I want to focus in on a few specific ways in which companies waste money and energy. I see the following things happen daily in the workplace. They’re not specific to any company. Chances are that if you visit any American company, they’re probably doing at least one of these things.
Lights are left on regardless of time or day, and whether or not there are people present in the room
Many people will turn on their lights during the day, even if they have an office window that lets in plenty of light. That makes no sense. Want to know what else doesn’t make sense? Walk around at night in a big city. Look at how many businesses have left their lights on. Now look through the windows (it’s easy to do with skyscrapers) and see if you can see any people in there. Chances are you won’t. Those big offices are empty, and the lights are fully lit. What for? Don’t tell me it’s to discourage theft, because it doesn’t work. Having the lights turned off and making the thief use some sort of light to see his way around is a much better way to discourage theft.
Utility bills are doubled and tripled by leaving lights on at night, and yet that sort of expense is just shrugged off as a given. Well, it shouldn’t be that way. It’s wrong. And no, using CFLs doesn’t really count. They reduce electricity consumption dramatically, yes, but that doesn’t excuse you from turning lights off when you leave the office.
Computers are left on at night and when not being used
This one bothers me a lot. As a past IT director, I know computers consume a lot of electricity, and I also know that most people don’t need to leave their computers on when they leave their office. Short of server rooms, which need to stay on all the time, and selected desktops (used mostly in IT departments) that need to stay on because they’re being accessed remotely, most computers can be safely turned off or put into standby or hibernation at the end of the day. Do people do it? No.
Each desktop system consumes anywhere from 200-500 Watts of power (or more) while turned on, not counting the displays, which vary from 50-200 Watts (or more). IT departments should institute group policies (it’s doable in Windows) that automatically put computers into standby or hibernation if they’re idle and not used. Just think of the energy savings that could be obtained! By the way, Macs come pre-programmed to do just that, so they will give you energy savings right out of the box.
No recycling program in place
Most businesses will have a document shredding services, but they’ll have no recycling containers on site for aluminum, glass or plastic products. They’ll trash them and pollute the landfills, when they could be easily recycled and re-used. What’s more, they miss an important opportunity to set a good example for their employees.
No equipment recycling policies
Related to the overall recycling program, companies usually do not have any arrangements in place to recycle their used computer equipment. When computers and other equipment reach the end of their usable lifespan, they most likely get trashed, not properly recycled through businesses that specialize in this sort of thing. Some companies donate their computers to non-profit organizations that re-use them, which is laudable, but those are few and far between.
Do we really want old circuit boards which contain toxic chemicals polluting landfills everywhere and seeping into our water supply?
Not enough telecommuters
It’s true that a lot of jobs can’t be done via telecommuting. But many of them can be done that way. Programming, web development and design, project management, accounting, etc. are only some of the jobs that can be done from home, if things are planned out correctly. There are many benefits to be reaped by both companies and employees when telecommuting policies are worked out. One of them is cost reductions, for both parties, and another is less pollution on the environment.
Read this article I wrote on telecommuting for the details. Here are just a few of the benefits that can be observed right away:
- Reduced office space
- Reduced utility costs
- Less crowded roads
- Less stress
- Higher job satisfaction
- Less expenses for employees
- More family time
I’m sure there are more items for this list. If you know of any, please let me know in the comments.