Seems like a simple energy equation, right? Using fossil fuels to move a heavy elevator up and down a building has got to take more energy (and create more greenhouse gas emissions) than a human climbing the stairs. As it turns out, the energy equation gets very complicated, and depends on the specific situation.
However, if you calculate in the health benefits, and avoided emissions associated with avoided medical care, climbing the stairs (or climbing the escalator) has got to be better for the planet. Plus, when it’s only a few floors, taking the stairs tends to be faster (yes FASTER, no joking) than waiting for the elevator.
So, do something for the planet and for yourself, and take the stairs. If you don’t even know where they are, this is a good time to go on a discovery tour and find out! And if going up the stairs seems too ominous, at least you can try going down.