Stick It to the Man: Greening Your Sticky Notes
Here’s something that may shock you (but probably not): It appears that very little scientific research has been done on what happens to sticky notes after we use ‘em. A safe assumption would be that some are trashed, some are recycled, and a very precious few are saved for either posterity or blackmail…
So while we can’t offer you solid stats on sticky notes per se, we can tell you that paper makes up 29 percent of the municipal solid waste stream—more than any other material Americans throw away, according to the EPA.
And what’s the best way to reduce waste? To reduce use in the first place, of course! For all you note-jotting workers out there, we’ve put together a short list of ways you can decrease your use of paper—while still getting the memo.
- Microsoft Outlook’s notes is easy and most likely already installed on your PC, laptop, or phone. Just click on New + Note or Ctrl + Shift + N and a sticky note magically appears on your desktop. You can move it, edit it and do lots of other things with it—but mostly just remind yourself of stuff with it.
- Mac Stickies come on most Mac computers…just go to Applications and you’ll see it. If you’ve got the latest OS X Mountain Lion, it’s now called Notes. These can float above your other windows transluscently, and they’re searchable so you’ve always got a record should you want it.
- There are also apps for your phone, like Colorpad Notepad Notes, which lets you do simple notebook writing on the go.
Love your paper guys too much? No prob: there are plenty of eco-friendly options out there, too. Just look for those made with post-consumer recycled paper. Post-It’s got some (pictured above) that are 100 percent recycled, 30 percent post-consumer recycled.
The Daily Grind: 3 Easy Ways to Green the Caffeine Routine
Does the very idea of a coffee-free workday make you want to petition for office-wide naptimes? Same here…and for the rest of Chicago apparently, according to recent rankings that designated us the most caffeinated city in the country.
So with all that java coursing through our collective veins, bringing jittery joy and energy to our cubicles, we thought we’d dig up a few simple ways to put a little eco-love into the caffeine routine at work.
1. The number one thing you can do is make your office a BYOM zone. Save the office money and the planet resources by getting people to bring in their own mugs…without actually withholding caffeine. Some ideas: Consider asking people to pay a quarter for each paper cup they do use and make sure there’s a means and place for people to wash mugs after use. For those times when getting a latte is the best excuse for a break, ask people to donate an old reusable cup just for use at the office—or spend a few bucks and buy buy a few at the thrift store.
Why care? According to Stanford’s Sustainable Choices blog, “If every Starbucks customer used a re-usable coffee thermos, we could save 1,181,600 tons of wood, 2,040,061,237 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 4,441,093,624 gallons of water every year.” Not too shabby for such a simple change, right?
2. Rethink the filter. Ditching the single-use paper filters is easier than you think. Opt for reusable filters, like unbleached cotton coffee filters or stainless steel or gold ones, which come in enough sizes to fit most any coffeemaker. You’ll save the company money over time too…which can go instead to more planet-friendly coffee (see below). On the other hand, if you have composting capabilities, going with compostable filters made with recycled paper is another smart route.
3. Know your beans. Buy coffee that’s organic and shade grown. You probably know why organic is good (the fewer toxic pesticides we spray, ingest, etc., the better…) But why shade grown? According to the Rainforest Alliance, coffee used to be grown under the shade of rainforest trees—a win-win for the forests and the beans. Then, in the ’70s, growers began clear-cutting to make room for coffee plantations. The result has been widespread deforestation and reduced biodiversity—not such buzzworthy side effects of our coffee drinking.
Luckily, there are some good options around town. You can pick up certified shade-grown coffee at spots like Caribou Coffee, which has announced that all its espresso drinks are now made with 100-percent RA-certified beans. Other local roasters like Metropolis and Intelligentsia also offer up good organic, fair trade options.
The bottom line: Every cup counts!
Paper Trail: Recycling Office Paper Adds Up in a Big Way
Want proof that you can make a difference during even the craziest of workdays? Here’s your evidence: recycling every piece of office paper during the course of a year—and encouraging your co-workers to do the same—can save a ton…literally.
According to the Northwestern Office of Sustainability, every ton of paper recycled saves enough energy to heat and air condition the average American home for at least six months. That’s because, as manager of recycling and refuse at Northwestern Julie Cahilanne explains, “making something from recycled materials takes less energy than making the same item from virgin materials.”
Now, sure, one piece of copy paper does not a ton make, but guess what: the Clean Air Council found that the average office worker uses around 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year…Don’t worry, we’ll do the math. 10,000 sheets x.125 ounces = 1,250 ounces = 78 pounds. Multiply that by 25 people and you’ve got 1,950 pounds…which is pretty darn close to 2,000 pounds, aka, one ton.
Translation: If you’ve got 25 people in your office, all of whom recycle their work-related paper for a year, you’ve got an actual ton of paper right there. Pretty crazy, right? Also, just consider the fact that not only will that ton of paper help produce new material and save a few trees from the axe, but it’ll also mean a whole ton of stuff is not taking up space in overstuffed landfills.
Not too shabby a result for just tossing paper into one bin instead of another. So go ahead and pester your co-workers. Some of ‘em may find your friendly reminders annoying at first, but a ton is a ton is a ton. Who can argue with those numbers?
Rise to the Green Office Challenge
Up for taking your eco-ways to work? With a little effort, your office can be a part of the solution by participating in the Chicago Climate Action Plan’s Green Office Challenge.
It’s simple: when colleagues come together to green their buildings, creating “Green Teams” and implementing sustainable practices, they can have a real impact in some key conservation areas, like energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste minimization.
Of course, some of that requires serious overhauls funded with capital campaigns—but there’s plenty one individual can do to play a part, too. The GOC has a whole section dedicated to Office Tenants, which enables your workplace to score points on things like transportation, energy, and waste.
Consider: U.S. office workers use about four million tons of paper each year, according to the Clean Air Council. Recycling just one ton of that would save enough energy to power the average U.S. home for six months, says the EPA.
Ready for the job? Yeah, you are.
- Follow the Chicago Climate Action Plan on Twitter for in-the-moment updates.
- Get inspired by Inc. magazine’s guide to starting an office recycling program.
- Learn more recycling stats at the Clean Air Council.
Blame It on the Drain: 4 Simple Ways to Save Water at Work
Wanna dial your work place into water conservation? Okay, so you’re probably not doing your laundry or bathing there—still, eight hours a day, five days a week, 50+ weeks a year worth of using the office restroom, kitchen, and water cooler certainly adds up.
Luckily, you don’t have to convince your boss to invest in a low-flow toilet to make a difference. (Although you do get eco-brownie points for that, of course.)
Here, four simple actions you can take to conserve water at work.
- Add an aerator to the kitchen and bathroom faucets to reduce water use by half. The budget manager probably won’t even bat an eye: solid options start under $10.
- If your office has a filtered water cooler that produces hot water instantly, fill a small tub with that when you need to wash dishes. Why? Typical bathroom faucets pour out two gallons a minute, so depending on the time the tapwater takes to get hot, you can lose up to…well, you can do the math.
- For low-cost take on low-flow toilet benefits, place plastic jugs filled with sand or stones in the tank to reduce the amount of water used per flush. (Thanks for the clever tip, Gaiam!)
- Fix leaky taps and toilets by replacing washers and worn parts. One pesky drip can waste 2,000 gallons a year, according to the USGS Drip Accumulator Calculator.
Thirsty for more?
- Learn more about water efficiency in the office from local nonprofit Alliance for Water Efficiency
- Water – Use It Wisely has 52 eclectic ways to reduce water usage in the office.
For bigger companies, consider a water audit (NRDC).
Posts by Daisy Simmons