While most companies are more focused on staying out of the red than they are on being green, others try to balance both ecological and economic goals. One example: Anthro Corp., a technology-furniture firm based in Oregon that’s gaining attention for a 20-year-old program to try to produce zero landfill.
“Our motto is: ‘The less in our garbage cans, the better for the earth — and our bottom line,’” says Cathy Filgas, the manufacturer’s co-founder . “You can make a big dent with just the small stuff — office paper, mail, cardboard, and plastics. We save over $300 a month by making double-sided copies and print-outs. That’s a chunk of change right there, and every little bit adds up.”
Anthro’s corporate principles include a commitment to sustainability, so they’ve challenged themselves with an audacious goal, one that forces them to constantly think about what they can do to inch toward that moment.
Are they close to zero? No, but they recycle an impressive 70% of their manufacturing waste and source recovered materials over less expensive — and less sustainable — options.
Using their experience as a guide (they’ve been named to the “100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon” list multiple times), they suggest a few simple and practical tips for how employees at any organization can implement an environmental program at work:
1. Start with a passion, and send co-workers an invitation to join a committee to guide sustainable efforts. Often, concern about the environment is widely shared but people feel they lack the time to learn exactly what can be recycled or where it should be put.
2. Meet your local hauler. Find out what they do with the recycling and what they can do for you. Your hauling fees will be reduced if your trash bins are empty and your recycling tubs are full. And the hauler might actually pay you for some of your recycled materials (cardboard, plastic, metal, etc.).
3. Put recycling tubs everywhere. Make it easy for employees to recycle.
4. Start a compost pile. Why throw away good mulching material for gardens?
5. Reuse paper. Keep trays in employee cubes so they can put aside paper that is only used on one side. Re-use it in copiers and printers.
6. Don’t break the circle. Flex your purchasing power by choosing environmentally-friendly supplies, components, and packaging. Ask vendors: Is it non-hazardous, recycled, reusable or recyclable, long-lasting, and energy-efficient?
7. Pass it on. Offer hard-to-recycle items to employees, vendors, or local business and community groups. One company’s trash may be another’s treasure.
8. Walk, bike, or carpool. Encourage employees to leave their cars at home. Your H.R. department could issue stipends to staff members who use an eco-friendly means of getting to work, such as driving a hybrid vehicle.
9. Green. Greener. Greenest. Keep looking for new sustainable practices, even if it means revisiting the same topics. Example: restroom hand-dryers or paper towels —which one is kinder to the environment?
10. Get support from the top. Employees who see their bosses reducing, reusing, and recycling are much more likely to join in themselves. The more upper management enthusiastically supports a green program, the more successful it will be.
It may be difficult and time-consuming to launch an environmental program, and certainly to keep one going year after year. Like Anthro, though, you will likely find that the results are worth the effort.