Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from The Green Reprographics Handbook, a book published in 2008 and distributed to IRgA members to help them focus on "green" issues. The book is six years old but the information below is still worthwhile. There are still some copies of the book available for IRgA members; if you’d like a copy, send an email to Ed Avis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Two other excerpts will be published in coming issues of IRgA Today.
Chapter 7: Start Small
You’ve convinced your managers that green is good, and your green committee is at work. Now you need some concrete ideas. Start small, perhaps with these basic, easy ideas.
Being green starts before you even get to work. How do you and your employees get there? An easy way to make a quick green impact is to make sure everyone is encouraged to be as green as feasible regarding their transportation.
If your shop is in a city with decent public transportation, consider a program that encourages your employees to take the bus or train to work, rather than drive. A pre-tax deduction from their paychecks to pay for a monthly pass is one benefit many companies offer. This saves them a few dollars over buying a pass with after-tax money, but it doesn’t cost you anything. And once an employee has a pass, she’s much more likely to take public transportation.
Another easy idea is to encourage car-pooling by establishing a sign-up sheet in your common area. You could reward car-poolers with special parking places in your lot, or some other encouragement.
Do some employees live close enough to ride their bikes? Then put in a bike rack!
An average car produces 28 pounds of carbon dioxide for every gallon of gasoline it burns. So if your employees’ average mileage is 20 mpg, and they live 10 miles from work, they’re adding 28 pounds of CO2 to the air every day. If you manage to get ten of them to keep their cars in the garage and take public transportation, a carpool, or a bike to work, you’re keeping 280 pounds of CO2 out of the air every work day. Not bad!
Look in your dumpster. How much of the trash in there is packaging material? Count in cardboard boxes, foam peanuts, plastic bags, clamshell packages, cans, bottles, jars, etc. If you took all the packaging out, the garbage can would be half as full, wouldn’t it?
So a logical, easy step towards being green is to more efficiently use the packaging. A good start is to establish a philosophy that the only packaging that ends up in the trash is material that can be neither reused or recycled.
Cardboard boxes, for example, have countless applications. If you cut the tape along the bottom, the boxes can be easily folded up and stored. Or, if you don’t think you’ll ever use them, at least recycle them. Clean cardboard boxes are considered quality recyclables.
Packing peanuts and other materials like that can probably be saved for later use. Just put a bin in any room where boxes are opened, so the packaging material can be dumped into it. It doesn’t matter if you mix foam peanuts with bubble-wrap or other packaging material – the person looking for packaging material the next time won’t care.
Don’t overlook packaging materials such as paper rolls, tubes, and plastic sleeves. Establish a program that either reuses or recycles these. Just keep them out of the landfill, one way or another!
Remanufactured inkjet and toner cartridges have been around for years. Be cautious, however, and make sure that the product is truly safe for your printer and that the manufacturer will back it up with a guarantee against damage.
On the other end of this operation, be sure you don’t throw out your empty toner and inkjet cartridges. Nearly ever manufacturer welcomes those back for refilling or remanufacturing. (Toner bottles may be a different story – follow the manufacturer’s suggestions for recycling or disposing of these.)
Many businesses exist that refill inkjet cartridges on the spot for you. If the cartridge is still in good shape, why not refill and reuse it?
Recycled Paper Products
Using recycled paper in your large-format printer is one thing, but using recycled-content paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, and other paper products is an easy way to be green around the office. There is no shortage of these types of products – make it a company commitment to use them whenever feasible.
Here’s a big, easy way to save sacks of money and keep tons of pollution out of the environment.
Start out with an energy audit, or have one done for you. The energy audit will locate places where your shop is wasting energy, and offer solutions. Here are some likely ideas that will come up:
Light Bulbs – Replacing regular bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs is a no-brainer. A 14-watt CFL bulb is the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb. A CFL bulb costs more to begin with, but from there on out the money flows the other way. The annual cost to use that CFL bulb is about $1.29 (depending on electricity prices where your office is), compared to $5.52 for a regular bulb. A CFL bulb lasts 10,000 hours; a regular bulb lasts 750 hours. Put it all together and the CFL bulb is going to save you more than $50 in its life.
Heating Cooling – The energy audit may determine that your building is not insulated as well as possible, or windows and doors are not as well sealed as they should be. Repairing those problems can save money in winter and summer, since a key to keeping your place warm or cool is proper insulation and sealing.
Of course, an even simpler way to save money in your heating and cooling is to turn down the thermostate in winter and up in summer. Sixty-eight in the winter is plenty warm; make it 55 when you close at night. And 78 in the summer will be comfortable without being chilly. Tell your employees to wear a sweatshirt when it’s cold and short sleeves when it’s hot.
Remember that sunlight is good for more than just light – keep your shades open during the day in the winter allow the sun’s heat to reduce your energy bill, but closed in the summer to keep the office cooler (but there’s a trade-off – you might want that natural light in the summer).
Finally, consider the heat put out by your equipment. Switching to equipment that spews less heat may reduce your summer cooling costs.
Equipment – Upgrading to energy-efficient equipment is discussed in chapter 8, because that can be a major proposition. In the short term, though, make sure the equipment you do have doesn’t run needlessly. Make sure everything is shut down at night, or when otherwise not in use.
A simple way to make sure equipment is completely turned off is to use power strips. Many pieces of equipment continue running in stand-by mode even when the power switch is turned off. But turning off the power strip ensures that no energy is being sucked in by the machine.
Make sure your computers are set to “sleep” whenever they’re not in use, and to “hibernate” when they’ve been asleep for 30 minutes. The hibernate mode shuts off the computer in a way that doesn’t require programs to restart when you return to the computer. Another factor to consider is how long it takes the equipment – particularly printers and laminators – to warm up. Quicker warm-up times mean less wasted energy and less time spent waiting.
Indoor Air Quality
An important green issue that is sometimes overlooked is indoor air quality. This doesn’t have the star power of saving trees and reducing pollution, but maintaining good air quality in your business is one aspect of green that all of your employees will appreciate.
A key to keeping the air fresh indoors is to use cleaners that release a minimum of noxious fumes. Normal cleaners contain a mix of chemicals – including petroleum-based solvents, chlorine bleach, and synthetic fragrances – that can be serious irritants. Instead of these, look for products with the official Green Seal designation. These not only are less irritating, but they’re certified to have been manufactured with minimal environmental impacts.
Another indoor air quality issue is the ozone created by your printers. Ozone is a variant of oxygen, and can be unhealthy if you breathe it in large enough quantities. Ozone is created by the high voltage corona in the printer, which turns on during part of the printing cycle. Tips for minimizing ozone problems include not placing your printers in a small, confined area; positioning desks away from the printer exhaust; and considering ozone issues when you’re shopping for a new printer (some emit 10 times more ozone than others).
In addition to ozone, printers can discharge toner powder and styrene, which can cause headaches, eye and nose irritation, and other problems. Together, these are called “sick building syndrome.” Investigate your printers thoroughly to make sure you limit these problems in your workplace.