It’s nearly been one year since I packed up my home office and went back to work in a traditional office building. Working from home can be extremely environmentally friendly, so I can’t help but notice all the things done inefficiently in an office. I think my office actually does better than most; however, I must address a couple pet peeves. Automatic lighting controls don’t always turn lights off after the programmed number of minutes. I often find myself walking down the hall at the end of the day, manually turning off my colleagues’ lights.
The building recycles paper and cardboard, some of the most abundantly used items in an office. Despite the building administrators’ initiative to recycle, more than once I have seen the janitorial staff dump recycling bins and garbage cans into one giant trash receptacle.
It’s not only the janitorial staff that needs help recycling. I frequent the gym in the office’s lower level and use the antibacterial wipes made available to wipe down equipment. As recommended, administrators have placed a recycling bin next to the garbage can—both of which are near the antibacterial wipes. It never fails that more antibacterial wipes make it into the recycling bin than the garbage can.
These are only the beginning of the office’s troubles. As you’ll read in “deep green,” page 52, office buildings aren’t being used the way they once were. People can work from any location in this era of wireless Internet and BlackBerrys, and offices often sit empty, which wastes energy. Elliot Felix, associate director with New York-based DEGW, a global strategic-design consultancy, has suggestions within his article to create more efficient offices, including creating shared workspaces and considering local amenities when designing an office building.
Not all offices have problems. Some are more effective by not only providing natural daylighting to workers, but also encouraging interaction through the use of glass and social spaces inside and outside the building, like the Caltrans District 11 headquarters in San Diego that is featured on page 20. Many offices also overcome the issues I see in the building I work in by integrating sustainability into their corporate culture. For example, Seattle-based Weber Thompson’s employees plant trees and brainstorm ideas to make their business more carbon neutral. The employees also asked for and received a sustainable office space, as you’ll read in “ecommercial,” page 27.
Although I sometimes lament quiet afternoons typing at my computer in my pajamas, I realize I can make more of a difference in the office. I can educate a lot more people about sustainability in the office. And there are deeper initiatives in the works. It’s a huge undertaking to green the office culture, but I always enjoy a challenge!
Christina Koch, Editor in Chief