Sustainability in the Workplace

With over 10,000 people in Auburn University’s workforce, the choices we make when taken together have a considerable impact on the environment, finances, the community, and the personal wellbeing of ourselves and others.  Imagine how many ways things could improve if we all practiced just a few of the many proven sustainability strategies.

To get you started, we compiled a list of some basic sustainability actions for the workplace, and have also created an Auburn Employee Sustainability Connector guide.  So, gather your colleagues and think about what you might do together to help jumpstart sustainability in your department.  Each effort can help ensure that Auburn is doing its best to conserve resources and provide a healthy work environment for everyone.

At Your Desk

Energy IconSkip using a screen saver.

Energy IconSet your computer(s) to automatically sleep after no more than 10 minutes of inactivity.

Waste IconIn programs like Word and Excel, set your default margins to be 1 inch or less.

Energy IconTurn off all computers and electronics at night, during weekends, and on vacations.  Better still, you can unplug them to eliminate phantom power loads.

Energy IconIf you have a desk lamp, use a compact florescent or LED bulb.

Energy IconBring a sweater rather than using a space heater.

Waste IconIf you have desk-side trash baskets, request a desk-side recycling bin from the Waste Reduction and Recycling Department.

Wellbeing IconSet an alarm on your computer or phone for no more than 45 minutes as a reminder to get up and move around for a bit.  If you can, look into getting a convertible sitting/standing desk.

Common Spaces

Energy Icon Community IconWork together to determine the need for electronics and appliances (e.g.– printers, microwaves, coffee makers) and consolidate where feasible.

Energy Icon Community IconEstablish a program to help ensure shared appliances get unplugged at night, on weekends, and during breaks, or use a programmable timer.

Waste Icon Community IconCreate a central area for shared office supplies. Use it to make available supplies you no longer use and get supplies before purchasing new.

Energy Icon Money IconTry to utilize daylight only, when possible. If lights are needed, be sure they are turned off when leaving a room and at the end of the day.

Energy Icon Money IconBe sure the thermostat is set to an appropriate temperature (68-71 degrees in winter; 75-78 degrees in summer).

Energy Icon White 30x30Close blinds in the evening to help maintain building temperature.

Water Icon Money IconReport all water leaks to Facilities Management by submitting a work order.

Water Icon Money IconDon’t leave the water running when not directly in use.

Water Icon Waste IconAvoid using the toilet as a trashcan.

Waste Icon White 30x30Recycle electronics, batteries, and toner/ink cartridges. Contact Waste Reduction & Recycling for information on bin locations or how to get one for your building/office.

Wellbeing Icon Community IconBring air-cleansing houseplants to work.

Waste Icon White 30x30Send unneeded office furniture and durable goods to Surplus Property for reuse by others.


Community Icon Money IconSet office-wide sustainability goals and post them in a prominent place as a reminder to coworkers and visitors.

Waste Icon White 30x30Incorporate recycling/waste reduction strategies into new employee orientation.

Energy Icon Community IconFamiliarize new employees with alternative transportation options for commuting and/or getting around campus.

Energy Icon Money IconDisplay reminders for the last one out of a room to turn off the lights.

Energy Icon Money IconPrior to university breaks, send an office-wide reminder for coworkers to shut down computers and unplug electronics/small appliances.

Waste Icon Money IconConduct paperless meetings.

Waste Icon Money IconWhere legally possible, provide forms that can be completed and submitted electronically.

Waste Icon Money IconReview, share, and edit documents electronically.  Services like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Sharepoint make this easier than ever.

Waste IconMoney IconSend and receive faxes electronically.

Waste Icon White 30x30Periodically remove your office from unwanted mailing lists with services through the Federal Trade Commission and TrustedID.

Everyday Tasks

Waste IconSet printer(s) to print double-sided as the default.

Waste IconRefill ink/toner cartridges instead of purchasing new.

Waste IconPrint in draft quality when possible.

Waste IconProvide a collection bin for paper that has only been used on one side. Then reuse the paper for things like note taking.

Waste IconReuse old envelopes by covering old addresses with labels or reuse them for on-campus mail.

Wellbeing IconUse the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.

In the Breakroom

Waste IconUtilize reusable dishware instead of disposables.

Waste IconAvoid purchasing bottled water.  Offer tap water instead.

Wellbeing IconPurchase Fair Trade coffees and teas.

Wellbeing IconPurchase organic for common shared groceries (e.g. – milk, sugar, creamer, etc.).

Waste IconUse cloth dishtowels and napkins instead of paper.

Wellbeing IconPurchase Green Seal or Design-for-the-Environment dish cleaning products.

Getting Around

Energy IconWellbeing IconEncourage walking, biking, carpooling, and Tiger Transit for commuting to work.  Remind coworkers of the Zimride Auburn site for connecting with others and tracking progress.

Energy IconWellbeing IconWhen meeting on campus, walk, bike, or use Tiger Transit instead of taking a car.

Energy IconMoney IconWhen possible, hold e-meetings (teleconference/videoconference) instead of traveling for meetings.

Energy IconCommunity IconWhen traveling outside of Auburn, reduce single-occupant vehicles by carpooling or taking a shuttle.

Energy IconMoney IconWhen at your new destination, look for mass transit or shuttle options instead of renting a vehicle.

Energy IconMoney IconWhen you must rent vehicles for travel, choose fuel-efficient, hybrid, or electric vehicles.

Energy IconCommunity IconPurchase carbon offsets when renting vehicles or purchasing plane tickets.

Energy IconWater IconWhen booking lodging, look for hotels that have been certified for their environmentally-responsible practices through programs like Green Key, Green Globes, LEED, Green Seal, and Energy Star.


Auburn University has guidelines and preferences for sustainable purchasing in the areas of computers, paper, and green cleaners.

Waste IconMoney IconRecognize the most sustainable purchasing option is to avoid a purchase altogether.  Work to reduce your overall purchasing budget for tangible goods by 5%.

Waste IconEnergy IconConsider the long-term value and cost of goods, including maintenance and disposal costs.

Waste IconMoney IconConsider repairing or refurbishing durable goods before purchasing new ones.

Waste IconEnergy IconUse at least 30% post-consumer recycled content paper.  For an even greater impact, consider 100% post-consumer recycled content.

Energy IconMoney IconAvoid purchasing electric office equipment when manual options are feasible (e.g. – stapler, hole punch).

Waste IconMoney IconAvoid purchasing single-use items.

Waste IconMoney IconCheck with Surplus Property for options that meet your needs before buying new.

Energy IconWater IconConsider third-party certifications that may apply to the type of product you’re purchasing (e.g. – Green Seal, Energy Star, Design-for-the-Environment, Fair Trade, B-Corporation, FSC, SFI, EPEAT).

Wellbeing IconWaste IconWhen you must buy new furniture, look for low or no-VOC materials and/or natural/recycled materials.

Energy IconMoney IconIf possible, consolidate purchasing to minimize deliveries to campus.

Energy IconWaste IconWhen ordering office supplies through Staples, simply check the ‘eco-conscious’ box near the top left of the page to see the wide range of sustainable options they offer in that category.

Waste IconMoney IconChoose recycled content options for all purchases, when applicable.

Waste IconMoney IconConsider purchasing in bulk for items that you consume in large quantities.



Icon Guide

A sustainable workplace requires an understanding of interconnections, and consideration of a variety of scales like personal, local, regional, and global.  To help you identify the primary areas of impact for the listed strategies, we’ve included the following icons.

Community IconCommunity

Money IconEconomy

Energy IconEnergy

Waste IconMaterials

Water IconWater

Wellbeing IconWellbeing

Sustainability Posters