It’s a good idea for a nonprofit to consider its impact on the environment! This topic is especially pertinent given the COP21 Paris talks on climate change that just ended. “Greening” your nonprofit is a worthwhile cause no matter your mission. Below are some tips for “greening” your nonprofit with cheap and pricier options.
Green your kitchen area (if you have one). The Problem: Styrofoam cups or other disposable paper products. The Cheap Alternative: Buy used (real) plates, bowls & mugs from a local thrift store. Use cloth towels instead of paper towels. The Pricier Alternative: Buy environmentally-friendly disposable products, such as plates and napkins that are biodegradable. Ask staff members to use their own reusable (ex. stainless steel) water bottles or thermoses for when they drink water or other beverages at work. Bonus: If you have a coffeemaker, invest in reusable coffee filters!
Green your office supplies. The problem: Plastic office supplies and other materials that aren’t environmentally-friendly (not to mention the plastic packaging they usually come in!). The Cheap Alternative: Pick up some used office supplies from your local thrift store. Tape dispensers, desk caddies, staplers, 3-hole punches, binders, and even folders can all be found at thrift stores. When it comes to going green, it’s usually better to upcycle than to buy new. The Pricier Alternative: Purchase environmentally-friendly products. Chain stores like OfficeMax and Staples usually offer such products, as do sites such as Amazon. For a website specializing in green office supplies, you can visit The Green Office .
Reduce Paper Consumption. The Problem: Over-consumption of paper or neglecting to recycle it. The Cheap Alternative: Go digital when possible. If you need to use paper around the office (and that paper probably won’t leave the office), consider scrap paper. The Pricier Alternative: Purchase “recycled” paper with a high percentage of post-consumer content. You can also purchase environmentally-friendly ink for your printer. And, again, go digital when possible.
Larger Investments (Technology, Furniture, & Energy Sources). The Problem: Larger office investments, such as lighting and technology, are often the biggest culprits in terms of negative impact on the environment. The Cheap Alternative: Make whatever small changes are within your means. You can buy rechargeable batteries, for example, or replace old light bulbs with the newer compact fluorescent bulbs. If you need furniture, consider upcycling by buying used or refurbished furniture. Also, you can buy refurbished technology instead of the newest models. And make sure that appliances are not plugged in and wasting energy when they’re not in use. If you can, save up for larger investments. The Pricier Alternative: Consider investing in energy star-rated appliances when old ones die. If you have the resources and money, then by all means, you can even invest in solar panels! When you buy new office furniture, make sure its made from durable, environmentally-friendly materials. If you have the resources to update your space (or if you’re moving to a new space), consider investing in low-flow toilets and faucets and motion sensor lighting.
- Develop a plan to reuse materials when possible. Common examples include: using common office supplies, such as tape dispensers, for as long as possible, and creating a bin of scrap paper.
- Reduce overall consumption of products that are not environmentally friendly, especially products made from plastic.
- Set up recycling bins for common recyclable materials such as cardboard; paper; plastic bottles; soda cans; newspapers; batteries; etc.
- Carpool with co-workers when possible.
- Use Common Sense-Turn off the lights when you leave a space; make sure technology/appliances aren’t plugged in and using energy when they aren’t in use; bring your reusable water bottle to work instead of buying plastic bottles of water all the time.
- When in doubt, add some cheap houseplants to your space to purify the air!
For more tips and tricks for greening your nonprofit, visit The Green Office