Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Seven steps to a greener office

Step One: use recycled office papers
Each year we use 750,000 tonnes of short life office papers in the UK. Of these 85% are imported and 74% are thrown away as if they were waste. By purchasing recycled papers we can reduce land filling, cut imports and save energy. It takes half the energy to produce papers through recycling rather than pulping trees. In 2007 for the first time the UK exported over half the waste paper it collected for recycling, mainly due to lack of domestic demand. You can change this by buying recycled papers.
What to do:
Make sure your office buys these readily available recycled papers; Laser Copier, inkjet papers, envelopes, notepads, letterheads, files and folders.

Step Two: collect and recycled your office papers
It costs £30 a tonne and rising to dispose of waste paper yet it can be worth far more if it is sorted and recycled. In the UK we dispose of around 20 million tonnes of refuse each year, 90% of this ends up in landfill sites, Switzerland dumps only 20% in this way. Offices are potentially a major source of high quality sorted waste papers.
What to do:
Provide recycling bins beside desks and printers/copiers. Make sure you have separate bins for white papers and coloured and heavily printed papers. Only by offering sorted white waste does it become viable for recyclers to collect your low value mixed waste. Contact the national recycling network to arrange for a collector in your area.

Step Three: avoid disposable products
Many office products are sold as inexpensive commodities because they have short lives and are disposable. In reality we all pay the costs of disposal in pollution, waste and rapidly dwindling resources. Many offices buy items on price when buying better quality durable and re-usable products can reduce your purchasing costs.
What to do:
Recycle your laser and inkjet cartridges. Use refillable pens and long life markers. Buy long life light bulbs and heavy duty files. Use non disposable cups or arrange collection of your vending cups from Sava-Cup. Make sure disposable products can be recycled if there is no alternative to using them.

Step Four: avoid unnecessary chemicals
Many products contain polluting chemicals that cause damage to the ecosystem in their production or disposal. Solvents in office products and furniture can cause irritations to your staff and help produce a sick building syndrome. Often there are alternatives to the most dangerous chemicals that work just as well. There is no need to take risks with your health and environment when you dont have to.
What to do:
Use polypropylene plastics in preference to PVC. Buy vegetable based glues, Toluene and xylene free markers, trichloroethane free correctors and bio-degradable cleaning products. Make sure furniture has low levels of formaldahide or neutralise it with absorbing plants.

Step Five: reduce energy consumption
Energy is not only expensive to use it also has considerable environmental costs. The burning of fossil fuels is having unpredictable effects on our atmosphere and climate. Six of the seven warmest years on record have occurred in the last 15 years. Using less energy makes economic sense, It costs three times more to generate a watt of power than to save it. Business can also expect to pay higher and higher taxes on energy use.
What to do:
Set office temperatures at under 20C, install energy efficient boilers and controls. Appoint a member of staff to turn off lights and computers. Use low energy light bulbs, sava plugs and insulate roof spaces and doors.

Step Six: improve employees environment
Millions of pounds a year are spent on health care for employees and millions more are lost by employees absences due to poor office environments. This can be reduced by creating an environment that prevents health problems occurring.
What to do:
Control humidity and iron levels, install natural vetilation systems, use plants to filter the air and site photocopiers near vents. Buy full spectrum light tubes to alleviate S.A.D. and fit anti-radiation screens to computer screens. Reduce work stress by planning projects well in advance so you do not force unrealistic deadlines on your suppliers. Things go wrong when people are rushed.

Step Seven: make travelling sustainable
Today our roads are saturated with traffic and more and more people are suffering from bronchial complaints due in the main to car exhaust. We need to use cheaper cleaner and more reliable transport options at work and avoid the single occupancy car journey wherever possible.
What to do:
Operate an office car sharing scheme. Offer financial incentives for staff to use public transport. Give interest free loans for employees to buy bicycles and provide changing facilities. Demand electric and alternative fuel vehicles from fleet suppliers. Opperate flexable working hours see we are not all travelling at the same time.

Five reasons to use green office products

One: Purchasing green office supplies helps reduce the impact of your business on the environment. Green purchasing reduces overall resource consumption and waste pollutants.

Two: Green office products are economical. Many standard stationery items are commodities sold purely on price, they are often disposable and have short lives. Green products tend to have long lives and are re-usable, thereby offering good cost savings to businesses. Some green items like laser cartridges also offer direct price advantages because they use recycled components.

Three: Using green products creates a positive staff culture from a sense that employers are caring and have long term goals. Very often the introduction of recycled papers into an office has the effect of reducing the amount of paper consumed as staff take greater care to save paper. This caring attitude is also communicated to customers and can have a positive impact on gaining new business.

Four: Environmental issues are increasingly perceived as central to total quality management. The insurance industry is very concerned about claims being made due to environmental damage and may require higher premiums from companies that do not have environment policies. 20 percent of the New York Stock Market is now regarded as green or ethical. This has come about because the institutional investors recognise that they get higher returns from companies that have environmental policies. Keeping an eye on the potential disasters that could hit a companies profits in the long term is sound management.

Five: The Green supplies industry is currently very embryonic and purchasing from green companies helps to support these new industries. Without the support of committed customers these new industries can not create the markets that will allow the development of alternative products and services. This support includes purchasing non green items (where a green alternative product does not exist) from suppliers who have an advanced environmental policy.

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