Today is Blog Action Day, and this year’s focus is on Climate Change. Now it would be easy for me talk about climate in the sense of what the overall “climate” is like in your workplace, but I’m pretty certain that isn’t what this initiative is about (but it would be quite clever). Truth be told, there is a direct correlation between being productive and being environmentally conscious – and the fact that the word “action” is in the title of this very worthy cause lends itself towards productivity as well. There are certain “actions” you can take that can make your work more productive and lower your carbon footprint at the same time – whether directly or indirectly.
Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Work Week was the first book that resonated with me when it comes to the idea of telecommuting. Ferris promotes a mobile lifestyle, and while your job may not necessarily permit that to happen on a permanent or ongoing basis, there are tips that he mentions that can slowly introduce a “work from home” mentality. I’m not going to do what Ferriss did and jet-set all over the globe; I have a family and really love where I live and work. Chances are most of you fall into one or more of these categories as well. I’d hope at least the latter.
One of the benefits of working away from the office can be improved productivity. For example, Ferriss contends that workers who put in five days a week tend to get bored, which eventually turns into laziness. With the advent of Skype, virtual meeting software, instant messaging and the newly-released Google Wave (anyone have an invite for me?), you can stay in the loop quite easily from the comfort of your own home. But the environmental impact of working from home often goes understated. Unless you walk or bike to work, by working from home you’re lowering your carbon footprint in a simple and effective manner. Working from home for even just a couple of days a week (which is one way Ferriss suggests you start) can lower your carbon footprint significantly.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Sure, we’ve heard this adage before…but is it always applied? It’s difficult to put this into practice all the time, but like any good habit it needs to be fostered or it will wither and die…on the landfill, most likely. Ask yourself these questions on a daily basis to help you do your part in keeping the 3 R’s alive in your workplace:
1. Do I really need to print this?
A ton of stuff can be kept on file electronically, and if your computer files and folders are kept in check you can often find the materials you need faster than a hard copy. Technology has made this process simple – just remember to backup both locally and elsehwere so that you don’t lose stuff. I keep important documents in Dropbox, keep notes and reference material in Evernote and also have a flash drive that I keep on my keychain and a portable backup that I keep offsite. A trick I’d heard on Leo Laporte’s MacBreak Weekly was to exchange hard drives with a trusted neighbour or co-worker so that if I have a house fire or something my backup doesn’t go up in flames…but I still encrypt the data to be safe.
2. Wrong printout, right scrap paper!
We’ve all accidentally overprinted something, printed the wrong thing, printed something too small (or big) and so on. Sensitive documents that were printed in error can (and should) be shredded. But the others can be used as scrap paper for note-taking, phone messages, mind-mappign, brainstorming – whatever doesn’t need to be kept all neat and presentable. This means less sticky notes (you can use tape if you need to) and a considerable decline in the ordering of company notepads and paper stock. You’ll be a treehugger by default!
3. One Bin Does Not Rule Them All
While garbage goes in a waste bin, not all recycling goes into one giant recycling bin. At our office, we have 6 bins located in the recycling area: paper; cardboard; soft plastic; hard plastic; glass; metal. Each of us also has a paper recycling basket at their workstation, which we collect weekly and either put out to pasture or combine into the large bin. By having a paper bin right next to our waste bin, we’re doing our part to consciously choose what is rubbish and what is recyclable. They don’t have to be fancy blue bins or anything like that – they just have to be there.
Wool and Wind
The use of air conditioning and overuse of heating in a building can definitely have an impact on the environment – and on productivity. If you’re too cold or hot, it’ll affect your workflow. There’s a delicate balance with this particular “action step.” While I’m not suggesting your turn your heat or air conditioning unit to the extreme, I’d challenge you to be wise about the energy consumption these units can (and will) use. If your office does not have a self-regulated thermostat ask if one can be installed or if you have the authority, have it done. You’ll notice the savings both in terms of dollars and “sense.” Encourage your co-workers to open windows and let the wind cool them as opposed to using air conditioning. Fresh air is always better than forced air. The same goes for sweaters in the cooler periods…if your colleagues find it a tad too cold (and someone will), have everyone keep a sweater on hand at the office. Even the one your aunt got your Christmas will do; it may not be pretty but it should be functional.
Anytime you can integrate something that benefits you and your work is a step towards making your workplace an awesome place to be. When the actions you take in your working life also benefit the environment – thus creating a positive impact on climate change – you take a step in making the planet a little more awesome as well.