Five Easy Ways to Make 2013...Green (In Your Workplace)

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average U.S. office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. Not all offices recycle, which means that valuable recyclables like copy paper, cans and plastic bottles end up as landfill waste rather than as news products. The irony is that many of our co-workers are likely ardent recyclers at home so here are some simple ways to take the practice of recycling from home to office.

1. Get Management Buy-in

It's extremely difficult to have a successful office recycling program without the support of management; so, cross this hurdle by explaining the many benefits your company will enjoy by recycling. For example, recycling can save money by reducing garbage bills, give your company a marketing advantage as a "green business," and boost employee morale because it is proven that employees are happier when they believe that they are working for a company that "does the right thing."

2. Appoint a Recycling Coordinator

You'll need a leader to initiate this new recycling program. The coordinator should be someone who is enthusiastic about recycling or perhaps someone who currently recycles at home and is familiar with the process. Depending on the size and nature of your office, it may be better to appoint a team to share the responsibilities of this duty.

3. Audit Your Waste

Don't worry! This step does not require you to dig through office trash cans! Simply walk around your office and conduct a visual assessment to determine what types of recyclable products you and your co-workers use most. Start by walking through copy rooms, break rooms, conference rooms and loading docks (places where groups gather). You'll likely see paper, cans, bottles and cardboard; but, you may also see other recyclables such as palettes, packaging peanuts and electronic waste.

4. Plan Collection

Once you've figured out what type of waste products your office produces, you'll need to see what your local waste management companies can and cannot recycle. Start by asking the company that collects your garbage if it also provides recycling services. If it does, VOILA! If not, try logging onto helpful websites such as earth911.com which has a "recycling directory" or use a phone book to find local recycling companies.

Once you've figured out the company you'll be using, order outdoor recycling bins and plan a pick-up schedule.

5. Start Small

Don't overextend yourself or your co-workers. The goal is to make recycling just as convenient as it is to simply throw something away. Start with a pilot program which collects only one or two recyclables that your office uses in large quantities and which are easy to collect, like paper or cardboard. Once your plan is successful and your co-workers understand how convenient and simple recycling can be, it will be easier to incorporate products such as bottles and cans. Adding one or two products at a time allows the leader(s) to troubleshoot any problems that may arise from recycling that particular product and it creates confidence in the system amongst your co-workers.