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Eight Ways to Have a 'Greener' Workday

04/02/2014 05:39 EDT | Updated 06/02/2014 05:59 EDT

What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you remember when you were a kid and you thought you could do anything? You still can. Despite your age, or where you fall on the eco-spectrum, your actions have an impact, so make it positive for all of us that share your world. Whether you're the boss or the employee, whether you sit at a desk, stand in a store or stay at home, you can change the world while you work (which, consequently, is truly, impressive multitasking).

Your office might have already gone "green" or you may still be waiting to be given the "green" light -- regardless, you have the power to be a catalyst for more change. Even though your days are cluttered and perhaps even overwhelming, if you focus on the below eight tactics, you will change the world while you take care of business. As a bonus (which we all deserve), you will save time, save money and save your health.

1. Lighten your commute. We spend five to seven percent of our lives in transit. If you have to travel to work, make your commute easier - on you, your wallet and our environment. Don't drive if you don't have to, and instead take public transit, walk or ride a bike. The cheapest litre of gas is the one you don't buy, and you'll save on parking too.

2. Make your own + take your own. Where to start? Perhaps it's as simple as making your own coffee at home in a reusable travel mug. If you do choose to stop at your local café and get a snack, refuse the napkin, don't take the bag that becomes garbage immediately, or take your own reusable "baggie". Stash reusable cutlery in your desk drawer, tote a high quality stainless steel water bottle around (refill with tap water often), take your own lunch, and if you do takeout, skip the ketchup packet, straw and paper napkin. And, take your own containers. Really. People might stare, but I guarantee, you'll start a trend pretty quickly. If you are saving money, saving time, eating healthier and helping the planet, how can you lose? Exactly.

3. Boycott something. Your consumer decisions matter. Every single one of them. Decide to ban something - perhaps disposable coffee cups or paper clips. Take a stand, stay strong, and leverage the power of people to spark a workplace revolution.

4. Smile at Someone. Would you believe that smiling makes you feel good, provides stress relief, and leads to good health? It sounds hokey, but it's actually backed by some serious research. We spend so much time staring at our computer screens and handheld gizmos that we need to instead look at each other more often and make one another smile.

5. Demand less supply. Why do you need an entire box of toxic pens? Try keeping 3 pens in your possession at a time. I have found that I keep track of them more and the mystery of the vanishing pen no longer is a daily occurrence. Encourage your office to order only what is required, and, purchase from responsible companies making responsible products. Paper made from post-consumer waste (although the more you do online the better), ink cartridges that are recycled, pvc-free pens and stapleless staplers among other supplies all make a big difference when we all choose to use (or not use) them.

6. Trash The Can. When you throw things away, where do you think "away" is? There is no such place. Reuse what you can and cut back. If you looked at the overflowing garbage cans in your city you may have noticed that it was mostly individual or fast food packaging, coffee cups, straws, paper bags and drink bottles - all of which we can use less of for ourselves and our world. Choose to use small trash cans in your office and encourage smart recycling and composting policies and procedures.

7. Turn it off. Sure, we all work hard, but why are all of those office building lights still on at 3 am? Your cell phone charger that is plugged in (that is warm even when not charging), the wireless printer that is always on (we see the glowing light) and that computer you never shut down are all offenders in the perpetual energy (and bank account) drain. Unplug, people! Get power strips with an on/off switch, and turn it off when you turn off.

8. Find a champion...or be one. Inspire your workplace to set new policies. Take action to reform the food served, and the way food is brought into the office or meetings. A passionate, informed, persuasive and committed champion can be an effective cheerleader and major force in creating healthier and happier workplaces.

Your "greener" workday will mean a healthier, more focused and more confident you. Your workplace will be a more pleasant and productive environment to spend your days, which will be good for everyone around you and will likely, positively affect the bottom line also. So, don't hide under your desk. The world needs a raise, and likely you do too.

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