By Kim Robson:
We’re all doing our best to live as sustainably as possible and not damage the planet. To accomplish and/or maintain this, we can change our habits at home and in our daily lives, but what about our office lives? If you’re not the boss, greening up your workplace can be a bit more of a challenge. Environmentally friendly workplace habits are often initiated, encouraged and enforced by management. While it is possible to have a green workplace, it’s a lot easier to accomplish when the directive comes from the top.
Let’s face it—we have to use paper. For ten years, I worked for an architecture firm where sustainable practices were the
norm before it was ubiquitous. Every workstation and every copier had a paper recycling bin next to it. Even the bins themselves were recycled: we used the empty cardboard boxes from cases of copy paper.
Wasting paper can be unavoidable in an office, especially in architecture, but at least all that paper can be recycled and reused. It’s important to close the loop by purchasing recycled copy paper for your printers. Think before you print. Could this document be archived online, in the cloud or on a flash drive? Do employee manuals and other materials have to be printed on paper, or could they be accessed (and revised) online or via intranet?
Around the office, set out standard recycle bins for aluminum, glass and plastics. Don’t just place them in the kitchen; also place them in the break room and in any unused office space. Assign an intern or receptionist to take recyclables, along with the paper bins, to a recycling center once a week as part of their duties.
Instead of tossing those empty toner cartridges into the trash, be sure to recycle them. Most manufacturers provide for return shipping of used cartridges now; all you have to do is seal them back up in their boxes, slap on the pre-printed address label, and give them to any UPS carrier. You also can use your computer’s print setup option to print on both sides of the paper, when appropriate. The same options allow you to print in “Econo-Mode,” which uses less ink. Also consider adopting the Eco Font, which employs tiny spaces inside the lettering in order to reduce ink usage.
Electronic waste (e-waste) such as old computers, CRT monitors and other unwanted or broken electronic devices simply cannot be tossed into the dumpster with traditional trash. These devices contain many precious metals, toxic chemicals and other hazardous materials. Find out where to safely recycle broken phones, printers, and other apparatus by entering your ZIP code at e-stewards.org.
Many people love contests, so try creating an incentive program for reducing waste and increasing recyclables among employees. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to devise a healthier, more environmentally friendly workplace—just a little thought. Make it policy, make it fun, and make it easy. Your co-workers and the planet will thank you for it.