It was awful. A meeting was scheduled with four people the other day to provide them with information they need to do their jobs. It was the second meeting in a series and in the first one I used a projector to show the information from my laptop. But that didn’t work so well because of screen resolution and the nature of the materials. Plus those in the meeting asked for the documents to study afterwards. My job was to convey information and I was only partially successful.
So this time, against my mindful consumption tendencies, I printed the documents. And printed and printed. This DID work better for the meeting, and perhaps helped Dunder Mifflin, but I still feel bad. Yet the reality is, sometimes we just can’t do the eco-friendly thing. But there are things we can do in the office.
- Don’t print as much. Many of us are in the habit of printing many things – documents, e-mails, and presentations. Stop. Think. Do I really need a hardcopy of this or will the digital version suffice?
- Go Gothic and Black. Studies show savings of up to 30% by printing using the Century Gothic font and a 3-5x extra cost to print in color. While it may not cost you personally, the lower costs come from less ink and materials usage which affect the environment as well as your organization’s bottom line.
- Recycle. OK, so you print and then realize later you don’t need it. Recycle it. I have a drawer in my desk reserved for recycling paper. Some offices have bins in common areas. Find out what the deal is in your office. And if there is no recycling there, throw the paper in your bag and carry it home.
- Reuse paper. I use writing tablets to take notes. After a while those notes become obsolete. But the backs of the papers are not written on. I take those sheets and staple them together, creating a scratch pad for notes. Then I can later send the well-used paper to the recycling bin or shredder as appropriate.
- Use a reusable lunch container. Many of us use a paper lunch bag, only to dispose of it after a single use. At least recycle the bag. Better yet, get a reusable bag or even an old-fashioned lunchbox. There are ones to fit any style and budget. Want to be really cool? Try the Tiffin 2-Tier from India. I often use those smaller heavy-duty bags with a handle you sometimes get at stores.
- Recycle your lunch foods packaging. Frozen food boxes, yogurt containers, soda cans, drink bottles. Again, many offices have bins. Try to not be lazy – walk your recyclables over. If you can, bring food in washable containers instead of throwaway plastic bags.
- Reduce junk land mail. Get off the mailing lists. Former employees still getting mail? Remove them with the Ecological Mail Coalition.
- Use a mug, water bottle, or other reusable drink container. Many offices supply paper cups and plastic lids. Try to avoid them by bringing your own. And if you pick up a cup of Joe on the way to the office, use a reusable rather than paper cups; most coffee places offer them these days. Drinks taste better from reusable containers anyway; just remember to wash them once in a while.
- Buy recycled or reused. Paper. Ink and toner cartridges. Even furniture.
- Manage your computer’s power. “ENERGY STAR power management features place computers (CPU, hard drive, etc.) into a low-power “sleep mode” after a designated period of inactivity. Simply hitting a key on the keyboard or moving the mouse awakens the computer in a matter of seconds.”
- Commute wisely. Try to use public transportation, carpool, or other alternative ways to get to the office. Of course, if you can, save energy, costs, time, and pollution by working at home.
There is a lot you can do in the office as a mindful consumer. I’m still feeling guilty about all that printing the other day. But we can’t be perfect. Make the small daily changes to reduce waste.
In sum, do what you can with what you have.
(That’s what she said.)