Green Office FAQ

Green Office Certification Program

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I turn off my lights if I am only leaving the room for a few minutes?

Yes.  As a general rule, you should turn off the lights whenever you leave a room. It's just a good habit to develop. Turning off the lights reduces operating costs in two ways: it saves energy and reduces the number of lamp replacements.   Resource: www.eweb.org/newsletter/lightingmyth.

2. Should I turn off my computer and monitor at night? 

Yes.  Although there is a small energy surge when a computer starts up, this small amount of energy is still less than the energy used when a computer is running for modest periods of time.  Resource:  energy.gov/energysaver/articles/energy-efficient-computer-use.

3. Is going paperless really better?

Sometimes.  When we talking about "going paperless," what we often mean is eliminating the paper portion of a process that used to be both an electronic and a paperless process.  This type of "going paperless" is usually better because this eliminates the paper that you would have used otherwise.  You are still using a computer, which took resources to make.  You are also still using the energy to power your computer, but you would have been using that computer and that electricity anyway, so the net savings is the paper. 

If you are making a choice between doing a paper process and an electronic process, the answer is more complicated.  Electronics use hazardous materials and electricity.  Storage of electronic data on the internet uses a lot of electricity and resources.   The method of storing electronic data and producing electronics is always changing and requires us to constantly update with new equipment and dispose of the old equipment.  Disposal of this equipment can cause human and environmental health issues if not handled very carefully.  However, electronics make sharing information with others infinitely easier and they are probably not going away anytime soon.  The Institute for Sustainable Practices has not yet found a definitive answer to this question.  Please let us know if you are aware of credible analyses on this topic.

Electric dryer vs. paper towels:  When it comes to electric vs. paper for drying your hands, electric is the hands down winner.  Electric hand dryers are about 3.5 times cheaper to operate over a 5 year period.  Each electric hand dryer uses about 187 kwh/year or $9.38/year in electricity.  This equates to about 0.1 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.  Greenhouse gas emissions were also generated when the electric hand dryers were produced, but electric hand dryers last for many years.  Paper towels generate greenhouse gas emission when they are produced, when they are delivered from the manufacturer to the distributor, when they are delivered from the distributor to campus, when they are delivered from Lane to the landfill, and finally when they breakdown in the landfill – creating the more powerful greenhouse gas - methane.  For a detailed calculation on the greenhouse gas emissions for an electric hand dryer vs. paper towels see page 29 of this University of Nebraska Partners in Pollution Prevention Guideline document.

Lane selected the hand dryer model that is installed throughout campus because it works quickly and is energy efficient.  However, one of the negatives with this model is that it is loud.  In response to concerns about the noise level, Lane hired an industrial hygienist to survey the noise from the dryers.  The industrial hygienist found the noise level at the electric hand dryers to be between 88 and 94 decibels during the 30 to 45 seconds that the hand dryer is operating.  OSHA permits a noise exposure of up to 95 decibels for up to 4 hours per work day.  Since a campus user would only be exposed to the hand dryer noise for several minutes per work day, the hand dryer noise is well within the OSHA permissible limit.

4. How much money and electricity do I save by switching from an incandescent to a fluorescent or light emitting diode (LED) light bulb?

According to Energy.gov using a 60 watt incandescent light bulb provides similar lighting levels to a 15 watt compact fluorescent or a 12 watt LED light bulb.  By using the fluorescent bulb, you are using 75% less energy and saving about $3.60 per year in electricity per bulb.  The LED bulb will save you $3.80 per year and uses 75-80% less electricity.  Another benefit to using fluorescent or LED bulbs is that they last a lot longer:

  • Incandescent: 1000 hours
  • Fluorescent: 10,000 hours
  • LED: 25,000 hours.

energy.gov/energysaver/articles/how-energy-efficient-light-bulbs-compare-traditional-incandescents.

5. What is the harm in buying water in disposable bottles?

Bottled water contributes to the estimated 3 million tons of plastic debris floating on the sea surface in the North Pacific.  Purchasing bottled water contributes to the production of greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, and the depletion of the earth's oil reserves.  Bottled water costs more per gallon than gasoline.  Bottled water costs as much as 10,000 times more than tap water.  For more information see Lane's Take Back the Tap webpage.

6. Why is reusable kitchenware better than disposable?

Typically, a reusable item is always preferred to a single-use disposable item.  Generally, reducing waste by using reusable items instead of disposable items saves landfill space, water, energy, pollution, and greenhouse gasses associated with resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and disposal. A 2006 Waste Prevention study by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality states that using a ceramic mug 1,000 times instead of using 1000 polystyrene cups uses 27% less energy, 75% less in material inputs, and generates 51% less CO2 emissions, 97% less water pollution, and 46% less solid waste.

7. Why are reusable batteries better than disposable?

Typically, a reusable item is always preferred to a single-use disposable item.  Generally, reducing waste by using reusable items instead of disposable items saves landfill space, water, energy, pollution, and greenhouse gasses associated with resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and disposal. A 2006 Waste Prevention study by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality states that the manufacture of one set of reusable batteries versus 200 sets of disposable batteries uses 35% less energy, 81 times less water, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 55%.