A new spin on the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra: Simply use less.
You have probably heard the new three R’s by now. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Now that you have started recycling, you may say to yourself, “Do I really need to be creating this much in recyclables?” The emphatic answer is no! How much do you spend each month on stuff that you don’t really need to? Hmmm…let’s see, a couple of bucks on Styrofoam cups, a case of paper, Post It Notes, garbage bags, packaging materials, plastic utensils and paper plates for meals, water bottles. What about paper towels? Depending on the size of your business you might be going through $200 a month on supplies — and you don’t really need to.
Here are 10 simple steps to help reduce your usage:
1. Stop the insanity of Styrofoam. Have your staff bring in a favorite coffee mug and glass and provide a wipee thing that you fill with soap and let them wash out their own beverage containers. There are lots of places already doing this, but if you have a staff of 10 and everyone gets a new Styrofoam cup for each beverage and everyone drinks two drinks per shift…well you get my meaning. Besides, Styrofoam does not biodegrade…pretty much, ever. It just ends up in the ocean floating around, fooling fish that it is food and well… how much Styrofoam could your stomach hold?
2. Just because there’s paper available doesn’t mean you can’t print on both sides. Most of what we print out doesn’t have to be in pristine condition. Most will end up in the recycle bin. So why not print on both sides? We take all of the incoming faxes and flip them and print on the opposite side. Wow! You’ve just doubled the amount of printed material without doubling the cost of your paper.
3. Post It Notes have to be one of the all-time favorite items of office supplies, but how often do you really need a note to stick? Think about it. Notes are used normally to remind you of something and then we just simply throw them away after the reminder is no longer needed. So why not cut up paper that has already been printed on one side and use the other side for notes? Seems ridiculously old-fashioned but in the end, is the quality of your life really affected by using recycled paper instead of cute sticky things?
4. How many plastic bags do you have in your life? Do you get things packaged in big plastic bags that could be used as garbage bags instead of purchasing new garbage bags? For little trash cans does your staff have a secret stash of grocery bags at home thinking they will end up using them but never quite seem to do so? Encourage staff to bring them in if they haven’t already made the switch to cloth shopping bags and use those in the store. They’ll thank you for helping them alleviate the guilt of not using all the plastic bags at home. And remember — you won’t need nearly as many because you are now recycling. Another great use for bags until you run out is as packing material. They make great packing material and since you have them already, it’s free.
5. Paper towels. Paper towels are one of those things that you don’t even think about — but before they were around people cleaned things with rags and sponges. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then try using my favorite green kitchen product: Skoy cloths, which are absorbent, biodegradable and natural multi-use cloths. Each cloth replaces 10 rolls of paper towels.
6. Want to save money and get repeat customers? How about a cloth shopping bag that, when customers bring the bag in each month, they get a special deal. It could be one free appraisal one month, a VIP shopping experience during the holidays, or a free gift wrap another time. Sure, you pay a little more up front, but in exchange you will get free advertising as people carry your bag around, you’ll get customers coming in more often, and you won’t have to buy as many paper or plastic bags for customers or use it as a promotion to thank tenants.
7. Pitch the plastic water bottles. If you supply water to your customers or staff, then get a water filtration system installed. It’s cheaper, it can produce chilled water, and you’ll even reduce the amount of recycling you produce. Americans throw away 2.5 million water bottles per hour. Yep, per hour.
8. Recycle your toner cartridges. Ink jets are easy and will be taken back at most big box office supply stores. Toner cartridges must be recycled and, in addition, you should be purchasing recycled toner cartridges. If you have had a bad experience with recycled cartridges I understand your hesitation. I actually stopped for a while after a particularly bad experience. Here’s what I learned: Buy from a company whose primary business is to refurbish toner cartridges — and not from a company who just recycles them. By purchasing refurbished, you know that any component that has been worn out will be replaced. Refurbishing companies also guarantee their cartridges and will respond more readily if an issue arises.
9. Use compact fluorescent bulbs and LED lighting where you can. Not only will it limit the number of bulb changes you have to do, it can also help reduce your energy bills by up to 30% depending on how many you use. Did you know that energy costs have gone up on average of 5% each year over the last 30 years? Start saving energy now. However much you “think” fluorescent bulbs might cost, you will definitely save money in the long run. One additional tip: the market has been flooded with bulbs and they are not all created equal. Make sure they are Energy Star rated. Also, make sure you recycle them. There is a little bit of mercury in compact fluorescent bulbs. They are completely safe, but the bulbs still need to be disposed of properly. Luckily, The Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse will take the bulbs. LED lighting can be used for all of your focus lighting needs.
10. Buy Energy Star qualified electronic products. Energy Star computers, printers and other business machines power down when not in use. They can help you conserve up to 75% of your electricity compared to standard models. By automatically switching equipment to “sleep mode” when not in use, Energy Star products saved Americans more than $3.5 billion in energy costs.
— Beth Bond is managing partner of Southeast Green, the largest website in the southeastern United States focused on green and sustainability business news. Covering 11 states, Southeast Green.com reaches an audience of 40,000 viewers on average a month.