We spend nearly a third of our waking lives at our places of work. Our activities there can have as much effect on the environment as what we do at home, but few among us think a great deal about it. While some of these ideas can, and should, be instituted at a desk-side level, many of them require the buy-in of management to make them effective, and often even possible.
Start by forming a “green team”. A team approach will help to ensure the success of your recycling program. Encourage participation, and allow input, from all staff. Make it fun. Distribute fact sheets, offer incentives, or host promotional events. Schedule orientation sessions at the outset, and have your green team meet regularly to evaluate the success of your program. Keep all staff informed of the results of their efforts.
Provide recycling bins in the photocopy room and lunch room, and replace work station garbage cans with recycling bins. If staff members are unhappy to lose their garbage cans, offer very small desktop garbage cans in return. Place a couple of garbage cans in central areas throughout the office and in the lunch room.
Compost bins can be provided to collect compostable waste. These are typically handled by a commercial composting company, as the degree of materials that will get tossed in is beyond the capabilities of typical backyard compost bins, and can include paper, waxed paper, and even meat scraps. This is an ideal way to reduce an office’s garbage load, though.
If your lunchroom still has a cupboard full of paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic cutlery, toss them (into the recycling bin, of course)! Have your business invest in reusable dishes and cutlery, and bulk dispensers for cream and sugar. Whenever possible, pack a waste-free lunch. Opt for reusable lunch bags, food containers, and silverware, instead of plastic bags, wrap, and cutlery.
Keep it close to home. When planning a business meeting, ensure that business travel is kept to a minimum. Choose a venue that’s as close to as many delegates as possible. Take advantage of conference calling and video conferencing, rather than paying the high cost – both financially and environmentally – of business travel.
If you’re providing tea and coffee, opt for glasses and mugs rather than paper or Styrofoam cups (approximately 25 billion Styrofoam cups are thrown out in the US every year). Invest in bulk dispensers for cream and sugar. If a meal will be provided, ensure that your caterer provides vegetarian choices, and makes uses of local, seasonal produce. Again, avoid the use of paper plates and plastic cutlery.
Use a Smart Board whenever possible, and if providing paper handouts, ensure they’ve been printed on recycled paper, using toner-saving settings, and printed on both sides of the page. Don’t print out extra copies unless requested to. Ensure that you’re buying recyclable toner cartridges for your printers.
Set up an e-filing system and encourage people to e-file rather than print out hard copies of emails and documents. Make use of electronic schedulers and task-reminder programs. Instead of providing phone books for every work station, encourage staff to use local online telephone listings. As well, office supply catalogues aren’t necessary, as most products can be searched and purchased online.
People need to work towards change, towards sustainability in all walks of their life, both at home and at work. Instituting a few green changes at the office can be a part of the solution, and will help to increase awareness at the very least. And perhaps this increased awareness can carry over into the personal lives of more people.