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From solar rooftops to kitchen composting to bamboo flooring, Canadian homes are rapidly changing to become more sustainable, more eco-friendly, energy-efficient and less toxic places.
But step into the home office and behold: cultural devolution! Computers and gadgets stay on day and night; toxic batteries, ink cartridges and old electronics get thrown into the garbage and pretty paper made from old growth forests lands itself in the printer.
Chris Winter, executive director of the Conservation Council of Ontario, says while each home is different, we tend to fall off the green living and eco-friendly wagon when it comes to our home offices. "On the whole, the trend of home offices is good from an environmental perspective: it eases gridlock and brings balance and common sense back into our lives," he says.
But the power demands of home computers, internet, cellphones, printers, fax machines and myriad other home office materials still take their toll. "Multiplied by four million homes in a given community, this is a significant energy drain," says Winter.
What can we do?
Winter says the top three home office problems are energy wastage, paper consumption and hazardous wastes i.e. batteries, ink cartridges and toner. Here are 8 solutions for a greener home office.
1 Purchase a power bar and turn everything off
"It's a bad rumour that you shouldn't turn your computer off at night," says Winter. "Yes, it peaks on startup, but the base operating load of the computer for 24 hours far exceeds the startup." Not to mention everything that connects to your computer continues to drain energy even when not in use: speakers, printers, scanners, PDAs, etc. Turning everything off with the single flick of a power bar makes it easy to save energy (and money!).
2 Think laptop, not desktop
Besides being sleeker, portable and far cooler, laptops consume one-eighth the power of a traditional desktop. If everyone in the house had laptops they could be downloading music and updating their blogs all at the same time and still not be using as much power as one clunky desktop!
3 Embrace the flatscreen
Flatscreen monitors, or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens, use less than half the energy of traditional CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors. LCD screens are lighter, more adjustable, and cause less eye strain as they don't flicker plus their sharp display makes it easier to read text.
4 Reuse materials as much as you can
Print documents and recipes using on the back of used paper; save paper clips, push-pins, elastics, sticky flags; make a point to buy rechargeable batteries and refillable toner cartridges.
5 Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!
Buy a handy basket to throw all your old inkjet and toner cartridges, dead cell phones, PDAs, and finished rechargeable batteries and bring them back to any STAPLES Business Depot location across Canada. STAPLES will now accept any of these items and will send them off to be refurbished and recycled. "You no longer feel you have to keep grocery bags full of cell phones and PDAs. You can bring them to us and know they're not going into the landfill," says Leigh Pearson, STAPLES manager of facility services. Alternatively, your municipal recycling and waste disposal depot will also take these off your hands.
Plus, no paper should ever find its way into the wastebasket. Have a couple of trays on hand for paper piles: one for re-use and one for recycle.