12 Ways to Green Your Home Office


Like working in your pajamas, greening your home office combines the best of both worlds. You can build an energy-efficient home in a setting that allows for tax writeoffs, equipment sharing, and upgrades that serve you away from the desk, too. Here are 12 ways to create an energy-efficient, eco-friendly home office:

1. Put Your Machines to Sleep

A large copy machine takes as many as 1,400 watts of electricity to operate. Printers, fax machines, desktop computers, and monitors also suck up energy. Turning machines off when you’re not using them use saves energy. Setting your computer to automatically sleep after a short period of time—say, 2 minutes instead of 10—also helps you conserve.

2. Replace Energy Hogs

If you haven’t updated your office equipment in a number of years, you’re probably using energy hogs. They include everything from laser printers, whose quality printouts can be matched by some new inkjet printers, to traditional light bulbs, which lose 95% of their energy through heat. Look for equipment with EnergyStar ratings. Here are a couple of examples:

Energy hog: Incandescent lights.
Replace with: Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

Energy hog: Laser printer, fax machine, copy machine.
Replace with: An all-in-one printer/fax/scanner/copier designed to create high-quality prints, such as the HP Officejet Pro 8500.

Energy hog: Traditional printer paper.
Replace with: Paper that contains post-consumer recycled waste.

3. Lease or Share Equipment

Renting or sharing equipment with other professionals helps you get the best use—and bang for your buck—out of potential energy hogs like printers, copiers, and computer monitors. You don’t have to repair leased equipment yourself, which saves you money. Sharing equipment, on the other hand, lets you split energy costs with a partner.

4. Bundle

Bundling your purchases can save you money upfront as well as cut down on waste. Buying software bundles, such as the MacHeist or the Windows 7 Enterprise Bundle, will save you the time, gas, money, and waste it takes to buy software piecemeal. Moreover, bundles offer discounted upgrades, saving you money in the future, too.

Other useful bundles include Internet-cable-telephone bundles and all-in-one printers.

5. Go Paperless

Paper and packaging are still produce exorbitant amounts of landfill waste. Luckily, going paperless is easy. Electronically sign and file your important documents. Print and photocopy on both sides of the paper. Print drafts, notes, and memos on scrap paper. When you must print, purchase printer paper made of post-consumer waste, available online and at chain retailers like OfficeMax. Recycle the paper you waste.

6. Recycle

This includes recycling plastic, cans, paper, ink cartridges, batteries, used equipment, and even composting. Some items, like ink cartridges, require special disposal methods. Devise a system that makes it easy to recycle everything. Put your can/paper/plastic recycling bins in an easily accessible place. Leave the recycling bags that come with ink cartridges in an accessible place, so that you’re ready to mail in cartridges once they run out. Print out this chart on a piece of scrap paper to remind you where to dispose of batteries. Set up a composting in a ceramic compost pot indoors or in a bin outside.

7. Green Your Cleaning Supplies

Swap out traditional toxic cleaning supplies for green ones. Most supermarkets sell brands like Clorox Greenworks http://www.clorox.com/products/overview.php?prod_id=gw, Simple Green, and Seventh Generation. For quick desktop jobs, green cleaners perform about as well as traditional ones.

8. Audit Your Energy Usage

Audit your home yourself, or call your utilities company for a professional—usually free—one. Fixing and upgrading air leaks, insulation problems, old light bulbs, and old appliances will shrink energy costs.

9. Weatherize

This usually comes after an energy audit. Seal your windows during winter. Open them during summer. Consider installing energy-efficient ceiling fans instead of using your air conditioner. Upgrade your insulation. Buy EnergyStar windows for a tax credit of up to $1,500. Read here for more weatherizing tips.

10. Sign Up for Sustainable Energy Sources

Renewable energy credits, wind energy, and home solar systems are a few ways that you can use sustainable energy sources in your own home. Most major utilities companies have renewable energy programs; see your company’s website for more information. Some alternatives may be costly, but they can reduce your carbon impact by as much as 60%.

11. Maintain Your Equipment

It takes little effort to keep home equipment clean and maintained. Cleaning your computer, printer, and even your portable devices every 6 months will keep the machines running smoothly and save you the possible headache of replacing a fried hard drive. At home, minor tasks like replacing your furnace filter and cleaning the lint out of your dryer will stop machines from consuming more energy than they need.

12. Take Advantage of Natural Light

Move your home office to a space with lots of natural light. This diminishes the need for lamps. Add houseplants, which naturally clean air, to the mix, and your home office will feel like a green mini-retreat.

Note to readers: HP has arranged a special offer for our readers to save 20% ($80) on the new HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One. Go here for the coupon code and terms and conditions. Visit here for more product information.

  • Brasco

    Green Cleaining Products I recently became educated in how harmful the cleaning products can be in your home. After I researched this, I tried several products and tried making some of the homemade products but what I found was many of them did not work as well as say Windex etc. After some research and a recommendation from a friend I found one that works well and is Greener than most products. In fact it contains 100% enzymes which can be found in the human body and are completely non-toxic and safe near children and pets. Check it out http://www.wowgreen.net/Default.aspx?ID=12541 Hope you like them! Look foward to hearing how people liked them.

  • Thought you might be interested in hearing about some new enzyme based cleaners called Wow Green. The products are manufactured in Indiana and the main office is in Michigan. These cleaners are 100% safe for children and pets. There are no chemcials in them at all. Please check out our website for more information.

    By the way I really enjoyed your website. It is very informative.

  • GreenGirl

    Thanks, great tips for greening your home office. I would like to add another — web conferencing. Whether your travel frequently or just a few times a year, it WILL cut down on your carbon footprint. The very nature of web conferencing is eco-friendly, as there is no travel involved, but I’m personally impressed with one web conference provider in particular — iLinc and its Green Meter that actually calculates the energy saving based on where each participant is in the world and how much carbon it would have emitted into the atmosphere if all of these people had traveled to facilitator’s host city. It’s worth a look. They have a free trial you can get at http://www.ilinc.com/trial/index.php?lead_src=Cybermark

  • Brent Tanner

    The WOW Green comment above is bogus. The products are mediocre at best. The person’s trying to generate commissions with the link. There are a lot of better and cheaper products on the market that you can just walk in and buy instead of going the MLM or Infomercial route.

  • Green is good. And the increasingly people are asking for it. Others are promoting green home audits, where you might hear about bamboo flooring, recycled glass tiles, organic cotton drapes, and different cleaning products. All fine things. But in homes, the heart of green comes down to the efficiency, safety, and durability of a home. As I like the say, the foundation of green is building science and its sibling energy-efficiency. A green audit must include a thorough look at the homes performance. This short video (http://greenhomesamerica.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/green-home-audit/) describes some of the fundamental things to look at.

  • I run a small business and have had to bootstrap myself from the ground up. Its been a challenge but Ive been able to do it. I look to cut costs and save money from every angle, from the big to the small. I think a lot of these tips are great. I use a lot of these tips in my day to day operations. We have recently been making the jump to bigger and better ways to be green and save money by doing things like switching to a telephone answering service. Its been a big help.