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How Businesses Affect the Environment

The place you work can affect the environment either positively or negatively to a very large degree. How eco-friendly your employer is when it comes to using energy to heat and cool the building, to bring products into it, and to remove waste from it has a major impact on your community and the planet.

You may be surprised by some specific examples of ways the working world damages the environment:

  • Heating and air conditioning systems pump greenhouse gas emissions from offices into the atmosphere and use up vast amounts of electricity. Many buildings aren’t designed to include energy-efficient systems or technology to reduce the amount of heat and air conditioning they use.

  • Many buildings are built from materials that don’t come from renewable sources.

  • Office buildings have a huge appetite for electricity to power lighting, air conditioning, computers, printers, and photocopiers. Equipment may be left on 24 hours a day, seven days a week — even when no one’s working.

  • Offices consume vast amounts of paper. Even with more offices recycling paper, a large amount of paper waste still goes to landfill sites or incinerators.

  • In addition to paper, offices produce a lot of other waste, including equipment (especially computers), because companies regularly upgrade their equipment to stay competitive. Electronics such as photocopiers and computers can end up in landfills, where they don’t break down and, even worse, can leach harmful chemicals into the ground and water.

  • Rush-hour traffic jams in towns and cities are full of people trying to get to work — wasting time and polluting the atmosphere.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, industrial and commercial energy use (from such sources as electricity use, product transportation, industrial processes, burning fossil fuels to power boilers and produce steam, and using gasoline to power vehicles) accounts for nearly 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

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