20 tips for making your office environmentally responsible

Patagonia, a Ventura, Calif.-based supplier of outdoor clothing and equipment, has built a thriving business over the past 40 years while adhering to a code of environmental and social practices. Yvon Chouinard, the company's founder, and Vincent Stanley, an original employee who has been instrumental in Patagonia's core environmental and social initiatives, recently co-authored a book that shares their collective experience and wisdom.

In The Responsible Company: What We've Learned From Patagonia's First 40 Years, Chouinard and Stanley aim to show companies of all sizes "how to slow their drift toward ecological bankruptcy." They offer advice on creating responsible, green business practices during difficult times.

"Actions build on one another," according to Chouinard. "[A]ny group of people going about their business can come to realize their environmental and social responsibilities, then begin to act on them. Realization is progressive."

Adapted with permission from the book's publisher, here are 20 tips you can put into practice to make your office more environmentally friendly.

1) Specify recycled materials whenever they meet performance standards. These include cardboard, paper (envelopes, letterhead, business cards, paper towels, tissue, toilet paper and seat covers), garbage bags, and laser and copier toner cartridges.

2) Use Energy Star copiers and fax machines; they have lower annual electricity costs of about 60 percent and 50 percent respectively. Energy Star-compliant monitors have power-management features and consume up to 90 percent less energy.

3) Use power-management software programs to automatically turn off computers and printers.

4) Use the standby mode on equipment (e.g., energy saver buttons on copiers).

5) Discourage the printing of e-mails.

6) Ensure that copier/printer paper is at least 30 percent recycled.

7) Set copier defaults to double-sided.

8) Use fax modems that permit faxing without printing.

9) Eliminate fax cover sheets.

10) Eliminate unnecessary forms; redesign forms to use less paper; switch to electronic forms.

11) Reduce junk mail and eliminate duplicates of mailings you want to receive. To obtain guidance, go to www.stopjunkmail.org or www.catalogchoice.org.

12) Subscribe to journals online.

13) Minimize the use of physical manuals; use them online. Use a bulletin board or routing slips to reduce the number of printed copies.

14) Eliminate duplicates in your own mailing lists.

15) Use soy-based or low-VOC (volatile organic compound) inks.

16) Lease rather than purchase computers and printers.

17) Print on previously printed paper for drafts. (Designate a draft tray.)

18) Create a reuse area for office supplies such as used envelopes, binders and folders.

19) Have toner cartridges refilled.

20) Analyze paper use by department; work with big consumers on paperless alternatives.

The authors recommend that you share targets and results with your board of directors, employees and other businesses engaged in related activities. Do this in staff meetings, company newsletters, suggestion and reward programs, the employee manual and new-hire orientations.