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Going Green in the Break Room

Going Green in the Break Room

Gone are the days of reckless waste and not worrying about how our actions will impact future generations. The green revolution has taken hold and is affecting every segment of American society, including the office breakroom. Here are some of the ways you can green up your office break room.

Recycle
Most of the items that go into the trash can, like water bottles and soda cans, can be recycled. Setting up a recycling program in your break room should take a few simple steps:

  1. Contact building maintenance. The maintenance office will be able to tell you if they have a recycling option available in that office. If they do not, you should encourage them to set one up and help minimize the amount of garbage going to the landfill, or you can take them to the recycling center yourself. Also, if you own the building, contact the waste handler and see what recycling programs they offer.
  2. Place recycling bins in the break room. You can either use separate bins for paper, glass and plastic, so your employees will do the presorting, or you can place one big bin to collect all of the recyclable materials. The type of bin you can use will also be determined by the waste hauler and what they prefer/offer.
  3. Hang signs above the recycling bins. The sign should clearly list the items that can and cannot go in the bin. For example, some paper recyclers can only handle news print and office paper, but not glossy magazines, so you will want to have newspaper and office paper under the “Acceptable” column and magazines under the “Unacceptable” column in this instance.

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Ban the Bottle

Americans throw away 26 billion water bottles every year.1 Of those water bottles, close to 85% end up in a landfill.2 With so many other water options available, it makes little sense to constantly buy new cases of bottled water. Using a water cooler is more eco-friendly than bottled water, and filtering your tap water is the most eco-friendly method for providing water to your employees.
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Clean with the Green
There are several eco-friendly cleaning supplies on the market these days, and decreasing the amount of conventional chemicals you use will improve the indoor air quality of your break room and decrease the amount of harmful chemicals that are added to our fresh water supply. Of the green cleaners, many work as well as or better than their toxic counterparts, but you need to check the labels for certifications or other evidence to make sure the item is actually eco-friendly not just a form of greenwashing.
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Provide Reusable Dining Supplies

Stocking your breakroom cabinets and drawers with reusable plates, cups and silverware will decrease the amount of trash that ends up in the landfill. Though it may seem like an expensive solution, reusable dining supplies will actually save you money in the long run as it is cheaper to wash and reuse the cups and plates than to constantly buy replacements.
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Look for the ENERGY STAR®
A large selection of both residential and commercial equipment and supplies bear the ENERGY STAR logo. This logo indicates that a particular piece of equipment, whether it is a commercial refrigerator or a flat screen TV, uses less energy and is therefore more environmentally friendly than other similar items that do not carry the logo. Using energy efficient equipment in the break room will decrease your office’s impact on the environment and will save you money on utility bills, too.
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References
1 Nubius Organics, “Plastic Water Bottle Facts,” http://www.nubiusorganics.com/PlasticBottleFacts.aspx (accessed November 17, 2009).
2 Roger Fields, Restaurant Success by the Numbers (Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press,  2007).