Saturday, May 3, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green... At Work

This week I participated in a conference call (the green way to have a meeting!) about sustainable development at work. This is something the government has committed to with its workplaces, and as part of this initiative, at work we have a volunteer committee. I, of course, had to join!

One of the things we discussed was paper recycling. Yes, you heard that right. It doesn’t happen everywhere as many locations are leased from other companies and so we are not a part of the recycling that happens. We are looking at how to make that happen in those locations.

The conversation moved on to lots of other ideas – one of which was how to encourage employees to use less disposable stuff – and if they use it, how to encourage them to take it home to recycle, rather than throw away at work. Plastic recycling doesn’t happen everywhere for us, either. For example, in the building I work in, the owner company doesn’t want it as they think the containers will attract rats and pests since not everyone cleans things properly.

We decided that we’d look into how to encourage people to bring reusable stuff to work. That maybe for next year’s Earth Day we could find a way to get reusable lunch bags for everyone. We also talked about one location that has a fully stocked kitchen – they have plates, glasses, mugs, cutlery etc. for everyone to use. In some places there are water jugs – and while many now use the kind that are wired into the water supply with changeable filters rather than the big jugs, people use paper cups – a huge waste maker. Maybe we can find a way to encourage people to have their own glasses/mugs for this – even with their name or something on them so they don’t misplace them when it’s busy.

I bring home my recyclables, and I have my tiffen and hot pot and cutlery – but there is so much more we can encourage each other to do. Bringing a litterless lunch is a great intiative in my opinion. And for those that use the cafeteria where there is one – bringing your own takeout containers & cutlery should be encouraged. I see a lot of coffee mugs, but there are still paper and Styrofoam cups in the office in the mornings. The question will be how to encourage people to make the change. Less resources used, less garbage created – so much better for all of us.

I think it will be my own personal initiative to encourage my coworkers to bring a takeout container to work, and to encourage those without them, to get a reusable mug. With just those two things, we could make such a difference in the garbage we generate and the resources we waste.

If you do anything at work to be green - please share. This is one place many of us have trouble with and we can all use all the help we can get!


jen x said...

In your own building, why would the owner think recycling bins would draw any more pests than putting the same items into the regular trash?

I'm lucky that at school we have extensive recycling (office paper, newspaper, plastic, glass, and aluminum). And otherwise I work from home :-) But I think mugs would be a great idea -- either with the company logo or with info about recycling's positive impact printed on the mugs. (If people arrive at work with coffee in hand, you might consider travel mugs.) Also if the workplace supplies the paper and styrofoam cups, maybe contact your office supply company to see if they have earth friendlier alternatives?

Great to hear workplaces are trying to tackle these issues!

Maisie said...

Jackie, I have awarded you a blog award got to my blog for details

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great info. I was browsing through a bunch of green websites and blogs and I came across yours and found it very interesting. There are a bunch of others I like too, like the daily green, ecorazzi and I especially like’s carbon calculator. I find it really easy to use (it doesn’t make me feel guilty after I take it). Are there any others you would recommend? Can you drop me a link to your favorites (let me know if they are the same as mine).

Brenda said...

Hi Jackie,

I always pack my lunch in Tupperware containers. They are so easy to use and are great for portion control (one small round one = one serving of fruit, eg grapes or strawberries). If I have to use a bag, then I make sure to rinse it out and reuse it until it gets too many holes in it to be useful anymore. I also have a travel mug that I bring my tea to work in. I always encourage people to recycle (especially at home... well, I demand it there!), and to use Tupperware also.

Brenda :)

PS You inspire me to purge my junk! My newest plan of action is to go through the boxes of things that didn't get unpacked in the last move (1 year ago!) and free-cycle everything I don't need (likely most of it). Will keep you updated on that progress...

The Green Room said...

Removing the disposable dishes and cutlery from the office is a great way to start greening the office. I believe it's going to get people thinking about waste of resources, and money!

Another way to green the work place is carpooling with coworkers. People have valid concerns about carpooling, but if the office circulates a email inviting co-workers to carpool(even if it's just on a trial run to see how it works), the experiment may begin an alternative transportation program to reduce CO2 by staff and management.

A trial run on carpooling, whether initated by mangement or by a single employee, will show skeptics that capooling isn't as difficult as one may think.It can be a fun and flexible way to get to work while protecting the environment and saving money.

It's just importatn to point out that carpool can occur once or twice a week, or all week long. Whatever works for each group. Moreover, the ride with co-workers will give coworkers "bonding time" to share new ideas regarding greening and economizing your lifestyle.

From The Green Room