If you're like most OrganicAuthority.com readers, you've made a commitment to living an organic lifestyle. But does your eco-friendly mindset extend to your job?
The American workplace needs an organic "tune-up" when it comes to managing daily supplies and materials. We love to buy "stuff"-and we routinely throw it away (preferably sorted and placed in the appropriate recycling bins). But is your company truly dedicated to going green? Does your boss realize that being eco-friendly incurs no additional costs-and actually saves money (from hard costs to tax write-offs)? Do your employer and coworkers understand that your company can be fined for improper equipment disposal?
Here are some tips from the experts on organic office etiquette. Share them with your coworkers and employer so your workplace-and the world-can profit from going green.
The Paper Chase
Buying recycled paper is one of the easiest ways to maintain an organic office. There's little to do, other than select the right product, and it won't cost the company additional money.
The number of companies that are choosing recycled fibers is increasing by "double digits," according to Gerry Rector, senior product development manager for Neenah Paper, a leading manufacturer based in Roswell, Georgia.
"Much of the growth is because of the interest in environmental issues," she says, "but the fact that this is premium paper sold at a value price is also important to our customers."
Neenah Paper offers consumers an "ENVIRONMENT Papers" swatchbook, which provides samples of all of the recycled papers the company makes. They fall into four basic categories:
- 100% Post-Consumer Fiber papers, made without chlorine or new tree fiber, offer the greatest environmental savings.
- FSC Certified papers meet the Forest Stewardship Council's standards for sustainable forest management.
- Alternative Fiber papers contain 50% sugarcane bagasse and 50% recycled fiber, including 30% post-consumer materials.
- 100% Recycled papers include 30% post-consumer fiber.
The latest additions to the Neenah swatchbook are Cosmos Black, a new 100% recycled color option available in text and cover weights, and a heavy 100-lb. Ultra Bright White Cover sheet (FSC certified).
"Neenah Paper will calculate the environmental savings of buying recycled paper for any interested customer," Rector says. "All one has to do is contact a Neenah customer service representative or visit our website. The results can be documented in a passbook report of savings or online."
Electronics & Equipment
Improper equipment disposal can lead to costly fines, so make sure your employer understands that old computers cannot simply be tossed into the dumpster, like lunch leftovers. If you need to recycle or dispose of electronic equipment, including computers that contain hazardous materials, first check local and state regulations, advises Erin Cala, environmental educator at the University at Buffalo in New York.
"Regulatory information can be obtained by contacting the environmental and/or solid and hazardous waste departments within city or county governments, or by visiting the National Recycling Coalition," she says. "While recycling opportunities vary according to location, generally individuals can perform a search on the Electronics Recycling Website or the Electronics Recycling Initiative Website to locate an electronics recycling company in their area."
Always contact a company to verify it recycles and legally disposes of equipment, Cala says.
"Try to locate a company that recycles or remanufactures any leaded glass, does not incinerate the plastic components (which results in the production of a known carcinogen, dioxin), smelts or recycles the various metals, and refurbishes any salvageable components for resale," she says. "There are companies in the U.S. that simply sell electronic equipment to Third World countries for a greater profit. This equipment is usually handled improperly, stripped of precious metals and dumped in a landfill."
Money is often the greatest motivator for today's employers. Your company can receive a tax deduction by donating electronic equipment to local nonprofit agencies, schools and religious groups, which give it a second life, Cala says.
For more information on recycling computer hardware, printer ink cartridges, chairs, carpet and even running shoes, see our companion story, Corporate America Catches Recycling Fever.