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Little changes, big impact: green up the office for Earth Day

Staff Writer 

In honor of Earth Day, this year on Tuesday, April 22, help your office go green by making changes to conserve energy, reduce emissions and save money.

Flip the switch

The total electricity consumed by idle electronics equals the annual output of 12 power plants, according to the EPA. That is a lot of wasted energy that can be avoided.

Offices can reduce their electric bill and energy consumption by simply powering down computers, printers, copiers and other office equipment when not in use.

Unplugging cords for phones and laptops after charging is complete is another way to cut down on unnecessary energy consumption.

Turning off the lights and all equipment at the end of the day can add up to big savings over the course of a year and decreases the demand for power in the region.

Consider plugging electronics into a power strip — it makes shutting down several pieces of equipment at once as easy as flipping a single switch.

Powering down idle pieces of equipment takes an extra minute or two out of the day, but, if everyone does it, it adds up to a significant impact. It is one way individuals can play a part in making Pagosa a clean community.

Purchase smarter

Another great way to conserve energy both at the office and at home is to look for Energy Star-approved appliances.

Energy Star-qualified products consume less energy while performing regular tasks. Products in this category range from big office equipment such as computers, copier and printers, to everyday equipment such as lights, heating and cooling apparatuses, and commercial appliances.

Buildings can also earn an Energy Star certification by providing “safe, healthy and productive environments that use about 35 percent less energy than average buildings,” states the EPA.

For more information about Energy Star, its programs and featured products, visit energystar.gov.

Cut the commute

Carpooling, biking and cutting down on the number of trips to and from the office can save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Living in a rural area, carpooling and biking is not always possible. But when it is, jump at the opportunity to save gas money and keep the air clean.

It is easy to become attached to the independence of having a personal vehicle –— coming and going as desired –— however, after the first few days of planning around the carpool schedule, you might be surprised at how easy the transition is. Carpooling is another great way to develop positive relationships with coworkers.

As the weather warms up, hop on a bike and head to the office, if possible. Biking is a great way to stay in shape and reduce carbon emissions in our mountain air.

Even if biking or carpooling are not feasible in your situation, you can still reduce emissions by making less trips to and from the office.

Consider packing a lunch or dining somewhere within walking distance.

Collaborate with coworkers on trips to the bank, post office and other business errands.

Even making sure your vehicle is in proper working condition can help reduce emissions and improve gas mileage.

Cutting down on the commute takes a little extra planning, but, like all changes, soon it will become routine.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

One of the best ways to reduce waste in the office is by switching printers and copiers to two-sided printing mode. Also be sure to only print what you need.

Another way to stay environmentally conscious is by purchasing supplies made with recycled content.

Adding a paper recycling bin next to each garbage can makes recycling easy, and cuts down on the amount of trash going into the landfill.

Adding other recycling bins for employee soda cans, glass and plastic bottles is another great way to protect the environment and reduce your company’s waste.

Batteries and cell phones can be dropped off at Terry’s Ace Hardware to be recycled and ink cartridges can be taken to Pagosa Office Supply to be recycled.

For large, broken electronics, such as computers, there are retailer and manufacturer take-back programs and recycling programs available for many models.

If large electronics are still in working order, consider donating them to organizations within the community, and look into potential tax benefits for your company.

For more information on how to start a recycling program at your office, visit www.epa.gov and look at their “WasteWise” page.

Purchase green power

“Green power is electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind, sun, geothermal, and biomass,” states the EPA.

La Plata Electric Association offers green power options through local providers and Tri-State.

Members have the option of purchasing green power in 100 kilowatt hour blocks for an additional $0.09 per month. Consumers may choose to purchase any number of green blocks, up to 100 percent.

To sign up for the green power option, visit lpea.coop or stop by their office for more information.

It all adds up

The initial changes associated with becoming a greener business can seem inconvenient at first.

But the small, everyday changes you as an individual have the power to make, matter. And with a little time, the changes will become second nature.

For more tips on how to go green this month, visit the EPA’s website and see future editions of The SUN.

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on April 10, 2014.