Employees that cut down on paper usage and pop their empty drinks cans in the recycling bin are helping the environment, but it doesn’t mean they’re doing everything they can. We’re not for one minute suggesting that they should replace the carpet under their desks with grass in order to become carbon neutral, although that does sound very cool; instead, doing your bit can actually be very simple, practical and obvious.
So, first off, yes, reduce paper usage as much as you can by only printing when necessary, printing on both sides, reusing printed paper as scrap where possible, and then finally recycling when you’ve finished with it. And yes, put all recyclable materials into a recycling bin, from plastic bottles and newspapers all the way down to unwanted receipts and bus tickets. After that is where it gets interesting.
If your meal came with plastic knife and fork, give them a wash and add to the staff room’s cutlery drawer for reuse. Leave used teabags to dry, then put them in a food caddy along with all other unwanted organic materials to later be collected for composting (if your workplace has gardens, consider making your own compost heap). If old but still functional stationery such as clipboards and lever arch files are no longer required, donate them to a school. Once you’ve opened your mail, reuse the envelopes and jiffy bags, or turn them into scrap paper and packaging. Uncollected wooden pallets can often be donated to carpentry businesses, logistics companies, creative scrap stores for use in community projects, or even chopped up and used as firewood and in chimineas (we realise you probably don’t have bonfires at the workplace, but staff may want to take some home). Dead batteries, old electrical equipment, empty ink cartridges and toner, excess wiring, old paint cans and even discarded bricks can all be taken to a recycling facility for safe and efficient reprocessing as well.
Now, business rates usually don’t cover recycling services, so your company will probably have to pay for collections. That’s why we recommend that you reduce consumption where possible, transport as much as you can yourself (most staff will happily take it in turns to visit a recycling centre, a charity shop or school in return for leaving work thirty minutes early), and reuse materials on-site wherever applicable. Anything that does need professionally collecting will incur a cost, but the positive environmental and ethical impacts will hopefully more than make up for it, plus it does wonders for your levels of corporate social responsibility.
We also suggest being proactive, such as inviting school classes to visit your workplace for talks on, among other things, how your company recycles. If you hit an ambitious target or come up with an ingenious method of reducing waste, get in contact with the local press. Plus by encouraging staff to be environmentally conscious, perhaps even growing potted plants on their desks and windowsills, you’ll be helping to spread the awareness, understanding and best practice of all things green.