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May 19, 2015

Ways to Go Green at Work

At home, it’s easy – we separate the trash from the recyclables, place the items curbside (or make the trip to our local recycling facility) and call it a job well done. But what about at the office? How can employees go green at work?

Michelle Lee Guiney, Waste Management’s New England and Upstate New York (NEUNY) Total Recycling Program Manager has found answers to that question through successful initiatives that have reduced waste at her offices. The most recent, the “Tiny Trash Toter Tradeoff,” launched March 2015. The program replaces employees’ standard office trash bins with a desktop WM trash bin or “tiny toter.” The program aims to reduce the amount of waste generated by employees and eliminate the use of petroleum-based plastic bin liners, which take hundreds of years to decompose and harm WM’s Material Recovery Facility operating equipment.

To date, 77 percent of the workforce is participating in the program. Employees empty their tiny toters as needed into central bins located in common areas, such as copy rooms and lunchrooms. The success of the program correlates with national research, which states people think consciously about their consumption decisions – and how much waste they generate – by the size of their trash bin. The smaller the bin, the less waste.

Other green initiatives that were implemented at the NEUNY office include battery collection, plastic film collection, centralized trash containers and mandatory Recycling 101 employee training. Guiney constantly receives positive feedback from employees and management who are participating in the programs with comments such as, “why weren’t we doing this sooner?”

Guiney acknowledges that there are ‘good, better and best’ practices to help the environment. For her, a ‘good’ practice includes shutting off lights and printing on both sides of the paper , ‘better’ is assisting venues and national account customers with their sustainability goals; but, the ‘best’ has been driving green initiatives within Think Green.

To get started going green at any office, Guiney suggests initially taking simple measures, like reusing packing boxes and envelopes, bringing reusable containers to work for lunch leftovers when eating out and eliminating disposable items from the breakroom or kitchen area. In 2012, the NEUNY office transformed the kitchen area into a green space by removing all disposable items, including plates, cups and utensils and replacing them with reusable products that are dishwasher safe. The Area Vice President, Chris DeSantis, also spurred the green movement by procuring reusable mugs and water bottles for all employees at NEUNY. Guiney and the sustainability team that she co-leads identified a dozen green initiatives they want to implement. The sustainability team’s future green initiatives include replacing desktop printers with multi-functional printers in common areas and setting up double-sided printing as a default on employee computers.

Feeling inspired yet? Whether it is reducing the size of a personal office trash bin or choosing to drink coffee from a mug rather than a foam cup, there are plenty of creative and practical ways that employees can go green at work.