Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: A Thoughtful Environmental Impact Isn’t Just for Hippies— It’s for the Future

During the rush and whir of the hectic workweek, how often do you stop to think about your environmental impact? Caring about the footprint your business leaves on the world isn’t just for hippies. And by the way, 1969 called and they want their word back.

We are now entering into the next generation — where millennials (those born after 1982 and before 2000), for better or worse, will thrive. One of the biggest issues that millennials want to champion is creating a workforce that is environmentally responsible. A recent study conducted by Bentley University found that “88 percent of millennials believe it’s a priority to work for a company that’s socially responsible and ethical, leading some to dub them ‘Generation Generosity.’”

Society requires water, food, air and energy to survive, but we cannot flourish encircled by waste. Some people have the following mentality: I don’t care about the environment; it doesn’t affect me. But in truth, it does; it affects everybody. We need clean water, safe food, unpolluted air and a waste-free world to truly feel alive, not just endure. Thinking only of ourselves and not of future generations is a surefire way to flounder.

When a business makes the necessary changes to become eco-friendly, the benefits for the employer include everything from cost savings to help with employee recruitment and retention. So how can your workplace adapt in this ever-changing ecosphere to keep up with the future of reducing, reusing and recycling?

Coexist With Mother Nature: Enhance Your Business’ Environmental Impact

1. Use Less Paper Wherever Possible:

  • Instead of printing hard copy  documents, save files to the hard drive or email them.
  • If you must use paper, use recycled varieties.
  • Purchase recycling bins and encourage their use.
  • Make your printer eco-friendly by changing the settings to print double-sided, using small point fonts, and using the “fast draft” setting to save ink.
  • Instate online billing via e-billing programs.
  • Use paperclips over staples.
  • Reuse envelops with metal clasps, and reuse file folders by sticking new labels over previous ones.
  • Provide ceramic coffee mugs instead of paper cups for your employees’ use. Washing cups is more eco-friendly than contributing to the pounds of paper that end up in landfills.

2. Use Biodegradable Cleaning Products: Using natural, biodegradable cleaning products can reduce your employee’s exposure to harsh toxins and other chemicals, and “reduces the introduction of these substances into the environment. The next time you run out of soap, [dishwasher] detergent or cleaning products, swap in a greener option. Many stores sell green products in bulk,” says Kate Harrison of Forbes.

 3. Cut Costs: Get an energy audit to find out if your worksite has any sealing leaks or cracks. If any are found and addressed, you could cut up to 20 percent from your heating and cooling costs. Talk about a savings!

4. Switch up Your Bulbs: When it comes to the light fixtures in your office, use compact-fluorescent (CFL) or LED lights. Though they have a higher initial purchase price, they last longer and use less energy over time. LED and CFL bulbs can replace almost any bulb in standard fixtures and save your business up to $200 per bulb over time.

5. Green Power: Find out if your state qualifies for alternative energy. You may even be able to go through your current utility provider. “Green power is generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and plant matter. Purchasing green power increases your electric bill by a small percentage, which is used to purchase clean energy that is fed into the electrical grid,” says Forbes.

6. Go Vintage: Think green when replacing or purchasing items for your worksite. If you’re considering buying new office furniture, try used office furniture rather than new pieces. Or, refurbish old furniture that needs to be replaced. A vintage look can be very chic and cool.

7. Give Employees the Option to Work Remotely: Working from home is on the rise, as many corporations are beginning to see some of the benefits of virtual work:

  • Physical worksite costs can be cut if employees work from home at least some of the time.
  • Employers are no longer limited by geography and therefore can increase their talent reach.
  • Pollution can be reduced by minimizing commuting.
  • Telework may encourage employees to eat healthier, a study found, which can equate to healthier staff and reduced health insurance costs.

8.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:

  • Purchase recycling bins and place them around the office for materials like metal, plastic and glass. Then inspire employees to recycle their cans and bottles (and any other metal, glass or plastic) to lead by example.
  • Encourage employees to use a reusable water bottle or mug instead of throwaways.
  • Resell or donate old laptops, cellphones, computers and other similar appliances to an electronic recycling center. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “companies that recycle electronics can be certified by outside organizations and regularly audited to make sure that your electronics will be recycled safely. That way, you can be assured that your cellphone is being recycled in a way that is protective of our health and the environment.”
  • Turn off or unplug equipment when not in use. This can reduce the energy used by 25 percent; turning off computers at the end of the day can save an additional 50 percent.

9.  Start an Environmental Committee at Your Worksite: Host ongoing monthly meetings to discuss how your business can reduce, reuse and recycle further. Sponsor eco-friendly challenges each month. For example, ask your employees to recycle five items per day. Or have employees bring in old electronics that are no longer in use around their homes. A simple challenge like this can make a powerful impact.

Did You Know?

  • The United States produced an estimated 5 billion-plus tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, rating as one of the world’s leading polluters.
  • Americans throw away 35 billion plastic bottles every year. Only about 25% of the plastic produced in the U.S. is recycled. If we recycled the other 75% we could save 1 billion gallons of oil and 44 million cubic yards of landfill space annually.
  • According to the EPA, recycling cuts global warming pollution by the equivalent of removing 39.6 million passenger cars from the road.
  • Despite recent plant closures, nuclear energy is expected to increase between 2016 and 2020.
  • One in 10 people lack access to safe water.
  • One in three people lack access to a toilet.
  • Globally, one out of three schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
  • The water crisis is the No. 1 environmental risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation), as announced by the World Economic Forum in January 2015.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds of garbage every day. That’s 29 pounds per week or 1,600 pounds per year.
  • The United States produces approximately 220 million tons of garbage each year.
  • For every 1 million cellphones we recycle, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
  • Every day the U.S. throws away enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.
  • U.S. trash production has multiplied by three times since 1960.
  • There are millions of small and microscopic pieces of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean. This amount has increased significantly over the past 40 years. This is known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where currents have trapped huge amounts of debris, mostly plastics. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch spans from the West Coast of America to Japan.

It’s not too late to make a positive conservational impact on our world. Start by making “reduce, reuse, recycle” a mantra for your company and follow through with the actions.