Going Green In The Workplace
By guest writer, M. J.
Going green in the workplace is one of the important things to do to live a green life. We spend a large part of our waking hours at work. So it should not be hard to imagine why doing so can be crucial.
Persuading your organisation and colleagues
The issue most people face concerning going green in the workplace is that the workplace is a shared environment, which unlike our own homes, we have less control of. You cannot force your green views on others, and sometimes your organisation can be quite ignorant or negligent in these areas.
To a certain extent, regulations will begin to force organisations to be greener in their operations, but it is always encouraging to find a company that practises going green in the workplace simply because it understands its responsibility and role in protecting the environment.
As an employee, if you see a way in which your organisation can be greener, then I would encourage you to raise it to your supervisor. Put your request or observations in writing. Very little usually happens based on a conversation, but something in writing makes your concerns more formal. Keep a copy of the email or a photocopy of the note you sent and note the date it was sent or given to your manager.
Try to explain how your ideas for going green in the workplace might benefit the organisation – for instance it might lead to a better work environment (e.g. more productive staff), save the organisation some money, streamline a cluttered process, or all of the above.
Some organisations are more forward thinking than others, and might have in fact already put in place various green facilities like recycling bins. However, that is not the end of the issue. Many green-goers get frustrated at other colleagues for not making an effort to use the facilities and playing a part in going green.
You might be one of them. You might have a clear picture of what you need for going green in the workplace (e.g. recycling aluminium cans and waste paper, switching off all lights when they are not in use, etc) and take every effort to practise it, but you will still see many others at the workplace throwing perfectly recyclable items into the rubbish bin or not bothering to switch off the lights and air-conditioning off when they leave a room (and the appliances are left to run throughout the night!) When you do encounter such cases, don’t get upset. Stay calm.
What you can do is to continue to lead by example. Be visible in your green actions.
Bring up the issue of recycling over lunch time or coffee break conversations. Tactfully express your surprise at how much recyclable items get thrown away in the rubbish bins, or how you found out that someone inconsiderate left the air-conditioning running throughout the night. Refrain from preaching though, many people get annoyed at being told what to do. And be patient – some people take longer to come around to the idea of going green in the workplace, so don’t give up. The effort is worth it!
Tips for waste management
In the UK, “Envirowise”, a government program that offers free independent advice to businesses, explains that: “waste costs money, typically up to 4 per cent of business turnover, and by finding ways to reduce waste, your company could become more profitable.” At the same time, in most countries, businesses pay a premium to have their waste collected. So, really, it only makes sense for businesses to reduce their waste!
Not only is it a financial benefit for businesses to send their waste for recycling, in some cases, going green in the workplace is also a legal requirement. For example, some governments are putting in place legislations that require businesses to sort their rubbish before collection.
Here are some general eco tips for business going green.
Reduce unnecessary waste. Reduced waste means reduced cost for waste disposal, and it could also mean reduced expenditure for purchases of materials. It can be simple to achieve, but it would take effort on everyone’s part. For example, recall the times when you or your colleagues visited the water cooler and used a new disposable paper or plastic cup at every visit. How many times does that happen a day? It isn’t hard to imagine the amount of waste office workers can create every day. What you or your colleague could do to save resources and reduce waste would be to bring along your own re-useable water container every time you need a drink.
Reduce the use of paper. Computers were supposed to eliminate the 'paper office.' We all know they didn't, but they could help us reduce paper usage, by allowing us to make as much changes to our drafts as required, before the final document is printed. Make the most of this benefit.
Recycle. Some offices engage confidential-paper shredding services. Through such services, not only are companies assured that their confidential documents are properly disposed of, they also do their part for the environment as the shredded paper are often sent for recycling.
Other than recycling waste paper, offices can also save by buying printer cartridges and toners from suppliers with a refund-for-return-of-empty-cartridges programme. Contact your supplier and find out more. Read more about recycling ink jet cartridges.
Similarly, it would be a better option to donate old but operating computers and related accessories to charity organizations, schools or recycling companies, rather than throwing them out in the landfills. This is because at the landfills, the heavy metals found in the old computers and accessories could leach into the soil and reach our water systems, potentially causing slow but eventual heavy metal poisoning of our water supplies. In turn, the non bio-degradable plastic casings of the old computers would simply remain in the landfills for years and years, long after their users have passed on. Read more about recycling old computers.
Read more about what it means to go green, and other office tips on going green.
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