Today’s guest post from Kes Phelps in the UK elevates businesses and employees in three positive ways. (Read ahead to find out.) We may be on auto-pilot when it comes to recycling in our homes, but as Kes points out, there are huge opportunities to make a difference at work, too.
In an increasingly green-conscious world, offices are some of the worst offenders around. A recent survey showed that the average office worker wastes nearly 7,000 sheets of paper every year – over two-thirds of all paper use. That’s before you even start thinking about the drinks cans, bottles, toner cartridges and other recyclables that most offices discard without thinking twice.
Changing this throwaway culture isn’t easy, but there are big benefits to businesses that do set up successful recycling systems. One is simply that the more people think about the resources they are consuming, the less they will waste in the first place – with immediate benefits for your accounts. You may also end up reducing waste bills, and improving your company’s reputation. Sustainable corporate reporting is gaining ground, with the idea of the ‘triple bottom line’ encouraging businesses to demonstrate positive environmental and social impacts, as well as financial success. In some countries, certification by a recognised body is now a legal requirement. Elsewhere, it’s still an important part of your corporate image.
The buck stops here
Start by appointing someone to manage the system and have overall responsibility for it – or a team, if it is a large company. Without this oversight, no one will drive the initiative and it could easily fizzle. As well as planning how to develop the system, they will also need to take care of practicalities like ordering bins, conducting any training required, sending email reminders and organising collection of recyclables.
Changing habitual behaviour isn’t easy. The temptation might be to go in with all guns blazing and identify every item that could be recycled. That will probably confuse and overwhelm your employees, who will quickly become resistant to the idea. Instead, start with one or two initiatives and work up to more. Paper is an obvious target, since we use so much of it. You probably already have containers for confidential paper waste in the office, and it’s not a big stretch to add one for recycling, too. Many recycling companies offer shredding as part of their service, in any case. Buy some cardboard crates as temporary recycle bins until you know how much capacity you’ll need – then you can invest in ones that look the part but don’t take up unnecessary space.
Keep it simple
Make it as easy as possible for your employees to recycle, and just a little harder for them to throw things away. That means placing your recycle bins in obvious and accessible places – containers for toner cartridges and waste paper next to the printer and photocopiers, for example. Moving general waste bins slightly further away – perhaps only to the other side of the room – will just give that little extra incentive to do the right thing.
Create a norm
Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure, both within and outside your organisation. People will be more ready to recycle if that’s what everyone else is doing. Creating links with other local businesses can help here – as well as bringing costs down by sharing collection, and forging potentially useful networks. Check recycling containers in your building regularly, to monitor progress and make sure waste is ending up in the right place.
Support a charity
Plenty of hardware like toner cartridges, computer equipment and mobile phones can be turned into cash or reconditioned and sent to educational projects at home or in the developing world. Finding a charity to work with gives your employees an extra reason to recycle. Bring them in on the process by consulting them on causes they would like to donate to. This will help them feel more a part of the initiative and make them more likely to support it.