Monday, July 13, 2009

Get to Know the Green Stuff

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people." Whether or not you believe the controversial arguments for or against global warming, the fact remains that there is a finite amount of land in our nation and the fundamental issue of sustaining it remains.

Companies continue to expand their efforts in the area of environmental sustainability. However, to be successful, we need the participation of every member of the community in order to implement energy conservation strategies and to maximize our recycling efforts.

How is my Aluminum Can Related to Energy?

Energy costs continue to rise. So, what does the cost of energy have to do with recycling aluminum cans? Consider the following:

  • Making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95 percent less energy than making a new can.
  • Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can's volume of gasoline.
  • In 2003, 54 billion cans were recycled. This is an energy savings equivalent to 15 million barrels of crude oil - America's entire gas consumption for one day.

Now, consider this. The average American consumes 2.5 beverages a day while at work. Multiply that by the number of employees in the workforce and that's a lot of aluminum... and a great deal of energy! Recycling programs and energy programs, as you can see, are very closely linked.

How Can We Save More Energy?

  • Turn off monitors, printers and copiers nightly and on weekends. Do not use screensavers as an alternative to switching off the monitor. Screensavers consume energy. If you plan to leave your computer for more than two hours, switch off your monitor.
  • Turn off photocopiers at night if a low standby feature is not available.
  • Where possible, replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).Using CFLs instead of comparable incandescent bulbs can save about 50 percent on lighting costs. CFLs use only one-fourth the energy and last up to 10 times longer.
  • Switch off all unnecessary lights. Use dimmers, motion sensors, or occupancy sensors to automatically turn off lighting when not in use.
  • Where feasible, use natural lighting near windows instead of electrical lighting.
  • Close or adjust window blinds to block direct sunlight to reduce cooling needs during warm months. In the winter months, open blinds on south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your workspace. At night, close the blinds to reduce heat loss.
  • Unplug equipment that drains energy when not in use (cell phone chargers, laptop chargers, fans, coffeemakers, desktop printers, radios, etc.).

How Can I Reduce Waste?

  • Use mugs instead of paper or Styrofoam cups for coffee or drinks.
  • Consider a two-sided printer the next time you need to buy one.
  • Photocopy only what you need. Always use the second side of paper, either by printing on both sides or using the blank side as scrap paper.
  • Print email only when necessary.

How Can I Reuse Items to Reduce Waste?

  • Set aside paper that is only used on one side so that it can be reused for such things as taking rough notes or phone messages. Paper can be stored in a centrally located storage box, possibly next to printers or photocopiers so that everyone can use it.
  • Invest in rechargeable batteries and battery chargers for digital cameras, flashlights, and other small devices.
  • Save and reuse packing material.

How Does Recycling Lead to Savings?

Recycle plastic bottles, metal cans, paper, batteries and more at the office, just like you do at home. You do recycle at home, don't you? Let's use paper as an example. Did you know that the average per capita paper use in the U.S. in 2001 was 700 pounds (318 kg) while the average per capita paper use worldwide was 110 pounds (50 kg)? Did you know that in the U.S., 45 percent of paper is recycled? Compare this to 52 per cent in Japan, 67 percent in Germany and 77 percent in the Netherlands. It's time to really think about what we do with paper and other recyclables. Additionally, did you know that many companies receive rebates for recycled materials? Each time you recycle your cans, bottles and paper, you are not only helping the environment by diverting materials from landfill, but you may also be helping the bottom line.

As you can see, there is a long list of actions each person can take to support both your business and the environment. The simple recycling of a can or turning off of a light can go a long way. Remember that the environment, the cost of energy and recycling programs are strongly related.

This author writes on a wide variety of topics both business and non-business related (numerical modeling, environmental aspects, process improvement, business analysis) and runs a consulting business at

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