//www.morganlovell.co.uk Sustainable Office Design

I was sifting through my emails this morning among the spam emails for replica purses, calendar reminders to go to the bank today, and strange chain emails my mother constantly forwards me… I found todays CoopAmerica newsletter. The headlines intrigued me as usual and I figured reading up on TheGreenOffice.com would give me some advice to pass along to my younger brother before he moves to college this weekend.

As I scrolled down to the article my eyes caught an advertisement on the side panel… and off my attention went. Soon I was reading about the “holistic, alcohol free, vegan, intrinsically political, community building experience” that is Sustainable Energy in Motion‘s bicycle tour. My eyes wandered and once more diverted my attention as I caught their slogan: What are YOU doing to CHANGE the world?

What was this feeling? Assault? I stopped reading and in my head began trying to name all the environmentally friendly things I do and tried to justify the not so environmentally friendly things I do. I cleared away my anxiety as I realized the question would not be intended as an assault, but as a serious question to get you thinking about your actions.

So what do I do? What do you do? I decided to compile a list of simple things everyone should be able to do to change the world.

My feelings always seem most passionate when there is something wrong close to home. I greatly sympathize with the passing bumper stickers that shout “Think Globally, Act Locally,” though many of my actions, like not purchasing cane sugars for example, have an impact I cannot directly see. It is the small injustices that can seem easier to deal with they don’t overwhelm us to a point where our actions seem insignificant.

A side story:

A few weeks ago, the managers at the company I work for decided to blow off some steam by having a cocktail party after work. The managers in all departments were invited, the sales department was invited- which included my partner Jon, and since Jon was invited I was invited.  Jon told me about the invitation and honestly I think he was a little excited to get to go along to such an event… I on the other hand was outraged.

This isn’t fair I told him. Why is it that only the managers and sales department are invited ? Everyone in our company, everyone in our company is working  just as hard as anyone else. Everyone is taking pay cuts and working extra hours and on weekends to help our company come out of the tough slump it is currently in.

If our co-workers are getting together to blow off some steam it should be an invitation extended to everyone who needs to blow off some steam and not only extended to those who managed to reach a certain status or be hired into a certain department.

As I spoke I thought about the co-workers I have in my department.  One of the ladies  apologizes for getting emotional when under stress. Another has a sick mother who is under going  a risky operation soon, she’s  changed her schedule to come in  two hours early every morning (6AM) so that she can leave 2 hours early to be with her mother. The engineers at our company haven’t had a weekend in months since they are trying to finish a difficult project. Why did these wonderful people, these hard workers not deserve an invitation?

I declined the invitation as did Jon. The next day I listened as managers cracked jokes about sake bombs.

As I write this the question once more pops into my head: What are YOU doing to CHANGE the world?

In the workplace

Since we are on the topic of work already, I figure that’s a good place to start.

#1  Follow your values

When I was in high school I didn’t have a good perception of working a “real” job. My father would come home most nights complaining about how his boss treated him badly, took advantage of his skills, or is forcing him to work overtime this weekend. Often times this would change the plans we had as a family and I quickly learned I disliked my dad’s job and his employer. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could get stuck in a job they disliked… Why can’t he just quit? I would often wonder.

Now that I’m older and have received more experience in the job world I realize that following your values isn’t always easy. However, if you desire happiness I can’t stress how important it is.

Following your values can mean many things. Perhaps you dislike violence, but work at a company that manufactures weaponry… why not work at a company that promotes peace and non violence through their work? Perhaps you believe in having high self worth, but work in an environment where your superiors often take advantage of your skills and abilities by making you work overtime or toss you more projects than you can comfortably handle… why not work in a place where your abilities are used in projects that follow what you support? Why not work in an environment where you are comfortable in saying “No” without feeling like you will be chastised? Perhaps you believe in developing a strong family unit and raising your children with your personal values… what will coming home every night complaining about how much you dislike your job teach them? What example do you want to set?

In today’s world our jobs often become the majority of our lives. Because of our jobs we develop a status, because of our jobs we are able to make decisions about where we can or cannot go for vacations, what we can and cannot buy, what we wear in and out of the office, and what we do with our free time. Because of this it is incredibly important to think about our jobs beyond what type of pay check they will offer us. Beyond what type of health care benefits we will receive. If we are spending 40 hours of our time a week at our job, what are we doing with that time? What are we promoting? And do these answers match up with what we want to be doing with our time? What we want to be promoting?

If not then perhaps its time to take a leap and leave our current positions and seek out something that will fulfill and enrich our lives. There are plenty of jobs in this world that could change the world for the better. Whether you want to educate others on native plants and wild life, tutor children in low-income communities, work on renewable energy, bring organic foods to those in need, or whether you simply want to fall asleep assured that the actions of your company will have positive impacts on this and future generations… there is a job out there for you. Here are a few links to help you start looking:

http://www.ecoemploy.com

http://www.greenjobs.com/public/index.aspx

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/jobs/

#2 In the small things

What can you do to help your office be more green? It could be as simple as setting up a recycling center for your department, bringing in your old coffee mugs to reuse in place of plastic or paper ones, or reusing printed drafts as scratch paper.

Many people forget (or just don’t know) how easily they can reduce their waste so spread your wisdom.

Your voice deserves to be heard, don’t be afraid to talk about your ideas or make suggestions to make your office greener.  Ask your boss to think about how much money the company could save if they installed a water filter in place of buying bottled water, or how much money would be saved on paper and ink if your company had a printer that offered double sided printing and a “draft” print option, how about getting everyone a stapler alternative that is reusable?

#3 Organize

Transportation: If co-workers live near by you organizing a car pool would help reduce emissions. If you and you co-workers live near the office organizing a bike to work day will not only help with exercise and allow us to explore our community beyond our windshields, but you will be able to share the knowledge of and experience first hand the wonders of self-sustaining transportation.

Waste reduction: The company I work for organizes an electronic waste removal drive within the company every six months. This means every six months you can bring in old TVs, broken computer monitors, and other electronics that would be dangers in the land fill and one of our co-workers will drive to the electronic recycling center with a truck full of goods to safely dispose of. This helps keep electronics out of our landfills and spreads awareness of proper waste disposal. You can also set up a free table at the office where co-workers can bring in all those items they no longer need but are too good to throw out. Kind of like Freecycling. Bring in your old junk may not seem like a big deal, but consider the ripple effect… by donating your items to someone else you are 1. Keeping waste out of already crowded landfills, 2. Getting as much use out of an item as possible, 3. Giving someone something they might really need, 4. Saving our resources by giving someone the opportunity to not buy, etc.

Nearly four decades ago Neil Armstrong hailed our technological victories as “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” apply the same statement to the small victories we experience daily when we recycle, compost, or choose fair trade bananas over commercially grown ones. These actions may seem small and perhaps even insignificant today, but these are the same actions inspiring and educating those around us. These are the same actions that will pave a more sustainable future in the days ahead.

Tune in next time for more world changing tips in your house, car, and… life!

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