On the Clock

Your Earth Day Go-Green List

More employees are pushing for environmental and other purpose-driven changes in the office.

It sounded like something way too altruistic: earlier this month, 4,500 Amazon employees signed a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos and the board of directors to say the e-commerce behemoth should reduce its contribution to climate change.

Employees have begun addressing causes like environmentalism and social change in the workplace, because they increasingly want to work at companies that match their own values. More than half of millennials say their job decisions are influenced by whether a prospective employer engages in a cause.

And in a tight job market, employers are waking up to the idea of catering to employees’ desires, be it a funding drive to benefit the homeless or starting a community garden on office grounds. “Eco-friendly measures are a way to save money and save the planet,” says Karen Huang, a Korn Ferry senior manager of search assessment.

Studies show plants improve productivity by as much as 15%.

As Earth Day celebrates its 49th anniversary, here’s some advice on how to protect the environment—whether you’re looking to make individual changes or ramp up pressure on corporate leaders to take proactive, eco-conscious measures.

The obvious.

Younger members of the workforce may not even know where the printer in the office is, while older workers may still be printing out every email. Regardless of which category you may fall into, here’s a quick reminder of things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint: reduce what you print and save more digital copies of things; stock reusable cups and silverware instead of plasticware in the break room; buy refillable pens; use LED light bulbs in desk lamps; shut down your computer when it isn’t in use; and carpool/bike/take public transportation to work. You could even get paid for your efforts; the architecture and interior design firm Leslie Saul & Associates, for example, gives an allowance of $150 a year to cycling commuters for safety equipment such as helmets, bicycle lights, and reflective vests.

The not so obvious.

You may get chuckles, or a high-five from a green-thumb colleague, but one way to green your office is to surround yourself with desk plants. The more greenery you have, the better you’ll breathe—and think. Studies show plants improve productivity by as much as 15%. That’s because plants are natural air purifiers, giving off oxygen while consuming carbon dioxide. They also help eliminate toxins from nasty chemicals that are often found in in older buildings. Follow this tip for optimal plantification: place one plant per 100 square feet of floor space.

You can also take a page out of the Amazon employee playbook and sign or start a petition that pushes for certain environmental changes at your company. Firms have more incentive now to listen to employees on enacting change, because their stakeholders—from investors to customers—are looking for them to have purpose.

A final tip.

Last but not least, don’t be obnoxious about your environmental stance. Like politics, you often don’t know your colleagues’ or boss’s views on climate change or the environment. They could, after all, be driving a diesel car to work and keep a 24-pack of plastic bottled water underneath their desk, or not among the 48% of U.S. adults who think the earth is warming primarily because of human activity. The last thing you want to do is push your point of view so hard that it causes more harm—at least to your career—than good.  

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