TALKIN’ TRASH: Good Practices for Small Businesses

Success of a business can be measured by the three E’s: economy, employees, and the environment. Most businesses are created to be economically viable — the business needs to make enough money to reap a profit. Employees who are productive, happy, and safe in their work environment help make a business successful. More than ever, it is important for a business to have a positive or at least a neutral effect on the environment in which they do their work. By reducing, recycling and reusing, a business can become more successful on all three of these fronts. The most effective way to reduce waste is to generate less in the first place.

Let’s start with writing, printing, and computer use. Green computing is great for the environment, and it can also be a huge boon for your business. Saving resources and extending the life of your technology are among the benefits. Here is a short list of ideas for applying reduce, recycle, and reuse to your office in regards to paper/computer usage:
• Establish a company-wide double-sided copying policy.
• Make scratch pads from used paper or outdated stationary.
• Circulate (rather than copy) memos, documents, periodicals, and reports.
• Put company bulletins on voice or electronic mail or post on a central bulletin board.
• Keep mailing lists current to avoid duplication.
• Reduce the amount of advertising mail you receive by writing to the Direct Marketing
Association Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008
to get off mailing lists.
• Proof documents on the computer screen before printing.
• Donate old magazines and journals to hospitals or libraries.
• Use reusable envelopes for interoffice mail.
• Have a place for recycled paper by the copier.
• Purchase energy-efficient equipment.

There is often a lot of waste in packaging. Here are some ideas to reduce the waste from packaging:
• Order merchandise in bulk. If your office is small, perhaps order some items with other
businesses in your same building.
• Purchase products with minimal packaging and/or in concentrated form.
• Establish a system for returning cardboard boxes and foam peanuts to suppliers for reuse.
• Minimize the packaging used for your products you make and sell.
• Use reusable and/or recyclable containers for shipping your products.
• Reuse newspaper and shredded paper for packaging.
• Reuse foam packing peanuts, “bubble wrap,” and cardboard boxes, or donate to another

The break room is an overlooked place can easily be made more environmentally viable:
• Encourage employees to keep reusable cups, plates, and silverware at work and
bring lunch in reusable containers
• If possible, arrange to compost food scraps. Give scraps to local farmers or pick up is
available in Lincoln County by ‘Project Earth” at 522-8224.
• Have a refrigerator and microwave available so people can bring lunch and break food or
beverages from home.
• Have a coffee pot and mugs – people can be responsible for their own mug at work.
• Encourage the drinking of tap water, if your water quality is good;
if the water is not potable, consider providing a bulk water dispenser.
• Have a receptacle for returnables in the break area.
• If you offer coffee to the public, use paper cups not polystyrene (aka Styrofoam); if your
business is small, consider using ceramic mugs and washing them.
• Use a soap dispenser by all sinks.

Tell your clients about your waste reduction efforts. Remember that reduce, recycle, and reuse strategies can help increase your profits by attracting new customers, expanding your work with existing clients, and savings in waste removal. A 2015 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research found that 82 percent of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility activities, like recycling and other eco-conscious actions, when making shopping and buying decisions. There is a growing demand for businesses using good environmental practices. Your customers and community will appreciate and reap the benefits of your environmentally responsible workplace. Your workers will enjoy it too; these practices help create good habits that employees can take home and share with family and neighbors. The paybacks of reduce, recycle, and reuse are at least four fold: your business’s image in town, financial, environmental, and for your employees.

By Kathryn Armstrong, PWA Member


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