When it comes to conserving resources, preventing pollution and saving money, reducing waste trumps recycling. In this game, businesses and organizations of all sizes can truly do well by doing the right thing.
Copy paper, like the kind used in photocopiers, computer printers and plain-paper fax machines, is the most common type of office waste paper.
• The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year.
• The U.S. EPA estimates that paper and paperboard account for almost 40 percent of our garbage.
• Office paper is highly recyclable, but a lot gets wasted. Waste reduction is more cost-effective than recycling.
• Nearly 3.7 million tons of copy paper are used annually in the United States alone. That’s over 700 billion sheets.
Tips for Reducing Paper Use
► Try to use both sides of a sheet of paper for printing, copying, writing and drawing.
► Reuse paper that’s already printed on one side by manually feeding it into copiers and printers. Use it for internal documents like drafts and short-lived items such as meeting agendas or temporary signs.
► Once-used paper can also be reused in plain paper fax machines — they only need one clean side.
► E-mail can be used to share documents and ideas. Be sure to only print the e-mails you need to have a hard copy of. Consider saving your emails as a PDF document. This advice goes for Internet documents as well. Instead of printing a Web page, bookmark it or save the page on your hard drive and pull it up when needed.
► Desktop fax, electronic references (CD-ROM/USB flash drive databases), electronic data storage, electronic purchasing and direct deposit are all ways to use electronic media that reduce office paper waste.
► Help minimize misprints by posting a diagram on how to load special paper like letterhead so it will be printed correctly.
► Practice efficient copying — use the size reduction feature offered on many copiers. Two pages of a book or periodical can often be copied onto one standard sheet.
► Use two-way or send-and-return envelopes. Your outgoing envelope gets reused for its return trip.
► Use reusable inter- and intra-office envelopes.
► Reuse old paper for notepads. It can be cut to custom sizes and simply bound with a staple.
► Draft documents can be reviewed, edited and shared on-screen.
Printers, designers, and print buyers can incorporate good environmental practices into their work to reduce the overall impact that printed materials have on the environment.
Strategies for Printing Greener
► Print on both sides of the paper, and reduce the width of margins and font sizes. These options reduce waste and save both resources and money.
► Keep your mailing list updated. Evaluate your data, delete duplicates, remove those who have requested to be off, and target your mailings to specific audiences. This can help save money on printing and mailing costs, provide you with a more effective mailing, and reduce waste throughout the printing process.
► Request paper with pulp that is brightened without the use of chlorine. Chlorine bleaching creates a toxic, bio-accumulative waste by-product called dioxin. By demanding alternatives to chlorine-bleached papers, you help create new markets and encourage paper mills to move away from polluting production practices.
► Use paper labeled totally chlorine-free (TCF) or processed chlorine-free (PCF). Both terms mean that the mill did not use chlorine compounds to brighten the paper. Talk to your paper vendor or printer about the price and availability of TCF and PCF papers. Both significantly reduce the persistent, bio-accumulative compounds in the mill wastewater that are associated with the traditional chlorine bleaching process.
► Request inks with non-petroleum bases, such as soybeans or linseed.
► Request inks that emit low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Non-petroleum-based inks are usually lower in VOCs.
► Use pre-press technologies that eliminate or reduce hazardous materials, such as direct-to-plate printing.
► Buy paper that is produced by a company with a stated commitment to environmental stewardship, and to minimizing ecological impacts and ensuring long-term sustainable production.
► Purchase and specify post-consumer recycled content papers. This helps expand the recycling market and assure recycling programs stay viable and effective. It also closes the loop by diverting waste from landfills and incinerators. As an added benefit, purchasing papers made from recycled stock means using fewer trees to make the paper.
Buying Green For The Office
The National Recycling Coalition recently published Purchasing Strategies to Prevent Waste and Save Money. This publication contains many useful ideas on how to purchase products that create less waste.
Here are some purchasing ideas for offices to make the workplace more environmentally friendly.
• Refurbish and buy refurbished office equipment.
• Reuse and refill toner cartridges and ribbons.
• Purchase non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners that contain low- or no-volatile organic compounds.
• Buy concentrates.
• Buy in bulk.
• Buy products that are reusable, returnable or refillable.
• Buy recycled office products that contain post-consumer recycled material.
• Use flexible interior features, such as movable walls, to reduce waste associated with renovation.
• Choose durable materials and furnishings to reduce the costs and waste associated with replacement.
Building Management Tips
How a building is managed can affect environmental quality and employee health. There are several steps that building managers can take to reduce waste and protect the health of tenants and employees within a building.
• Use reusable dishware in your company’s cafeteria and kitchen.
• Use cloth towel roll dispensers in your bathrooms and cloth napkins and towels in your kitchens.
• Separate your building’s organic wastes from non-compostable trash and send it to a composting facility.
• Use paint and install carpeting that contains low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
• Work with janitorial service or staff to find ways to use less toxic, non-toxic and/or non-VOC cleaning products.
Put Food Waste To Good Use
“Unwanted food” may conjure up images or brussels sprouts or fruitcake, but we’re talking about the organized collection of perishable and non-perishable food for feeding the hungry in our communities. Reusing or recycling unsaleable food materials significantly reduces the environmental impact of waste disposal for restaurants, food service vendors, supermarkets, and food suppliers. There are a lot better destinations than the landfill!
Food to People
Food shelves accept food donations in the form of canned or dry goods, and redistribute it to those who are not able to provide basic food requirements for themselves and/or their families.
Food rescue programs collect perishable foods mainly from businesses and redistribute them to food shelf programs or food kitchens. This is often an option for businesses that generate large quantities of unserved food.
Food to Livestock
Food that’s not fit for human consumption can be fed to animals, either directly or after it’s been processed into animal feed. This option is frequently used by grocery stores and other large generators of food waste.
Composting and Recycling
If food wastes are no longer edible, commercial composting can combine them with other organic materials to make a soil amendment. And specialized recycling services are available for materials like grease, cooking oil, and butcher scraps.