Think Green

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How to reduce waste around the office

Reducing waste is one of the easiest and most effective ways to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle. While men and women can quickly find ways to reduce waste at home, such efforts may require more teamwork at the office, where fellow employees may need some encouragement before they take your efforts to reduce waste seriously.

But while you might need to play the role of master motivator to get your colleagues to cut back on waste, such efforts need not be so difficult, thanks in part to the many easy ways to cut back on waste in an office environment.

• Encourage higher-ups to institute a recycling policy. If you are not the head honcho at work, speak to your boss and encourage him or her to institute an office-wide recycling policy. Office paper can be recycled, as can beverage containers, electronic equipment and batteries.

• Store digital records. Gone are the days when offices needed ample space to store large filing cabinets containing important documents. Nowadays companies can put that space to better use or downsize to smaller offices thanks to digital storage. Documents no longer need to be printed out and stored in filing cabinets, when it's far easier to simply store them as digital files backed up on a hard drive or cloud storage. This reduces your office's paper usage and can even cut back on its energy consumption because rooms no longer must be climate-controlled and illuminated to store old documents.

• Use paper more wisely. Sometimes office directives or memos must be printed, but such notices that will only circulate internally need not be printed to appear like documents that will be shared with clients or other companies. When circulating internal memos, first ensure they cannot be emailed. If they can, opt for emailing instead of printing out copies to be left on employees' desks. If memos or directives must be distributed via printouts, ask that writers of such memos use smaller fonts and print on both sides of a sheet of paper. The smaller font ultimately means less paper consumption, as does printing on both sides of each sheet of paper.

• Dispose of electronics properly. Energy and resources are needed to manufacture new products, but offices can help conserve energy and preserve those resources by donating or recycling eligible electronics. Regulations may now be in place that dictate how certain electronics should be disposed of. Ensure your office is following these guidelines. Failing to do so may be criminal, and it's certainly harmful to the environment. And before discarding any older electronics, first determine if they can be donated or recycled.

• Start an employee carpooling program. You and your fellow employees likely drive to work, and everyone driving their own cars to work wastes a considerable amount of fuel, while all of those cars on the road can be harmful to air quality. Speak with fellow employees who live near you about starting a carpooling program. Such arrangements save each member of the carpool money on fuel, and if your community has commuter lanes for cars that include two or more people, then you might shave a substantial amount of time off your daily commutes as well.

Going green at the office is a great way to benefit the environment on a much grander scale than you might be able to in your private life. Speak with your bosses and coworkers about taking steps to reduce the collective carbon footprint of your office.

Maryland Pennysaver