The first thing that crosses the minds of many people when the term "green office" is thrown around is eliminating the use of paper and moving key information to electronic storage alternatives. But, as companies that attempt to transition to a paperless office are finding out, hard-copy documents are more vital to business operations than one might think – and more sustainable, too. There are a variety of steps you can take to help eliminate waste of energy and resources, and for the most part, they are little things. Initiating employee participation in these activities can help to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Dispelling the myth that using paper in the office harms the environment
Digital providers might want you to think that the paper industry is killing the earth through deforestation, but this sentiment completely ignores statistics. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reforestation rates nullify losses caused by paper providers. Before European settlers came to the United States, it is thought that roughly 46 percent of the mainland was covered by forests. By 1907, that estimate had shrunk to 33 percent due to the development of cities and paper products. However, since 1953, efforts have been made to replace and restore forest land. This reclamation project has primarily taken place in the northern part of the country. 

The source said that between 1990 and 2010, an estimated 384,350 hectares of forest land was lost each year. While almost 4 million hectares of timber is procured per year, most of it regenerates, allowing it to still be classified as forest land. It will take decades for these trees to grow back to their previous size and number, but their growth is part of the restoration process. On the other hand, over the course of that same 20-year period, 7,687,000 hectares of forest were planted. Due to the regenerative nature of the majority of harvested land and the consistent reforesting efforts being made by timber companies, there is actually no evidence that paper consumption leads to deforestation or higher levels of carbon emissions. 

Encourage workers to commute in an eco-friendly manner
One of the biggest ways you can cut down your carbon footprint is to prompt employees to walk, bike, take public transportation or carpool to work instead of driving, The Nature Conservancy said. Gas pollutants are especially potent during rush hour, as cars sit in traffic and lower their usage efficiency – this is why, when car companies market their products, they distinguish between the estimated miles-per-gallon rates when driving on the highway versus doing so in the city. There are two obvious benefits to having fewer cars on the roads: The first is sustainability due to lower levels of emissions, and the second is less traffic congestion, which can cause accidents, delays and employee tardiness. 

The source also suggested a solution that might not have been possible for prior generations of workers, but is becoming increasingly feasible due to the Internet and technological developments. If it's possible, suggest to employees that they work from home instead of making the trek into the office each day. This will cut down on travel expenses, time spent getting from home to work and carbon footprints. 

Invest in green technology
The Financial Times noted that as technology is continually developed and advanced, measuring and controlling environmental impact is finally a tangible possibility. "Smart" appliances, such as thermostats, have the ability to record and analyze data related to energy output. These systems can then automatically regulate how much heat or air conditioning is being used at any given time, based on need. The source also noted that investing in LED lights, as opposed to traditional incandescent or even fluorescent bulbs, can save both energy and money, as they use less energy, emit less harmful pollution and last far longer. The Financial Times said that lighting accounts for about 40 percent of electricity expenditures in most offices, so any reduction in use will amount to noticeable changes. 

The Nature Conservancy suggested some very simple tips to promoting sustainable office practices. For example, the source recommended requiring employees to unplug their computers when they leave for the day, and turning off lights – if they aren't already motion sensor-automated – when there is no need for them to be on. If every employee partakes in at least one small effort, your office's carbon footprint will be lowered significantly. 

It might be considered trendy to cut down on paper use almost entirely in the name of Captain Planet, but what most people do not realize is that paper is not the cause of the problem. Inefficient and harmful technologies, which are fortunately being cast aside by contemporaries, are the leading cause of carbon emissions that are detrimental to the atmosphere. By utilizing some of the aforementioned green initiatives and investing in eco-friendly appliances and energy solutions, you can cut down on your carbon footprint without eliminating paper from your office.