Business

Published on January 21st, 2013 | by Scott Cooney

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3 innovative ideas to make water cooler talk green and, well, cooler!

Employees congregate around the water cooler to talk about the weekend’s events, spread office gossip, or discuss the new intern’s work performance. For companies, this creates an opportunity to spread the good word about sustainability and encourage participation in company sustainability programs.

As anyone who’s ever worked in an office can tell you that water cooler talk can sometimes be a painful drudge. But as those same people will tell you, sometimes that painful drudge “sure beats workin’!” Realistically, the office water cooler is a place to take a bit of a mental break from work, to stretch your legs, and to detach from clutter that often engrosses our desks.

So how does a company not only help its employees to alleviate boring water cooler talk, AND advance its sustainability goals at the same time?

Here’s three ideas for making it happen:

1. Start small with an wall flyer about how each employee can do good. A simple flyer about energy efficient, water efficient, and waste reduction habits can help your coworkers or employees go green and cut your company’s costs. There are so many small habits that office workers can change easily and comfortably that can have a huge impact on the environment (and the company’s utility bills). Here’s a “green your office” flyer you are free to download, print and post above the water cooler at your office.

2. Create a “green wall”. How many times have you heard someone at the office telling someone else about their favorite hiking trail, campground, or bike ride? Why not encourage employees to participate by sharing their ideas with everyone by posting them on the “green wall” itself? The wall could literally be painted green if your manager doesn’t mind, and could be broken into sections for “green excursions”, “green practices” (including a carpool post area), and a “swap” area, where one man’s trash might be claimed as another’s treasure. The wall could either be corkboard or just have employees post sticky notes under the right categories. The additional benefit to employee camaraderie will go far for keeping employee satisfaction high, and the green tips will help drive down the company’s utility costs.

Breakdown of bottled water costs…even water is mostly filler, as it turns out!

3. How about making the water cooler itself green? A traditional water cooler, where filtered water is brought in in a large water jug, and inverted onto the top of the cooler itself is better than individual sized bottled water, but still carries a large environmental footprint. The large water jugs may contain BPA, have a risk of contamination from bacteria, and create a work hazard for office workers lifting and inverting a very awkward 42 pound jug. In addition, those 42 pounds of water need to be trucked to your office from the filtration station.

In terms of sustainability, it’s estimated that 140 million kilowatt hours of electricity are used to manufacture 5 gallon plastic jugs, store them, and transport them from facility to facility. A gallon of water is wasted for every gallon that is actually delivered, and the process is adding 70 million pounds of waste to landfills every year, according to the Environmental Capital Group, who did the impact analysis on the subject. And of course, as consumption increases, so does the cost for your office.

The lifecycle of bottled water delivery is wasteful at every step.

Newer office water coolers filter water right from the tap and take a huge step out of the equation: the delivery. In addition, some filtered water coolers use up to 65% less electricity than the bottled water coolers, especially those that also come with an ice maker.

This post was sponsored by Quench, a clean technology company that rents, installs, and services “bottleless” water filtration systems for businesses across North America. Check them out here, and help your company go green!

Want to get some exposure for your company to targeted sustainability readers like yourself? Check out our “In Focus” feature for more info.

Office water cooler picture from Shutterstock



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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on



  • http://fitekusa.com Cora W. McWilliams

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