Samantha Harton, content contributor for

Since most non-profit organizations don’t have an inexhaustible budget, it can be tough to prioritize sustainability. But according to Neighbor Works America, going green can reduce operating costs relating to utilities, waste disposal, and office purchasing. You don’t have to build your office out of repurposed wood and recycled Chipotle bags to make a difference, but there are a few simple tips on how to clean up operations at your nonprofit.

1. Make a Plan

Be open and direct with the people involved in your organization about your plan to be more sustainable. Start a “Green Team” in the office who is in charge of sustainable materials, discouraging unnecessary waste, and keeping track of utility usage that can be presented at meetings. Outline specifically what changes you want to make and what goals you want to set. Look at the national and local average for electricity, gas, and paper use, and discuss creative solutions to how you can fall below that bar. The Green Plus organization emphasizes the importance of not only looking at how your business can reduce its carbon footprint but also what aspects of your company could be used to make positive impacts on the environment.  Having an action plan that is equal parts ambitious and realistic will not only show the other members of your nonprofit that you’re ready to prioritize sustainability, but will also encourage them to follow suit.

2. Reduce and Recycle Right

Whether you’re a new nonprofit or a multimillion dollar corporation, sustainability is all about working with what you have. You are going to produce waste, but learning what to with that waste is a natural step to take toward a more sustainable office space. You may already know that you should be placing recycling receptacles near every garbage can, printer, and photocopier in your office, but recycling isn’t just about getting your employees to throw their scrap papers into a blue bin. Offices tend to use a lot of paper and ink, even as operations become more digital. Make sure you’re printing documents double-sided and recycling your printer and toner cartridges. According to the recycling experts at RoadRunner, color-coding your recycling efforts and posting educational imagery near the recycling centers in your office increases participation.

When it comes to sustainability, reducing is even more important than recycling. Gas is one of the biggest culprits in deepening carbon footprints, so encouraging your employees to ride bikes to work, carpool, or work part-time from home can make a significant change in the daily emissions your employees are producing. By making a few quick phone calls to cancel that junk mail that random companies send you every week, you can reduce the amount of paper waste you’re creating.

3. Telecommuting

The rise of technology has brought about many solutions to reducing office carbon footprints, from email limiting the amount of paper you have to wind and solar developments allowing large office spaces to be powered using 100% renewable energy. Technology has also created a new economy in which working from home is an increasingly viable option. Not every job can be done from home, and you probably want to see most of your employees a few times a week, but you shouldn’t shy away from the work-from-home option. By allowing your employees to work one, two, or even three days a week from home, you reduce the amount of gas they are using for their commute and the amount of waste and energy your office produces and consumes. Entrepreneur reports that companies that employ remote workers not only have lower office supply and snack costs, but have better, healthier, and happier workers, citing a study at Stanford that claimed remote workers to be 13% more productive.

4. Educate

You don’t want your employees to just practice sustainability in the office. If you’re serious about affecting environmental change, educate your employees on how they can live an overall more sustainable lifestyle. Professional development not only boosts morale within the office, but it ensures that the people championing your cause are on the same page with you. Bring in an expert to hold a short seminar on reducing personal carbon footprints, share articles and blog posts with your staff about new developments in the world of sustainability, and generate an office culture that prioritizes the environment. RoadRunner states that defining your plan and educating your employees on what exactly should be recycled makes your recycling efforts more effective, and that kind of time and care should be put into your sustainability plan, too.


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