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Make Your Small Office/Home Office e-Green

By June Campbell

Your small office or home office uses considerable electronic equipment ­ from computers to business machines to the lowly light bulb. With a little thought and not too much effort, you can use those machines to decrease your environmental footprint -- or make your office e-green.

The good news is that an e-green office is not only good for the planet, it’s economical. And, when combined with a few other green tactics, it is healthier. Try some or all of the following:

1. Purchase upgradeable computers and other electronic equipment. When necessary, upgrade rather than replace. You save money and reduce consumerism.

2. Turn off electronic equipment when not in use to reduce energy by 25%. If you put everything on a power bar, you need simply to turn off one switch. Turn off your computer at night and save an additional 50%.

3. Set your computer monitor to go into “sleep mode” or Standby if not used for ten minutes. This reduces power to peripherals but maintains the memory so you don’t lose your work. On Windows XP, use the Start menu -- Control Panel -- Display à Screen Saver -- Power, then choose your settings. On a laptop, using the Hibernate function will extend the life of your batteries.

4. Recycle old equipment and computers. Many of the larger computer and electronics companies have begun offering recycling programs. If this doesn’t work for your situation, find an organization that accepts recycled electronics, or contact your local government to ask where and how electronics are recycled in your area. This includes energy efficient light bulbs, which contain zinc and should not be thrown in the dump.

5. Speaking of energy efficient light bulbs, begin or continue using them. You’ll save considerable energy costs. Position your desk and equipment to catch natural light from a window.

6. Use a fax modem as much as possible, rather than a fax machine. You send documents directly from the computer rather than printing them out and using paper. Bypass the cover sheet and help the recipient save paper.

7. Print and photocopy double sided documents to save paper. Use leftover scraps of paper or used envelopes for memo pads. Print out only that which you need to print out. Store the rest in computer files.

8. Communicate more by email and less through letters and paper memos.

9. Schedule more conference calls, video conferences and net meetings instead of face to face meetings. You’ll save resources, time and money by cutting down on business travel.

10. Look for ENERGY STAR ® logo before purchasing computers, monitors, photocopiers printers, fax machines scanners and multifunction devices. This logo confirms that the machine meets energy efficient standards. Ensure that the energy efficient features are activated. Some products ship from the manufacturer with the energy efficient components turned off. Ask the sales rep to show you how to activate if you are not sure how to proceed.

11. Recycle paper, cardboard packaging, toner, ink cartridges and other materials. Use high yield cartridges. Purchase earth-friendly products, including cleaning supplies, toner and office supplies.

12. Use rechargeable batteries wherever possible, rather than disposable ones. Try to stay away from disposable products as much as possible. You may pay more for a sturdier product (such as a sturdier case), but since they last longer, you save over time and cut down on waste.

Remember, everything you do makes a difference. For other things you can do, run an Internet search for "environmentally friendly office" or "green office". You will find a wealth of information.

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