Sustainable Office Design: Can Eco-Friendly Still Be Beautiful?
By Harper Reid
There are many misconceptions about sustainable office design—with one of the most common myths being that eco-friendly offices can't be as good looking. However, going green certainly doesn't mean you have to compromise aesthetics. Architects and green interior designers are constantly finding innovative ways to design beautiful, functional offices in a responsible way. More and more, we see successful examples of green architecture that have minimal impact on the environment yet maintain elegance and style. Here are three key tips to design a beautiful, sustainable office.
1. Design for Efficiency
Energy efficiency is a top priority within sustainable office design, with the general goal to reduce energy consumption and waste as much as possible. When designing an energy-efficient office, take into consideration the heating, air conditioning, refrigeration and plumbing systems, as well as your choice of office equipment. And don't forget to kit out your office with energy-saving light bulbs—many commercial businesses find that electric lighting is their highest culprit of energy usage.
While LED lighting is one great choice for eco-friendly lighting, offices with generous access to natural light save money on daytime lighting and create a healthier working environment for employees. Exposure to sunlight and the outdoors have been proven to have mental health benefits—which in turn help to keep employees performing at their best. Designing an open office plan with large windows is the best way to maximize the sunlight coming into the building. Frame these big windows with elegant drapes to add instant style and drama to your space.
2. Use Sustainable Materials
Furniture designers and manufacturers are finding creative new ways to repurpose old furniture and make effective use of recycled or recyclable materials. Choosing repurposed, reusable, recycled or recyclable materials are great solutions for creating an eco-friendly office space. This protects the environment, saves money, and is better than choosing trendy, un-recyclable pieces that will end up in landfill.
Most traditional types of office furniture—such as desks, tables and bookcases—contain wood, whether as the primary structure or veneer layers of wood. Wooden furniture has a classic, timeless look that compliments most workspaces beautifully. But using wooden furniture can be incredibly damaging to our forests and ecosystem if the raw materials were not obtained responsibly. Look for furniture with a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification to ensure the wood has been sustainably harvested.
3. Bring in the Outdoors
One powerful way to make an office eco-friendly and stylish is to grow a green wall. Green walls, also known as "living walls," are walls covered with plants grown with their own hydroponics system. A green wall is a great option for any business that wants to make a strong visual statement while reaping the benefits of plants. A beautifully designed green wall can transform the look of any room, adding natural color and texture that doesn't go out of style. Plants can also provide better air quality, which is an important component of a healthy and sustainable office environment. Green walls can be grown both indoors and outdoors.
Eco-friendly offices don't have to look boring or bland. With the growing popularity of eco-friendly design, there are now more options than ever to create beautiful, dynamic offices spaces that are good for workers and the environment.
Harper Reid is a freelance writer and keen gardener from Auckland, New Zealand who specializes in penning articles about nature, lifestyle and design. You can find more of Harper's work on Tumblr.
By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
- Biden Commits to Banning Fossil Fuel Subsidies After DNC Dropped It ›
- As Biden Embraces More Ambitious Climate Plan, Fossil Fuel Execs ... ›
- Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Grayson Jaggers
The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.
- 15 Indigenous Crops to Boost Your Immune System and Celebrate ... ›
- 15 Supplements to Boost Your Immune System Right Now - EcoWatch ›
- Should I Exercise During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Experts ... ›
- The Immune System's Fight Against the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.
- FDA Approves First In-Home Test for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- When Should You Get a COVID-19 or Antibody Test? - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
- Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial Into Agency Reports ... ›
- Climate Denier Is Named to Leadership Role at NOAA - EcoWatch ›
New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.