Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Save Energy with Conferencing (And Other Tactics)

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day
I'm not going to join in the recent chorus of articles that praise the way conferencing reduces travel (and thus reduces the environmental impact of meetings). I hope you understand that by now. Instead, here is a list of other ways that you can use conferencing (among other practices) to reduce the environmental impact of your job. I've personally done everything on this list over the years, so feel free to ask me questions in the comments section.

1. Take public transportation. Or buy a bike. Or, at least, carpool. Or telecommute?
If we want to use less fuel and control our carbon emissions, we have to...use less fuel. Even if you only practice this one or two days a week, the impact is worth it. Better yet, make it a competition at the office to see how often everyone can get to work without driving alone.

If you can swing it, try working from home one or two days per week. What better way to reduce the environmental impact of your commute than not to commute at all?

2. Recycle.
If it's plastic, paper, or aluminum, you can recycle it. If your office won't pay for pickup (and it's not included with your building/lease), take turns dropping the recycling off at a local center each week. It's not that much work - your turn will probably only come up once every quarter.

Check local government websites for organizations in your area that accept used cell phones and old computer equipment for recycling and repurposing - often these groups will even pick up directly from your office.

3. Make less trash
Go out for lunch rather than ordering take-out if you can, and bring any leftovers home in your own (reusable) plastic container. (Personally, I keep a few in my desk just in case.)

If you do order take-out, use your own silverware (again, keep a stash in your desk) and refuse the plastic packets. (They never work that well anyhow.) Individually wrapped things really make a lot of trash.

If you bring your lunch, follow the same reusable packaging rules. It's cheaper to buy a full-size box and portion it yourself than to buy prepackaged units, and you won't be making all of the extra trash.

As a little bonus, I'd like to say that I know tradeshows and conferences are fun, but...really, where do you think your frisbees and footballs and lanyards and spinning giveaway gizmos end up?

4. Go (and stay) Digital
Making a document on a computer uses energy, sure, but not as much as when you add on printing, copying, and mailing. (I recognize that many things still need real signatures so, obviously, use judgment here.)

Presentations really can work well in the digital realm, and everyone is starting to enjoy the convenience of meeting right from the office. Job interviews, too, at least for the first round - most everyone has access to a webcam, so consider saving money on plane fares and hotels in the early stages of your hiring process by interviewing online.

5. Look for the Oddities
At one of my previous jobs, the custodians were trained to empty every trash can, every night, no matter what. My empty trash bag was swapped for a new trash bag every night until I finally worked late enough to notice. There were about 1200 people in that building, so 1200 empty and nearly-empty bags went into the trash every night. 312,000 bags per year. Needless to say, I spoke to my supervisor and pointed out the cost savings.

Could your company order unbleached paper products for the bathroom? Provide recycled office supplies? Supply refillable pens rather than cheap ballpoints? Put a water filter on the sink rather than ordering bottled water service? Buy coffee for the break room that was made without destroying or polluting the land on which it was grown?

There are many small ways to lessen the environmental impact of your job. There are many more than I've listed, and most likely some of what I've recommended won't work at your current position. The most important things to remember: you don't have to be a perfect environmentalist, it doesn't have to be a political issue, and every little bit helps.

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