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Easy First Steps for Employees & Workplaces
Easy green and sustainable project ideas for one employee to start...and share!
Employee health and well-being is important to them...and to management. Often a greening strategy gets started with grassroots interest and manpower. And more companies will go green if employees are empowered. Here are a few simple suggestions to help an interested member of one company make a read difference, and help their community take a first step toward more sustainable business operations.
Take An Informal Survey
Matching up your interests, sphere of influence...and your company's reality is a great way to get on on the right foot. Look around, do an informal measure of some of the following processes in your office. Then you will be able to choose a first project to make your workspace greener. And as you green something upclose and personal to your fellow workers, you'll get their attention for a second step!
- How much waste is being hauled away...and how much does it cost?
- How much water is being used...and how much does it cost?
- How many incandescent bulbs are burning...and for how many hours a day?
- What do employees eat for lunch...and how fresh and delicious is it?
- What conservation systems are already in place...and who is in charge of them?
Talk With Fellow Employees
Once you've spotted ONE area in which you'd like to make an improvement, talk to others about what you found. Facts help.
Ask for their suggestions. Involvement helps.
Then summarize, think creatively and come up with a simple project that you can do yourself...or involves just one or two other people. Keeping a first project simple helps.
"Stakeholder" involvement is an important part of sustainability. Build the solution together as a village. It has a better chance to grow and thrive if you interest a few fellow supporters who also want to see THEIR ideas succeed. And two heads are better than one, as my mother used to tell us.
Here are some simple suggestions for first step projects that use the simple 3 guidelines of greening: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Easy Green Project Ideas
Paper is often a major problem in the office. By reducing your paper and reusing half-used sheets...and buying recycled content, you'll make a big difference that hardly breaks a sweat!
Other areas of waste that you might notice are: water, electricity, food, auto fuel, manufacturing scraps, or even time!
- Put out some paper collection boxes -- they can be as simple as the corrugated boxes that come with the reams you buy.
- Make a few phone calls to your city/county and find out who collects scrap paper for LOCAL recycling. Do a little research here to make a really green selection of a vendor. Some companies send your used paper to China for recycling! That's not very green. Our American paper commpnies also need good office papers to use in their recycling operations. Call a local printing paper distributor and see if they can connect you with paper mills who need recycled paper.
- Pull together a few facts about recycling paper, make a creative, fun poster for your bulleting boards and for your company website...and you can then recruit more people to contribute to the boxes!
- Monitor the collection vendor...make sure the paper is emptied and shipped out regularly so that overflow doesn't annoy anyone!
- Measure the pounds of paper your team actually recycles. Visit with your vendor to get details about what happens to your paper.
- Ask your purchasing agent to start buying paper with some RECYCLED content. When you create the resource...someone has to buy it!
- See if there are ways to chop one-sided sheets into notepads...or convert copiers to automatically print of TWO-SIDES of paper. Make conservation a status thing...those who participate are noticed and appreciated!
California really guzzles water! And we have a very desert-heavy region, so everything we can do to conserve and protect water quality make a difference in our quality of life and our cost of living and doing business.
- Investigate: do your faucets have aerators, urinals run all the time, irrigation spray endlessly in the hottest part of the day...?
- Measure your water bill...in gallons and dollars. Set a goal for reduction.
- Talk about it. Ask for ideas of where and how you can save water usage. See who will participate...and plan a project together.
- Ask to submit a small budget for a project...and then find the aerators, or new stools or irrigation controls to implement your project. Don't forget to plan signs to let people know how THEY can help save water.
- Post updates on your project on the bulletin board and in your emails/website.
- Post a chart of BEFORE and AFTER ... and measure the improvements you make.
Electric Lighting Project Ideas
Having good light is just such a pleasure...and bad lighting can really make work harder. Sustainable or green lighting is both about appropriate light levels and saving electricity.
- Make a drawing of your facility and take an inventory of what lights up each space. Add traffic patterns to your drawing -- note heavy use areas and low use areas. Add how many hours a day the lights are active vs. how many hours they are used. Note where the light switches are located. Note where you have available light -- or the potential for it.
- By this time, you are an expert on your lighting patterns!
- Post a big copy of your map on the cafeteria or water cooler bulleting board and ask for suggestions by placing post-it tag notes on the map. List some suggestions for tags such as: Use natural light here. Add dimmer switch. Turn off lights from __ to __. Replace with night lights. Use LED signage. Replace with CFL bulbs.
- Consult with a lighting designer if you want to implement projects more significant than replacing bulbs. There are incentives available for projects with significant electrical savings!
- Make your list of highest priorities...and engage! Take photos and post them...everyone loves to see photos of progress!
Yummy Food Selection
We don't usually think about food at work being an opportunity to green your workplace...but what could have a more direct impact of health and well-being than food...and drink!?
Organic and locally grown natural foods not only provide healthier choices than prepackaged, heavily traveled, sugar and fat laden snacks, but they also impact our environment.
- Locally grown fruits and vegetables support your farmers market and heritage species...and your local economy. They also reduce the 2,000 mile average that food on your dinner plate travels!
- Make a list of local food sources...which grocery stores buy from local sources? Which restaurants? When is the local Farmers Market open?
- Take a survey of what fresh foods your fellow workers would like to have available in the snack room and lunchroom: apples, oranges, strawberries, melons, apple cider, orange juice, carrot slices, cherries, celery...there's a wide variety of snackfood that can be fresh and delicious.
- Look for a CSA (community supported agriculture) farmer who would pack a box of seasonal foods for your group...and have a coffee klatch food prep day to slice and dice the food into attractive food trays and pitchers of fresh juice! What a healthful joy!
- Make a map of local restaurants that provide organic, healthful food choices. Suggest these restaurants for catering at meetings and company events.
- Switch to organic coffee, fair trade teas, local food and beverages --- and ask if co-workers would like some non-cafeinated selections, such as filtered water. Local tap water is often as good as bottled water -- and by filtering it in a pitcher, you save all that plastic from floating into the ocean!
Share Your Stories...Strengthen the Peer Pressure!
The most powerful influencer as human beings is to hear that "everybody else is doing it!" :-)
Seriously...research shows that when people hear that their neighbors are greening their behaviors, they feel the pressure to do it too. That's how we will deal with this environmental crisis. We all have to "do it"...and then tell about how great it is! So, tell stories in your company newsletter, on the website, on YouTube videos...in cartoons, over lunch, at award ceremonies...with clients and prospective employees...stories are so much fun and now you know they are also very powerfully green!
Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions