The Environmentally-Friendly Office
In addition to presenting the advantage of resource economy, recycled paper manufacture leaves out a number of paper treatment steps that allows energy economy and the reduction of emissions to air and water. The use of one ton of recycled paper saves the life of 17 trees and spares 25,000 litres of water and energy to the equivalent of approx. 1,500 litres of oil. It is estimated that about 17% of the wood used for paper production originate from virgin forests. A good part of waste paper is burnt rather than recycled because of the low acceptance of recycled paper.
- Use exclusively envelopes, calendars, notebooks, file holders, etc. made out of recycled paper / cardboard.
- Prefer using recycled paper for your printed documents as far as possible.
You can obtain a wide range of article made out of directly recycled paper e.g. at:
More hints to spare paper:
- Do not print out you emails. An electronic storage and classification presents moreover the advantage of more efficient traceability and retrieval possibilities, e.g. with full text search.
- Print your documents both-sided.
- Use one-side printed sheets as scratch paper.
- Use and promote electronic media for as many domains as possible, such as electronic billing services.
- Provide your partner with a PDF file rather than with a document printed on paper.
Electronic Devices, General
Coltan, also named "tantalum" is an essential mineral for the production of electronic devices. Unfortunately, this mineral is a resource available in restricted quantities. Coltan ores are in particular extracted in African countries, Congo being the main exporter. As this resource is highly demanded, its commerce is subject to many abusive procedures. For the exploitation of coltan ores, landscapes are destroyed, contributing to biodiversity loss, and manpower is exploited, including children. More than two million people have died due to the hazardous work conditions of mining and the war that have arisen in Congo due to the commerce of coltan.
Do consider this the next time you want to change or buy an electronic device and ponder if your old device would yet make it any longer. Make sure that your electronic devices are correctly recycled when you decide to dispose of them.
- Many computers and screens go on using energy even if they are switched off. Connect your computer and peripherals to a power strip with a switch to be able to separate completely your workstation from the mains when you leave work.
- Switch off your screen when you go for lunch break.
- Newly developed computer components allow reducing the energy consumption of computers. Nevertheless, before you exchange too often a component for a new one, consider that both the manufacture of new components as the disposal/recycling of old components are very energy-demanding and polluting processes which might exceed the environmental impact of the further use of you old components.
CDs / DVDs
CDs and DVDs are made out of polycarbonate, a product derived from oil, which is a shrinking resource.
- Bring your obsolete CDs and DVDs to collection schemes for recycling. Many computer stores, but also public establishments like schools or large companies offer collection points. You can protect you data by scratching the silver surface, which will make the CD/DVD unreadable.
- Use rewritable CDs or USB sticks to store or transport your data.
Printers & Copiers
- Printer and copiers need a lot of energy and emit among others ozone, particles, heavy metals and organic compounds that are harmful to the health and the environment. Therefore: Restrict document printing to the strict minimum.
- Prefer refillable cartridges for your printer, which will reduce your wastes and spare you money. Printer cartridges can be refilled up to five times.
A few example of refilling services:
For the German market:
More information on cartridge normalisation, quality standards and recycling at: http://www.etira.org/.
- Otherwise, you can send the cartridges back to the manufacturer or turn to services specialised in the recycling of printer cartridges. Some of those services will even collect your used cartridges at your company.
For the German market: http://www.leergutbox.com/
- You can find a list of printers with reduced environmental burden e.g. at http://www.blauer-engel.de/de/produkte_marken/produktsuche/produkttyp.php?id=332
- When your printer or copier shows symptoms that the toner in the cartridge is running out, take the cartridge out of the appliance and shake it horizontally in order to redistribute the remaining toner in the cartridge. This will lengthen the life of your cartridge and avoid to waste resources.
- Rather than changing frequently your mobile phone according to the latest fashionable toys, carefully consider the function you actually need and buy a robust and long-lived device.
- Make sure that your old mobile phone will be recycled in an environmentally friendly manner. The German environmental organisation NABU offers in collaboration with E-Plus and dr.handy a recycling service of which earnings are partly invested in the Untere Havel conservation project.
- Specific absorption rate (SAR) measures the rate at which radio frequency energy is absorbed by living tissues when exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields. The lower the SAR value, the less the tissues are warmed up by the radiations. Take the SAR into account when buying a new mobile phone. You can find a list of mobile phones with their SAR value e.g. at: http://www.mobile-phones-uk.org.uk/sar.htm.
- The radiation of your mobile phone is especially high while establishing the connection: Keep your telephone away from your ear until your interlocutor has been reached.
- As soon as you are reachable at your office on your fixed line network number, switch off your mobile phone.
- Rather than travelling, consider if an Internet videoconference would be as efficient, especially for distant locations for which you would need to take the plane. This will not only reduce your energy consumption and pollution, but will spare you also money and travelling time.
- For meetings for which a personal presence is decisive or unavoidable, prefer, as far as possible, to take the train, which is at the moment the most energy-efficient transport mean. Enquire ate the national railway services about special offers and take a rail card if you travel frequently.
Other Office Materials
- Prefer materials from renewable sources like rulers made of wood, etc.
- Choose file holders made out of recycled cardboard.
- Prefer water-based markers or felt pens to liquid textmarkers that contain toxic chemicals.
- Refillable utensils as ink pens help reducing the amount of waste.
- Invest in quality utensils (such as metallic punchers or staplers) rather than cheap material made of plastic that will fail very soon and thus produce waste.
You can obtain office supply made out of recycled and environmentally friendly material for example at:
- For the German market: Memo
- Choose furniture made out of robust, locally produced, renewable or recycled material. Inquire at the seller about possibly toxic or harmful substances like formaldehyde or brominated flame retardant. Refuse to buy exotic wood and choose furniture from woods harvested locally and with sustainable forestry practices. For example, the FSC label guarantees that the product bearing it is made with or contains wood that comes from FSC certified forests or from post-consumer waste.
- Coffee makers that are always ready to use are very handy in an office where many people take one or more coffee or more during the course of the day. Nevertheless, this kind of appliances does not have to consume energy all night long. Make sure that the last person leaving the company or department switches off the coffee maker and similar appliances before going home.
- Coffee-to-go has become a popular habit. Nevertheless, non-returnable coffee cups create a great amount of waste. Prefer taking a thermos mug or container with you from home (you could also ask your coffee-to-go shop to fill in your thermos mug) or enjoying your coffee when arriving at work – in your favourite and reusable cup or mug.
- If you tend to forget your coffee or tee and let it cool down very often, use a thermos mug with a lid, which will avoid having to make a new one.
- Avoid using mini-portions like coffee cream individual portions, sugar bags, or coffee cartridges that produces large amounts of waste. Buying this products, favour low-packaging products.
- The consumption of coffee has known a great expansion in the Western world is now considered as a wellness or gourmet drink. Unfortunatly, coffee monocultures have led to many ecological harms: extensive deforestation, use of pesticides, habitat loss, soil degradation, etc. Moreover, manpower in coffee plantation is often subject to exploitation and industrial plantation has led to banning local population. Buy only coffee from fair trade and sustainable plantation ("shade coffee"). You can obtain fair trade and environmentally-friendly grown coffee e. g. at http://www.gepa.de/.
Other Useful Links
- In German: