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Going Green In The Workplace: Simple Steps Can Make All The Cost (And Care) Difference Being sustainable isn't a choice anymore, it's a necessity.

By Suhail Al-Masri

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Being sustainable isn't a choice anymore, it's a necessity. In fact, 96% of respondents in the August 2014 Green Workplaces in the Middle East and North Africa poll say it is important for them to "go green' in their lifestyle. A further 80% say that environmental issues concern them to a large extent. This overwhelming attitude to going green must be followed up with appropriate action. When most people think about green living, they usually think about their homes. If you stop to consider where you spend most of your weekdays, however, you would probably realize that a lot of your time is actually spent at the office. Although you might think that introducing a green way of thinking could cost your company money, it is not only more cost-effective, but can also provide a better and healthier workplace for your employees.

Since your workday begins when you arrive, let's start with how you get there. The best case scenario is to telecommute by working from home. Today's technology, like video conferencing, instant messaging and online seminars, has made this a reality. However, if your office can't be home-based then why not opt for walking or biking? Four in 10 professionals in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region drive to work daily according to the aforementioned poll. Driving uses up our energy sources, and causes pollution and noise. So instead of driving, consider carpooling or using public transportation. Other alternatives are purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle or switching from an eight-hour workday, five days a week to a 10-hour workday, four days a week. This will cut your daily commute time by at least 20% and give you longer weekends, too.

When it comes to today's digital era, paper usage can be kept to a minimum. And when it comes to going green, the greenest paper is no paper, and one of the most effective ways to be eco-friendly in your office is to reduce waste. Switch from a fax machine to a fax modem to send and receive paperless documents. Use electronic forms whenever possible, and email letters and documents to be read online rather than printed out. Have staff members take their laptops to team meetings so that they aren't printing reams of reports. An added bonus? Storing files on your computer saves time, money and space. Just don't forget to backup, preferably to an offsite data system. You can also use compact flash drives to transport and share documents easily and efficiently. If using paper is an absolute must, then you can invest in a double sided-printer, with recyclable, eco-friendly cartridges. In the Middle East, 66% of professionals use the recycle bin to dispose of used paper at work, as per the Green Workplaces in the Middle East and North Africa poll.

Greening the space in which you work has almost limitless possibilities. Start with good furniture, good lighting, and good air. Furniture can be manufactured from recycled materials as well as recyclable. Incandescent bulbs can be replaced with compact fluorescents and there is an ever-growing selection of high-end LED desk lamps that use miniscule amounts of energy. Not only is natural daylight a free source of lighting for the office, it has been proven to improve worker productivity and satisfaction. Workspace air quality is also crucial; good ventilation and low-VOC paints and materials (such as furniture and carpet) will keep employees happy and healthy. You could even bring small plants to the office- indoor plants are natural air filters, absorbing airborne pollutants and radiation from computers while replenishing oxygen levels.

Conserving energy is really not that difficult, it just requires paying attention to detail. For starters, you could put your computer on sleep mode when not in use, or shut it down before leaving office. This strategy is followed by 58% of MENA professionals, and it has helped their companies save on energy. Also next time you're replacing office computers, remember that laptops and notebooks use up to 90% less energy than a desktop PC. Another mental check is ensuring that all power switches are off when idle. According to the Green Workplaces in the Middle East and North Africa poll, 71% of professionals in the MENA say their company uses energy-efficient lighting in their office. Recycling is another way of going green at the office. Simple recycling measures can significantly reduce your waste removal expenses. Place a paper recycling box in your office and encourage your team to use it. Also, certain items such as mugs, cardboard boxes, folders, plastic bags, etc. can be reused, so make sure they are not thrown away. Re-using items at work is big: 77% of MENA professionals re-use items either sometimes or all the time, as per the same poll. Pens and pencils can also be made of recycled materials, and refillable pens and markers are preferable to disposable ones. Use biodegradable soaps and recycled paper or cloth towels in the bathroom and kitchen, and provide biodegradable cleaners for the custodial staff. Buy in bulk so that shipping and packaging waste are reduced, and reuse the shipping boxes. Recycling printer cartridges is often free, and recycled replacements are cheaper than new ones.

Going green is becoming a way of life in many places. Your office doesn't need to be an exception. Whether you work in an office, shop or factory, run your own business or manage a corporation, taking care of the environment is easier than you think. Creating a greener office can result in a healthier and more productive place to work, a lighter ecological footprint, increased staff morale and good news for your bottom line. From switching to non-disposable kitchen supplies to turning off lights whenever possible, we hope these new routines will help you cut down on waste and costs.

Suhail Al-Masri

VP of Sales,

Suhail Al-Masri is the VP of Employer Solutions at Al-Masri has more than 20 years of experience in sales leadership, consultative sales, account management, marketing management, and operations management. His mission at goes in line with the company's mission to empower people with the tools and knowledge to build their lifestyles of choice.

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