Did you know that half of all municipal solid waste—AKA trash—is paper? That’s why it is so important to reduce, reuse, and recycle what we can. By saving paper and going green, we not only save trees, we also reduce the amount of waste going into landfills, reduce pollution, and save energy as well as money.
Offices are one of the main sources of paper use—and it makes sense. There are documents to sign, applications to fill out, files to sort and store—it can be a little overwhelming at times, even for a seasoned office worker. Here are some suggestions for keeping our paper waste to a minimum in the office.
- Only use paper when you really need to. It might seem like there is an infinite amount of paper at our disposal, but there really isn’t. The more paper we use, the more trees get cut down, the more landfills fill up, etc. Being conscious of when we use paper can help this. Don’t make hard copies unless you really need to. Use both sides of the paper. Save scrap paper for notes. Use the whole page whenever possible. Print in smaller font size. You get the picture.
- Buy recycled paper. Whenever possible, purchase paper that is post-consumer recycled and low in chlorine (yes, that stuff they put in pools!) content. Unbleached paper is also preferable, as it leaves out dangerous chemicals. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging.
- Use reusable cups. We are ALL guilty of going to the coffee shop or the sandwich shop and buying soda to drink in a paper (or Styrofoam cup). Just say no to this. Bring a mug to work and use that instead of disposable cups. Take a tumbler or reusable drink container to coffee shops. Many stores, such as Starbucks, will give you a discount for being environmentally friendly and not using one of their cups—you’re even saving them money.
- Take advantage of technology. In this age, there is absolutely no reason why an office shouldn’t be able to store nearly all its documents electronically. There are cloud platforms that allow information to exist outside of individual machines, meaning that if there’s some sort of disaster—a computer crashes, the building burns down, etc.)—all your important files will still exist. For large organizations, this can also make processes more efficient for customers. Margarita Lopez, Environmental Coordinator for NYCHA has helped promote sustainability within the organization. Besides being encouraged to live sustainably, residents can also submit applications and pay rent completely online.
- Shred and recycle used paper. This is one that hopefully we all do on a regular basis. Confidential documents should of course be shredded after use, but all paper that we no longer need should always be recycled so that it stays in circulation and out of the landfills. Some companies are so dedicated to recycling that they’ve even made a profit off of it—DHL, eBay, Ford, GM, and UPS to name a few.
Some businesses and organizations have already started going green by implementing some (or all) of these practices. For example, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) allows residents to apply for apartments and pay rent online. How does your company or organization support sustainability and the green movement? If it doesn’t currently, what are some things it could do to improve its corporate sustainability practices?