How Green Is Your Workplace Health Program April 23rd, 2012, by Ken Buckley

The perfect green economy would not generate pollution or waste and would be hyper-efficient in its use of energy, water, and materials. Does your workplace health program measure up?

Using this green utopia as a benchmark would mean that currently there are few, if any, green jobs, green workplaces, or green corporate health programs. A more realistic approach defines green jobs and green health and wellness programs as those that contribute to maintaining or restoring environmental quality and avoiding future damage to the Earth’s ecosystems. In other words, any workplace health program is a potentially green program depending on who runs and manages it.

This year, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work (28 April) focuses on green jobs,
and how to promote safety and health in a green economy. So how can you make your workplace health program greener and safer for the environment, your staff, and ultimately yourself?
As part of your health program, encourage your staff to:

1. ‘Downcycle’ paper as opposed to recycle it.
The greenest paper is actually no paper at all. Encourage participants to keep their documents in their computer, and read documents and emails on their screen. If you run health seminars as part of your workplace health program, ask your presenters to follow your green policy by not printing their presentations and simply send the materials to the participants by email. Research from GreenPrint shows that every employee working in an office uses an average of 680 grams of paper per day. And if important documents really need to be printed, ask your IT department to set up printer so it defaults to printing double sided, and select a ‘draft’ option to save ink.

2. Bring their own.
Whether it’s their own lunch in a reusable container or their own mug, let your staff know that it’s the greenest way to eat and drink at work. If you run a health expo with healthy cooking demonstrations, brief your presenters in advance so they only use reusable containers for their food samples. By simply using their own coffee cup every day instead of using paper cups, your staff will save 10.3kg of waste annually. Also, by recycling one aluminium can a day, they can save enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for three hours.

3. Green their commute.
When you walk or ride your bike to work, you burn fat, not fuel. Using public transport can also reduce your fuel bill, up to $1,500 per year per household, estimate GreenPrint. Did you know that American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting through rush hour traffic, which adds up to 3.7 billion hours and 23 billion litres of fuel waster in traffic each year.
And if you really need a four-wheel option, consider car-sharing, as this will save on fuel, reduce emissions, ease traffic congestion and reduce the demand for parking space. As part of your workplace health program, consider giving a bonus or incentive to bike and car-sharing commuters.

Test your green footprint by going on mygreenprint.org.

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