Green Living 101: Greening your office

November 22, 2010

Guest Post by: Sarah Outlaw

Many people are opting to change a room in their homes into a home office. It may be an entire room, part of a den, or a little nook in the kitchen. Wherever you decide to set up your home office you may want to consider some “greener” more Eco-friendly options.

Furniture:
Most of the office furniture on the market today is made of cheap particle board. This may seem like the economical choice due to affordability but it costs more in the long run. Particle board furniture tends to break, chip, and scratch very easily so it is less durable and needs to be replaced more frequently. Particle board, while seemingly a “green” choice because it is made up of recycled wood or wood waste, is not because of the formaldehyde resin used the bonding agent for the furniture. Formaldehyde will outgas and leach into the surrounding environment and may cause irritation to the eye, lungs, and bronchial passages. Some better options would be to go to your local Goodwill, antique or thrift stores and find real wood furniture that you can reclaim and refurbish to meet your needs. Be sure to use non-toxic finishing products if you are doing any staining or polishing. Another option would be to check yard sales, Craigslist, or even Freecycle.

Paint:
When choosing the paint for any room in your home, not just the office, always look for low VOC (volatile organic compounds), low odor paint. It is easier to find now at Lowe’s or Home Depot because there is a higher demand for it than there used to be. Using this paint will eliminate the headaches and nausea that can accompany a painting project. It is also much safer and healthier for you and your family.

macbook decal from Luckylabs.com

macbook decal from Luckylabs.com

Computers:
It is very frustrating that as soon as you buy any technology it is almost immediately out of date. Something bigger (or smaller) and better comes along just a few months down the road and you are left with a “substandard” device. While there is nothing we can do about the constant advancement of technology, which is not necessarily a bad thing, there is something you can do about making your technology a little more Eco-friendly. Laptops consume less energy than a PC and are portable so you can easily take your home office on the go. Dell has a sleek new Eco Bamboo computer that looks very promising! If a PC is a must, look for smaller computers with an Energy Star monitor. Computers also have ratings for the amount of toxic materials present or used to make them. EPEAT ratings are the EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool to determine if a PC meets specific safety criteria. Buying an EPEAT certified PC is a crucial step in reducing hazardous and non-hazardous waste and energy during manufacturing.

The average American buys a new computer every three years. This means one person can go through approximately 60 computers in a lifetime! That is a lot of waste! When you are replacing your PC, please consider recycling it by sending it back to the manufacturer or donating it. It is imperative that electronics stay out of the landfills because the leach mercury, lead, and cadmium into the groundwater and contaminate the air.

Printers:
A printer is a must for every office unless you are able to go completely paper-free. Choose Energy Star printers and purchase recycled printer paper. Companies like HP are boasting new Eco-Friendly printers that are said to have energy and paper-saving features. It pays to do the research to find the best options for you and the environment.

If you own a small business and are in need of Eco-friendly products and services, I have found Eco-Office Gals to be a great resource.Utilizing the above tips and resources should be of help when designing your ideal Eco-friendly home office. Every “green” choice matters in the health of your family and of our planet.

Sarah Outlaw is a work-at-home wife and mother of 3 who is passionate about natural living, natural medicine, and real food. She is the owner of 90210 Organics, an Eco-boutique, and is a Certified Health Coach & Natural Living Consultant.

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Living a more ‘green’ existance? My top five favorite strategies

May 28, 2009
Globigerina_wondercabinet_PhillyTeam
Wonder Cabinet’s Globigerina

Wonder Cabinet

It seems that living a ‘greener’ life can actually be a very subjective process, as individuals make specific choices for lifestyle habits, eco-passions, or environmental issues that he or she considers most pressing. I realize that my choices are just as biased to my own subjective views and particular soapboxes, or so-called ‘green’ priorities.

1. Support local.
There are myriad benefits to supporting local movements and businesses. For one, you are investing in your own local economy, which adds to revitalization of the area in which you live, builds community, and provides numerous long-term perks. Second, you are decreasing the use of energy to transport items long distances. Third, you are making choices to support items p1oduced by individuals who earn a living wage for what they do. And fourth, you are considering your choices more carefully, whether that be a hand screen-printed organic cotton t-shirt, or local produce. I am lucky to have Greensgrow Farms  right here in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, and Greensgrow is a stellar example of an amazing local endeavor gone right.  The farm was actually built on a superfund site, using hydroponic agriculture and raised beds, and it is thriving as it directly supports, and is supported by, its local community, with a spring nursery, a CSA program, a regular farm stand full of all kinds of local produce, mik, dairy, eggs, meats, and hand-crafted goodies like arugula pesto and the most amazing smokey eggplant dip imagineable.

2. Cloth Diapering.
I know that there have been studies ‘demonstrating’ that the use of energy and water to wash cloth diapers negates its environmental benefit. But I’m sorry. There are plenty of studies that show that water use is wholly dependent on where you live (and I live in the most flood-prone state in the union) and in my opinion, untreated human waste, wrapped in plastic, sitting in a landfill for the next thousand years (trash in landfills don’t really decompose very quickly, to say the least) is simply not the same as using a bit more water and energy. It’s not equal! Check out an earlier post about greener breastfeeding support.

3.  Kitchen Gardens
I live in the middle of a working class, urban neighborhood in Philadelphia, I have a fantastic organic farm minutes away from me (right in the middle of the city), as described above, but I have no community garden in site. Community gardens are a fantastic investment of time and energy, and if I didn’t have so much on my plate, I might try to mobilize the formation of on. However, despite my absence of actual ‘land’ (we have what they call a “pavement” around here), I manage to grow quite a bit through the use of pots, trellises, and window boxes. Nearly everything in my garden is either a food or an herb, so that I can maximize the space rather than growing annuals that might not help feed the family. I just wish I could do more! Though I am an herbalist, that doesn’t mean I’m a gardener, and I am definitely learning more with every growing season, especially with a handy subscription to Organic Gardening. Someday I’ll have a ‘real’ plant-things-in-the-ground garden.

4. Keep your own Chickens
I had to put this in here because I think this is a brilliant move; many individuals are engaging in raising their own chickens, which is awesome! Fresh, organic eggs in your own yard; lovely fat chickens when needed; and certainly, a smaller population of pests such as ticks, a favored snacks of our poultry friends.  This is a fantasy for me at the moment, but again, someday when I have my own yard, perhaps!

Mushrooms_Pigeonsintheattic

Pigeons in the Attic's Toppled Mushrooms

 Pigeons in the Attic

5.  Composting, urban or rural
There is just no excuse for not composting this day and age, no matter where you live. I am a hypocrite here, because I have really wanted to figure out a good system for urban composting that is going to work for me and my family with extremely limited space. However, I have heard that many Montrealers have this down, and I have no doubt that there are resources out there for figuring out a good system. There is simply no excuse for throwing away kitchen scraps, tea and coffee waste, and especially herbal matter when one could be turning it all into garden GOLD!

Extra!  Recycle, upcycle, downcycle, whatever
I love the many artisans out there who upcycle sweaters, vintage clothing, leather, plastic–you name it–in order to create incredibly useful, beautiful hand-crafted pieces. I’ve purchased leg warmers upcycled from cashmere sleeves, notebook cases from recycled herringbone fabric, and other items with this focus on re-purposing goods that would otherwise go to waste, languish in thrift stores, or end up in the trash. I was walking outside one night and it happened to be ‘trash night’, when I happened across a pile of so-called trash left out for the trucks. Full art boxes filled with sponge stamps, paints, brushes, markers, and other crafty items intended for children! I was shocked that anyone would throw this out rather than even trying to take it to the thrift store, but Americans are notoriously wasteful. We would do better to learn from our European cousins or even our Canadian sisters and brothers to the North: even the plastic wrapper from a tea bag can be recycled. Do it! (and pay no mind to this hilarious blog post that pokes a little fun at those who prefer to recycle.) Just as an FYI: there’s a new on-line venue, Cosa Verde, that tries to bring together many of these artisans with ‘green’ practices.

Girls can tell moleskin

Girlscantell crafted moleskin

So tell me, what are your favored strategies for Greener Living? Comment below so that I and my readers can benefit from all that creativity and originality out there!