There was a time when the world’s resources seemed endless. It was common to print things in triplicate, throw everything away, and recycling was almost unheard of. Even though the first recycling center opened in the United States in 1896, recycling didn’t really take any great strides until after the turn of the century. In 1960 the United States only recycled about 6 percent of its municipal waste, which is the trash produced by households and non-industrial businesses, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Recycling is up to about 30 percent today.
The move towards going green is taking root not only households — many businesses are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, as well. This reduction is not only helping the planet, it is also saving many businesses money. The implementation of an Environmental Management Plan is recommended by Accion to get businesses on track to saving the planet while saving costs. An Environmental Management Plan will help your business put into action the steps needed to go green. Each step falls under the three common categories: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Your plan should address issues under each of these categories, such as:
- Lighting – Don’t over-light areas, use energy saving light bulbs, turn off lights when not in use, and put in motion sensor lighting for less-used rooms like restrooms.
- Machines – Turn off copiers, printers, computers, and other office machinery when not in use. Set computers at power-saving modes. Create stations that share equipment instead of individual units for each person.
- Supplies – Digitize files, reports, memos, and billing when possible. Go paperless on your payroll. Utilize email and text messages instead of paper copies when you can. Reduce the amount of color printing done to extend ink cartridge life.
- Packaging – Invest in a paper shredder for non-confidential paper, then use the shredded paper for shipping items. Reuse boxes for storage, shipping, and other office needs.
- Materials – Purchase materials, such as paper, envelopes, pencils, and even bathroom supplies from sources that have a high percentage of post-consumer content. Offer employees notepads made from the paper thrown in the recycling bin to use as scratch paper.
- Break Room – Replace disposable dishes and silverware in the break room with real plates and cups for employees to reuse. Maintain a water filter system to reduce bottled water consumption. Have a fridge in the break room for employees to store food.
- Bins – Keep recycling bins handy for easy use by employees. Remove trash cans from offices to encourage use of recycling bins. Offer bins for items other than just paper, including cans and plastic.
- Hold Recycling Events – Offer employees fun activities, such as clothing exchanges, to encourage them to participate in the green programs. Organize collection drives to take recycling to the next level. Give rewards to employees who meet recycling goals, such as lowest amount of waste created for the month.
- Old equipment – Locate resources that will recycle items such as cell phones, computers, office equipment, and other replaced electronics. Participate in printer/fax cartridge recycling programs.