Q: I want to make my workplace more environmentally responsible. What can I do?
A:As conscientious as many of us try to be in our own homes, it can be pretty frustrating to get to the office and see so much waste - endless photocopies destined for landfill, lights blazing 24/7, disposable cups piling up by the water cooler. Just because we're overworked doesn't mean the planet should be.
Talk to your office manager (or whoever's in charge of this kind of thing) about bringing in more responsible options. Sure, most will gripe about the extra cost of buying recycled paper (as opposed to virgin clear-cut), but tell them you could easily make up the difference by starting a corporate policy around photocopying and printing on both sides of the page. The average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets every year. For shame!
Grassroots on Danforth and Bloor sells 100 per cent post-consumer recycled (PCR), chlorine-free paper for a decent price ($3/100 sheets). If that's still too much for your stingy office, Grand & Toy and Staples/Business Depot both sell office paper with about 30 per cent PCR content from $5.95/500 sheets). They also carry hanging file folders and files, envelopes, portfolios, Post-it Notes and adding machine rolls with as much as 95 per cent PCR. Need help staying organized? Pick up an At-A-Glance daily appointment book printed on recycled paper ($28.30) or some Nature Saver recycled metal paper clips ($1.34/100, both at Staples/Business Depot). Ditch metal (and all the eco baggage that comes with mining) by switching to a staple-less stapler ($7.60, www.findgift.com/gift-ideas/pid-43876). Note: it only works on a few sheets at a time. Despite high-tech dependencies, we still write by hand once in a while. Why not scribble with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified Dixon Ticondera pencils ($3.23/12 at Staples). Pen chewer? Ditch those petroleum-derived plastic ones and get corn-based pens at Grassroots ($1.85 each). They're not edible, but they do biodegrade.
We all know coffee is the ultimate office supply - certainly productivity would plummet without it. Why would anyone want to brew up pesticide-laden beans when several office coffee suppliers offer fair trade java ? Check out www.transfair.ca/en/products for a full list. Oh yeah, and get everyone to bring in a reusable mug while you're at it.
Machinery cacking out on you? If your old tech can't be revived and you're in the market for new goods, make sure to look for the Energy Star label. A home office using Energy Star computers, printers and fax machine saves enough electricity yearly to light your house for over four years.
As for your bosses, tell them an Energy Star computer in sleep mode consumes about 80 per cent less electricity than it does in full-power mode and can save up to $55 per monitor yearly. An Energy Star water cooler will save about $30 a year. For more eco number crunching, check www.energystar.gov.
If you're shopping for office furniture, steer clear of Scotchguard-coated chairs. The coating might keep your lunch from staining your seat, but it's made with the same family of chemicals used in Teflon (highly persistent perfluorochemicals found in our bloodstreams and waterways). Knoll on King East (www. knoll. com) has much greener office chairs that use up to 64 per cent recycled plastic or aluminum, are available with 100 per cent recycled fabric and are made using VOC (volatile organic compound)-free coatings. The company also has desks made with FSC-certified wood. Keilhauer on Birchmount (www. keilhauer.com) and Herman Miller (available at Backs Etc. on Eglinton West or Yonge, Quasi-Modo on Queen West and Nirvana Home Collection on Bloor West, www.hermanmiller. com/canada) also make eco-sensitive office furniture for those with bigger budgets. Baltix Sustainable Furniture has the earthiest line we've found. Baltix makes work stations with materials like wheat, sunflowers, even old currency (www.baltix.com, call Canadian rep Jeff Reeves at 416- 925-0669 for local dealers).
The budget-minded should head to Ikea, where finishes are at least formaldehyde-free and all wood is said to come from well-managed farmed trees, not natural forests. But perhaps the cheapest and most ecologically sound route is buying used. ABCO Business Interiors on Lawrence East has a huge selection of gently used office stuff. Or avoid buying anything at all and get your furniture refurbished (Efford's Furniture Refinishing on Finchdene specializes in office gear).
Lastly, if you're tired of coming to work and choking on the chemical trail the cleaners left behind, encourage your employers to consider eco-friendly alternatives like Earth Concerns Cleaning Service (www.earthconcerns.com).
But higher-ups can be hard to convince. Start by suggesting smaller steps that will save them money, like turning off lights and computers at night and turning down the heat or air conditioning by a few degrees.
And, of course, lead by example - even if it's just from your little cubicle.
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