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Green in Review

Brooke Lusk, Going "Green" October 26th, 2009
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~ By Brooke

Over a year ago we decided, as a company, to strengthen our focus on being a “green” organization.  This focus has included efforts in both publishing and marketing aspects, as well as the goal to meet monthly and discuss what it means to be an eco-conscious business.  This month we reviewed our past discussions, which both refreshed our memories and allowed us to discuss how we were able to incorporate (or not) those ideas into our everyday working and personal lives.

FSC_LogoIncluded in this discussion was the concept of responsible paper usage.  In addition to purchasing recycled paper certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative for everyday office use, we are now using FSC-certified paper for the journal, while our catalog is printed on a combination of FSC-certified and recycled paper.  We have been able to identify several ways to use paper more responsibly, including:

  • Double-sided printing (check your printer’s duplex features for this),
  • Using narrow margins for documents, which efficiently uses the space provided on paper (0.75” on each side should be sufficient for printing),
  • Keeping unnecessary documents to use their blank reverse side for notes,
  • THINKING before printing – can a simple note be taken rather than printing an email two pages long? Can one specific page be printed instead of a whole document?
  • Scanning and emailing documents.  With our new copier/printer, we have this more efficient way to transfer documents, rather than snail mail or fax.  This also allows for electronic storage of documents on the shared company server, rather than making multiple copies for each employee.

Electricity use is also an important area where businesses can reduce their carbon footprint.  We learned about “vampire power,” which occurs when electronic devices (such as cell phone chargers, fans, etc), although switched off, continue to draw electric power because they are still plugged in.  Other ways to reduce electrical usage include:

  • Replace outdated light bulbs with eco-friendly bulbs.  An important thing we have done is replace our lights on dimmers with lights on regular on/off switches, allowing us to use more efficient light bulbs,
  • Turn off devices you aren’t using – speakers, printers, monitors during lunch breaks, and especially unneeded lights,
  • Power down your computer each night.  I found some information from the U.S. Department of Energy on this topic.  They recommend shutting down your computer if you will be away for 2 or more hours and to turn off your monitor if you will not be using it for 20 minutes or more.  They also point out that screensavers do not save energy, and in some cases they may actually use more electricity.  Some organizations prefer that you leave your computer on for server-related reasons, but someone in your IT department should be able to tell you the company policy on that. polypropylene-plastic-symbol

Recycling also plays a large role in our company’s attempt to become more environmentally friendly.  Our office building’s recycling company has provided us with a list of which resin identification codes (the number/code found on many recyclable items) they are capable of processing.  If you are not sure which items your business’s recycling company can process, just ask!  Also, feel free to suggest that your company begin to use a recycling company with expanded processing abilities.  For electronics, for example outdated computers and printers, we prefer sending those to recycling companies devoted to reusing or recycling electronics, such as the local Next Step Recycling.  To find such a business near you, try using these search terms in Google: “electronics recycling near (enter your city name).” 

Other items we have discussed for reducing our carbon footprint include: composting (click here for a complete list of compostable materials); using natural, easily renewable materials for everyday items (such as a bamboo cutting board); reusing your plastic cups or using a mug; having a water cooler in the office rather than individual bottles of water; walking/bussing/biking to work if possible (some businesses even reimburse employees for their bus fare to encourage this!) and considering the effects of your cleaning, household and personal products – they usually end up in the water streams, affecting plant and animal life.

I hope this “green review” has been as informative and helpful to you as it was for us to refresh our memory on how we, as a small publishing company, can make a positive impact on the environment.  What are some other eco-conscious practices you have tried?  How has your school, business, or home been able to incorporate these practices?  To read more of our “Going Green” blogs, please click here!

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