Tips: Setting Up An Environmentally Friendly Home Office, Part 1

If you're one of the many Americans with a home office, you know that perhaps one of the greatest benefits is that you're in charge. Whether you run a business, telecommute, take classes, or simply manage household finances, the day-to-day choices you make about office supplies and equipment can have a big impact on the environment. As the decision-maker, you can make a difference by choosing to conserve resources and reduce waste and pollution. EPA (http://www.epa.gov/p2) offers some simple ideas for maintaining an environmentally friendly home office:

Office Equipment

Working from home can mean using more supplies and equipment than before. Consider the following ways to help save energy and resources:

  • Buy energy-efficient equipment. Look for the ENERGY STAR® logo when you buy a computer, printer, copier or other equipment for your home. ENERGY STAR® products meet superior energy efficiency standards.
  • Consider buying an all-in-one fax machine/photocopier/printer/scanner. Evaluate all-in-one options to learn how you can save money and resources by purchasing one machine instead of four.
  • Select printers that will accept remanufactured toner cartridges. Recycle used toner cartridges or return them to the manufacturer via a "take-back" program. Recharge refillable toner cartridges to prevent waste.
  • Make your printer environmentally friendly. Choose a "duplex" printer that prints on two sides or set your current printer's defaults to double-sided printing. Save ink or toner by using the "fast draft" option included in most word processing programs.
  • Choose less toxic or rechargeable batteries and dispose of spent batteries properly.
    • Buy rechargeable batteries -- it's now easier than ever. Some manufacturers are redesigning their products to reduce or eliminate the use of toxins. Read the label before you buy.
    • Dispose of spent batteries properly to reduce the potential threat to human health and the environment when improperly disposed.
  • Consider using a digital camera. Choose a digital camera and save your photos on a reusable disk to reduce waste. You also can send photos via e-mail to friends and family and delete undesirable pictures without having to pay for prints.

Paper

Paper is perhaps the number one supply used in a typical office, which explains why people are saving time, money, and environmental resources by converting printed items into electronic, paperless documents. Consider the many ways you can reduce, reuse, or recycle paper in your home office:

  • Purchase recycled paper and environmentally preferable supplies. When buying any office supply, try to find recycled-content and non-toxic options. Buying paper made from a high percentage of post-consumer waste helps reduce the number of trees needed to make paper "from scratch." It also saves energy and keeps used paper out of the trash.
  • Reduce the amount of paper you use.
    • Share electronic files with others instead of printing.
    • Make double-sided copies for internal documents and drafts.
    • Use the blank side of single-sided documents for scrap paper or low-priority printouts instead of using a new piece of paper each time.
    • Conduct a "paper audit" to determine the kind and volume of paper waste you generate, and then take steps to use less by considering paperless options.
  • Reuse envelopes and file folders. Choose reusable messenger envelopes to send information. Reuse file folders by relabeling them or simply folding them in the reverse direction.
  • Find alternatives to sending and receiving letter mail.
    • Use email, voice mail, and fax modem transmissions whenever possible.
    • Pay your bills via e-billing programs so that you reduce the amount of waste you generate.
    • Cancel hard-copy subscriptions to newspapers, newsletters and magazines you don't read or can access online.
    • Reduce junk mail. To take your name off mailing lists visit the Direct Marketing Association at http://www.dmaconsumers.org/consumerassistance.html.
  • Recycle used paper. Recycle white and mixed paper. Home offices can use municipal recycling programs to recycle materials (like paper, cardboard and newspapers) that businesses generally have to pay to properly dispose.

Note: Search the Security Products Web site (http://www.secprodonline.com) for tips on safeguarding your identity or your business when using e-mail or conducting other online transactions.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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