Becoming a More Eco-Friendly Business
Green marketing and green consumerism have become increasingly common in America over the last several years, but the country's recycling rates haven't seen much improvement. According to the most recent EPA statistics, 87 million tons of the 254 million tons of trash produced in 2013 stayed out of a landfill – which means that Americans still only recycle about 34 percent of the waste we generate. Landfills are closely watched by the EPA but still pose risks to the environment from gases, including methane and carbon dioxide, that leach out into the air and contaminate the surrounding land and water.
While companies are investing in the "go green" movement for reasons ranging from health concerns to profitability, attempting to minimize negative impacts on the environment usually factors into the decision. Many states and cities, hoping to curb the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, have passed laws that incentivize commercial recycling or make it mandatory. Even if you aren't located in an area with such a mandate, your business can lessen its impact on the environment by investing in recycle bins, encouraging employees to participate in commercial recycling, reducing waste production, and reusing materials and/or products.
Establishing a recycling program at work can seem like a complex task, but it's easy to start small and grow the program gradually. By placing recycle bins in locations with heavy traffic, like break rooms and conference rooms, employees will be able to conveniently dispose of their waste for recycling. It's also a good idea to place recycling bins near desks, which will encourage employees to dispose of paper there instead of in the trash can.
To avoid confusion, make sure each recycling bin is clearly and properly labeled for what it can accept. Most recycling bins will feature the recycling logo to set them apart from regular trash bins, but many recycling stations have multiple compartments labeled for paper, aluminum, plastic, and so on. If you invest in a recycling bin that isn't clearly marked, type up and print a label that indicates what can be deposited in it.
If you're not sure how to get your collected commercial recycling off the property, consider using a search engine to find a nearby center for your materials. The Earth911 recycling center search enables you to find such facilities, with material and location filtering options. Some recycling centers require personal drop-offs, while others don't accept recycling from businesses, so you'll want to make sure the center can accommodate your needs.
If you cannot find an appropriate recycling center, or if you already know you're looking for someone to pick your commercial recycling up, contact local pick-up services, including any that might be provided by the city, to see which one is the best fit for you. If you're leasing your location, contact the property owner to see if he or she has any recommendations or requirements for your recycling program.
Although focusing on commercial recycling for waste is a great place to start, you can also become a more eco-friendly business by reducing the amount of waste you produce. Large amounts of paper waste are generated in offices each day, and you likely won't be able to eliminate all of it. However, printing documents two-sided and distributing electronic copies instead of printed copies are two easy ways to cut down on how much paper is used every day.
Your employees might use disposable bottles and cups to drink water or coffee throughout the day. You can promote the use of reusable containers by offering insulated cups or water bottles, perhaps with the company logo, and providing water fountains or filtered water pitchers. Keeping plates and flatware in the break room, which can be hand-washed or run through the dishwasher at the end of the day, can help reduce the need for paper plates and plastic forks, spoons, and knives.
There are some products or materials you won't be able to reuse, but others in your community might be able to. Most items you order will arrive in cardboard boxes, which make popular containers for storage and moving. If you can't reuse the boxes around the office, remove any shipping labels to preserve your company's privacy, then check with employees to see if they or someone they know will be moving soon or donate the boxes to local charities or organizations that want them.
Office equipment that is no longer being used can be donated to a local non-profit, school, or organization that might not be able to afford new equipment. Items that might be of use include computers, phones, printers, and fax machines. As an added incentive, the donations are usually tax deductible. Other electronics and electronic accessories that can't be easily donated can be given to an electronics-specific recycling program run by a business or recycling center; ink cartridges can be given to these programs for refilling.
To increase demand for recycled materials, you can stock your business with products made from them, including paper towels and napkins, printer paper and envelopes, pens and notepads, furniture like desks and chairs, and other necessary supplies. You can find stores that specialize in these products or search for eco-friendly products at your regular retailer.
Municipal Solid Waste, US Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed December 2015.
Landfilling, Keep America Beautiful. Accessed December 2015.
"Recycling: Beyond the Bin", Natural Resources Defense Council. Accessed June 2017.