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Green is good: How green tech can make our planet safer and our lives better

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This article was published in the fourth issue of Tribe, our digital magazine. It’s a better reading experience in the app. You can read Tribe now on Android or iPhone. Become a Tribe subscriber here.

Green. What do you associate with green?

Green means money, right? In the United States, our currency has a greenish tinge that has been so burrowed into the public consciousness, that the word green is slang for money itself.

But green also is a stand-in for eco-friendly. Some people vote green, others use green products, or go green all for the sake of making our world a better place. Green signifies the green life that shoots out from the ground. Going green means making conscious decisions to make the world a verdant, sustainable place.

For the longest time, however, these two greens were considered incompatible.

Solar power? Too expensive! Composting? In my kitchen, are you a nut? Electric Vehicle? Forget it, it’ll never go as far as I need.

Let’s face it, green has always been seen as a lifestyle that we would have to sacrifice for. Invest too much money, invest too much time, be boxed in by limitations. Going green implied losing your liberty.

But I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. That is all a bunch of brown bullshit.

Instead, going green can be a money-saver, a way to boost products, and a way to avert a climate disaster.

And, c’mon, our money won’t be any good if we’re all burned to a crisp due to a climate apocalypse.

So, let’s take a look, and see how you can implement green tech in your business and your home to build up that bottom line and save the world in the process.

Green tech in the office

Going green at the office doesn’t mean making a funky compost bin filled with office coffee grinds. It means reducing that carbon footprint! Here are some excellent ways that you can bring that carbon footprint under control.

Remote work

The pandemic burst remote work into the fore. Remote work, or working from home, allows your workforce to work from their homes, which removes the need for your workers to commute and the need for you to pay for office space. But how does remote working translate into green working?

Commuting emits a tremendous amount of carbon into the air. In the United Kingdom, a shift to remote work 4 days a week would slash nitrogen dioxide emissions by 10%. Nitrogen Dioxide emissions increase risks of both asthma and asthma attacks, inflammation, reduced lung functions, and difficulty breathing. By taking cars off the road, you end up improving the quality of the air you breathe, improving your life in the process.

Now, you may question: does taking cars off the road offset the carbon emissions raised by people increasing electricity at their homes?

The answer is yes. While it is true that the remote work itself added 34.3 million tons of greenhouse gases to be emitted, this was offset by reduced waste, reduced paper use, reduced industrial electricity consumption, and reduced commuting. A study from Alliance Virtual Offices found that working from home decreases the carbon footprint of each worker by 1,800 pounds a year.

If the entirety of the white-collar workforce in the United States (88.4 million workers) were to work remotely, that would reduce this country’s carbon footprint by 159 billion pounds per year, or 795 million tons.

That’s tons of carbon, literally!

Green Data Centers

Businesses have to store their data. For some businesses, data is their product! Storing data doesn’t seem like it would be that eco-friendly or that eco-damaging — after all, it’s just 1s and 0s. However, it takes a fair amount of electricity to run the machines that store those 1s and 0s, and it takes a fair amount of power to create the machines that store your data, so data centers can be a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions if they’re not properly managed.

Green Data Centers use a variety of technologies to minimize electricity consumption — such as using outdoor air to cool servers, creating moisture through ultrasound technology, and capturing hot air exhaust. Using less power is less expensive (score one for your business). The power that is used is also created through renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar.

This way, you spend less on energy, use less energy, and only use sustainable energy, attacking your carbon footprint through multiple channels! It’s a win-win-win.

Go Paperless

This one goes hand-in-hand with working remotely, but can be executed with a fully in-office workforce as well. Incredibly (I still can’t believe it), the average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper per year, the equivalent of 1 douglas fir per office worker. Just the process of turning this tree into that paper releases 110 pounds of carbon into the air. Plus, when you cut down a tree, you stop its ability to absorb carbon. And a tree can absorb up to 2,000 pounds of carbon in its lifetime.

Basically, you’re putting more carbon into the air, and you’re reducing the amount of carbon that can be captured.

Luckily, there’s a solution. It’s called going paperless. Paper is expensive. It costs money to print and store these forms, and the vast majority of paper forms get thrown away anyway. According to Forbes, businesses in the United States waste $8 billion each year on mismanaging paper forms. And once you’ve thrown that paper away, it still ends up costing you. 26% of the discarded waste in the world is paper or cardboard, which produces heat-trapping methane gas (a major contributor to global warming).

In short, all that paper you’re throwing out? It’s heating the planet up.

When you go paperless, you remove all of that waste. Document retrieval is faster, more secure, and takes up less square footage, all reducing your company’s expenditures. Just make sure that the electricity powering that paperless storage is eco-friendly!

Automatic Control Systems

Quick! Did you remember to turn off the lights before you left work?

Uhh…

Easy to forget, right? It’s easy to forget to turn out the lights, change that thermostat, or power down that equipment. Offices can install automatic control systems that counter this. Systems can be in place to turn on lights based on movement, or to have lights simply turn off at a certain time of night. Similarly, expensive HVAC systems can be turned off when workers leave for the day, guaranteeing that you’re not blowing cold air around when no one needs it.

Better still, your office can keep the A/C warmer in the summer and the heat slightly cooler in the winter. Offices in the US are notorious for being practically arctic in the summer, a vestige from when all workers were expected to wear suits every day. For every degree warmer you set your thermostat in the summer, you save 3% on your electricity bill.

It’s 2021. Update that dress code. Allow shorts in the office. Stop setting the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Green technologies for your home

Most of us are not business owners. Most of us work for someone else. We may have the privilege of working from home, or we may have to still schlep our tired selves to the office or store every day. But, for the most part, we all have a home we have to come back to after work. And there are technologies we can install in our homes to reduce our carbon footprint and save ourselves some money.

Let’s take a look at how we can greenify our homes.

Smart Thermostats

Surprise! Smart, programmable thermostats show up in the office and in the home. Programmable thermostats allow you to program your home to have specific temperatures at specific times. Adjusting your temperature (for example, cooler in the winter evenings while you sleep) can help you save up to 10% on your annual heating bill.

Smart thermostats take this a step further. They analyze your patterns of movement and congregation throughout your house, changing the temperature based on your routine. If, for example, your thermostat knows your house will be very crowded and busy in the afternoon, it can reduce the heat at that time.

With smart thermostats, you can save from 12%-25% on your heating/cooling bills each month. That savings adds up!

And, that electricity has to come from somewhere. If your electricity comes from your town’s power grid, and that power grid is powered from fossil fuels, then your heating and cooling contribute to carbon emissions. Smart thermostats lower your emissions and lower your power bill.

Again, it’s a win-win.

Smart power strips

Ever heard of phantom power? It’s the power that your electronic devices (like your tv) use even while they’re off. This, incidentally, is often why I unplug my electronics when I go on vacation.

Smart power strips make this easier. They cut power to devices that are simply in standby mode when not in use. This way, you’re not spending money powering up devices that aren’t even on.

The savings are significant; you can save between 5%-10% on your power bill by installing smart power strips. If all electronics were plugged into smart power strips, it is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions could drop 1% worldwide.

1% may not sound like a lot, but it can make a big positive impact in our atmosphere!

Dual Flush toilet

80% of toilets in American homes are now dual flush, so this isn’t exactly up-and-coming, but it’s still a great investment to make if you haven’t already. Dual flush toilets have two options, one a small amount of water (typically 0.8 gallons), and one that uses a slightly larger amount of water (usually 1.6 gallons). These stand in contrast to older models of toilets which used 3.5 gallons per flush.

Switching to a dual flush option saves homeowners around $99 per year on water bills, and reduces water consumption for a family of four by 13,000 gallons per year.

That all sounds awesome, but if you’re anything like me, you may ask, “how does saving water help the environment?”

It’s a good question. Isn’t the water recycled anyway?

Well, yes, but it takes energy to recycle that water. You have to move the water, clean the water, pipe the water back. These things aren’t free! Additionally, even though the amount of fresh water in the world remains constant, our need goes up. There is the same amount of water for 5 billion people as there is for 9 billion people. When we use water, it eventually returns to the Earth, but it may not be in the same place or in the same sanitary condition. Reducing water consumption in the first place reduces the risk that there may be a water shortage in the future.

Get that dual flush toilet and help to preserve our planet’s water supplies.

LED lightbulbs

I heart LED lightbulbs. My house is completely stocked with them, thanks to the fact that they can emit light at practically any color and any intensity. In the dark of New York winters, I rely on my LED lightbulbs to keep my house lit well enough to keep any seasonal affect disorder at bay.

Digression aside, there are significant environmental benefits to using LED bulbs.

A typical incandescent lightbulb will last for about 1,200 hours. A compact fluorescent bulb lasts 8,000 hours. An LED bulb will last over 50,000 hours.

That’s over 41 times longer than an incandescent bulb! Plus, that incandescent bulb uses 60 watts of power, while the LED uses 6-8. 10 times less power, 41 times more life! When installed in a home, an LED’s annual power is 30 times cheaper than an incandescent bulb. Converting from incandescent in your home to LED will let you save an average of 5% on your electricity bill.

So that’s the savings for you, but what benefits do LED bulbs have for the environment? It turns out that, by 2030, 3 out of 4 bulbs in the US will be LED bulbs, and this switch will reduce carbon emissions by 1.8 billion metric tons. Electricity consumption could be reduced by a third.

Green is good

To quote Smash Mouth, “my world’s on fire, how ‘bout yours?”

I don’t like it.

The harsh reality is that our current consumption is not sustainable.

The responsibility does not rest evenly on every person or corporation, but every person and corporation can take real, meaningful steps to protect the environment. These steps, such as using LED bulbs or smart thermostats, reduce electricity use which saves money and reduces our carbon footprints.

It’s a win-win.

We just need to get up and actually make the change.

Written by Nathan Dennis

Nathan Dennis is a Manhattan based playwright and poet of Floridian extraction. A graduate of NYU Tisch Department of Dramatic Writing, he served as a Rita and Burton Goldberg Fellow, and was awarded Outstanding Writing for the Stage in Spring of 2015. His most recent play, Lord of Florida, was workshopped by PrismHouse Theatre Company in the Fall of 2017.

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