychologist, Jeffrey Noethe , PhD, uses the scanner to store the files of his patients rather than keeping the records in a file cabinet.
According to him computer files are safer compared to paper copies stored in file cabinets. Sherri Gallagher PhD, a psychologist in Phoenix, practices putting used or shredded papers in her own compost for fertilizing her garden. (Novotney 2008)
In China, the China Green Lights Program (CGLP) according to Jiang Lin (1999) contributed successfully in raising the awareness of people on available energy-efficient lighting technologies, and the substantial increase in the production and usage of these technologies.
An attestation to this is the increase in production of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) from 38 million units in 1993 to 100 million units in 1998 as lighting manufacturers grew by 600 (400-1000) from 1993 to 1997. The success of the promotion of efficient lighting technologies like the CFL is due to four factors:
However during the initial years of the Green Lights Program, two major obstacles were seen in using the more efficient lighting products in China.
Aside from the obstacles, Jiang (1999) highlights the policy recommendations to address market barriers for the expansion of the Green Lights Program. These are grouped into three categories:
For information, more targeted information should be provided in order for the consumers to understand clearly the benefits of using energy efficient products.
For the quality assurance, setting quality standards and developing warranty requirements accompanied by precise enforcement are needed. For market transformation, options like mass purchase, government purchase, rebate programs, and lighting service companies aim to increase demand through “volume purchasing and financing. ” (Jiang 1999) Cummings (2007) says changing a light bulb is another measure for going green in office. According to the author, incandescent bulbs are using four times than the needed energy in order to produce light.
Halogen lights, on the other hand, can reach a temperature of almost 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit which according to the author is “enough to cook an egg. ” (Cummings 2007) She suggests using compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s) with Energy Star certification because these lights needed 75 percent less energy to produce light, 10 times longer, and produce less amount of heat. Another way of saving energy as mentioned by the author is turning off the lights when not in used. She also suggests that using motion sensors that will automatically turn off the lights is also effective.
Cullen (2007) mentions the Green Building Council who formulated a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification rating which will make modifications in business establishments. One of its changes is installing automatic shutoffs for the lights because it can save up to 44 percent of electricity used in offices. (Cullen 2007) New American Dream adds the usage of electronic ballasts which are energy-efficient and allow the office workers to manipulate and control their workspace lighting through “increasing dimming capabilities and reducing start-up time, noise, flicker, and heat output.” (New American Dream)
An example of dimmable ballast is the Multnomah County located in Portland, Oregon USA. The daylight dimming controls installed control the “ballasts in fixtures in the perimeter day lit zones for each floor. ” The photo sensors in the building control the lighting in response to daylight. This measure saves 4,000 US Dollars per year and a rebate of 21,000 US Dollars coming from Portland General Electric (PGE). (Portland Office of Sustainable Development 2001)
Cummings (2007) cites three factors in going green with electronics;
The first factor expounds the usage of a large amount of resources like electricity, raw materials, and water in the manufacture of electronics. Cummings (2007) also mentions that to lessen the office’s affect on the production of these electronics, the purchase of all-in-one machines which combine several functions into one.
It is because plugging different kinds of machines like printers, scanners, and fax machines is more costly than using a single machine that can print, scan and send documents through fax. When also looking for new equipments that are going to be used, Cummings (2007) suggests giving importance to equipments with Energy Star certification. Computers that are Energy Star certified would be 52 percent more efficient than an ordinary one because of their ability to auto stand-by or shutdown when left idle. Laptops could be more energy-saving than the desktop computers.(Cummings 2007)
It is because desktop computers have a separate monitor and CPU compared to laptops. According to the United States Department of Energy, a computer monitor eats up about 270 watts of energy when opened. Portland Office of Sustainable Development (2001) suggests liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors as more energy-saving than the common cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. If laptops are still unavailable, staff psychologist Ken Liberatore, PhD, points out that computers should be turned off or be entered to sleep mode when not in used because it saves energy consumption by 75 percent or around 150 US Dollars annually.(Novotney 2008)
Portland Office of Sustainable Development (2001) also adds that “if every computer and monitor in the United States were turned off at night, the nation could shut down eight large power stations and avoid emitting 7 million tons of carbon dioxide CO2 every year. ” For the used machines, Cummings (2007) proposes that those machines be donated to charitable trusts so that they will remain in use. The danger of disposing these electronics is the e-wastes that will threaten the environment as well as human health.
Donating or bargaining used machines to these charitable institutions or less income companies not only helps them but also reduces the damage taken from disposing electronics. Other ways WNBC posts other ways of going green in the office. These are:
In their website, they sell products that are categorized into six classes:
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