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Green Your Office through Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling

Problem

Computers, copiers, and fax machines were introduced into offices around the world as a way to ease the strain of working. However, these technological advances have increased strain on the environment. Today it is hard to imagine running an office without supplies: paper, pencils, pens, paper clips, envelopes, printer ink…the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, those supplies are not only expensive, but they require many natural resources, use up energy, and pollute the earth in order to make, package, ship, and dispose of them.

Solution

Green Living Tips

1. Reduce the waste you produce!

Stop the Insanity
Junk mail can become overwhelming. Between catalogues, coupons, and credit card offers, the average person receives 41 pounds of junk mail in a year. Most of it ends up in the garbage, and then makes a home in landfills. To stop receiving unsolicited mail, contact the companies directly and asked to be removed from the mailing list, or hire a company which does the work for you for a small fee.

Wash Your Dishes
Instead of grabbing a new Styrofoam cup each time you need a drink of water or your daily dose of morning coffee, use a ceramic mug that can be washed out and used for years. Reusing will prevent the expense of materials and the release of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons1 into the atmosphere, produced when making Styrofoam, a non-disintegratable material.

Pass It On
When a message needs to get out to everyone in the office, try using electronic mail or simply circulate the memo instead of making a paper copy for each person.

Double Up
There are times when copies must be made, and in those instances, make use of the two-sided capability of copy machines. Print information on both sides of a paper to decrease the total pages required for the job. Change the machine’s default setting to double-sided printing so it will automatically save paper.

Put the Stickies Inside
Post-It® notes have been a savior to many office workers. In the hustle of each hectic day, those brightly colored reminders adorning the computer screen help us to remember important tasks. Now you can save some trees by putting those sticky notes on the inside of the screen instead, and not worry about the notes falling off, their reminders lost forever. Download a free copy of Stickies software and create post-its of a technological form. These notes you type appear on your screen, even through reboots, and can be personalized in many colors and font styles.

Shut Down
Even though exhaustion has set in by the end of the work day, remember to turn off the lights before leaving. This simple act saves over 700 watt hours of energy. Shutting down the computer, as well, can add to energy savings.

Buy In Bulk
For the supplies that you must have, buy large quantities once rather than smaller quantities more often. Most shipments are cheaper when products are purchased in bulk, and it also cuts down on packaging waste and natural resources used in transporting materials. When possible, go green and order items that are eco-friendly, like paper made from 30% post-consumer waste.

2. Reuse the items you collect!

Cross It Off
Decrease the need for envelopes by reusing old ones to send mail internally through an office. Cross off the previous name, write the new recipient, and send the envelope off on a new adventure.

Flip It
File folders are important storage tools for papers that would otherwise stack up on a desk. Every so often, they need to be sorted through, and unnecessary material purged, in order to clear space for new information. Instead of tossing old folders in the trash, reverse them so the tab is cleared, or simply add a new label on top of the old one, and reuse the folder.

Start With a Clean Slate
Reformat a disk or delete its files to use it again, or pass it on to someone who needs it. Use only compact discs labeled as CD-RW. A CD-R is a recordable CD that can only record information once, whereas a CD-RW is a rewritable CD that can be recorded on, erased, and rerecorded as needed. If all else fails, floppy disks and CDs make nice coasters for those who can appreciate technological décor.

Trade It
Set up an office exchange center where employees drop off their extra items, such as rubber bands, paper clips, binders, and folders, to be traded for things they need without new supplies being packaged and shipped.

Refill It Up
Though traditional one-time use pens and pencils are cheaper, once they have written their last word, they are buried in the garbage. Instead, buy refillable pens and mechanical pencils. The extra upfront cost will pay for itself over time when the only purchases needed afterwards are for inexpensive ink and lead refills. Since mechanical pencils do not require sharpening, there is no dusty bin to empty.

Super Green Tips

1. Recycle what cannot be reused.

Set It Up
Setting up a recycling program is actually a simple process. First, decide what item(s) will be recycled – paper, metal, glass, and/or plastic. Then, use the local phone book to search for companies who will come to the office and collect the recycling. Place the company-supplied bins, or even large boxes, in various locations around the office, like lounges and meeting rooms. Put small containers on top of corner desks which see a lot of passing traffic. Make sure to inform all employees about the new process to go green, and give any specific directions about packaging the materials for pick-up.

Effectiveness / Result

Reduce and reuse as much as possible before recycling. Reducing refers to decreasing the amount of products used on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Reusing is a way to salvage an item in order to reap its continued or new benefits. By reducing and reusing, natural resources like trees and fossil fuels are preserved, and the amount of waste that needs to be recycled or disposed of will decrease greatly.

Recycling, taking old products and creating new ones, also conserves natural resources by eliminating the need to gather more. Though it does use energy and emit greenhouse gases and pollutants during the reprocessing stage, recycling materials keeps waste from building in landfills or other disposal systems.

The Facts

  1. One tree yields approximately 170,000 pencils or 17 reams of paper.
  2. It takes 3 tons of wood to make 1 ton of paper, and the production of that 1 ton of paper releases 5690 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  3. The production of paper uses more water than other industries, as one sheet requires more than 13 ounces.
  4. Global packaging production has grown at least 75% since 1996.
  5. Asia ranks the highest in annual paper consumption, at over 100 million tons. North America falls just under 100 million, and Europe registers around 90 million.
  6. As paper decomposes in a landfill, it releases methane, 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
  7. Filling a single inkjet printer cartridge takes 2.5 ounces of oil, and 25 ounces goes into filling a laser printer cartridge.
  8. In the United States, alone, 1.6 million pens are disposed of annually.

References

  • Consumption: reducing, reusing, and recycling (2007)
  • http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/Images/Consumption-%20reducing_reusing_and_recycling_tcm6-20192.pdf
  • Office Supplies and Electrical Equipment (2005)

Notes

1) Chlorofluorocarbons are compounds formed from carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, which produce a potent mixture of greenhouse gases.
Submitted by Marisa on Jun 15, 2008