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You, too, can have an eco-friendly workplace

By Staff | Apr 25, 2012

Every month I create a 15-page Excel worksheet full of fascinating stats, awe-inspiring data, and life-changing graphs. I then use my Microsoft Office wizardry to create a cover sheet with a table of contents to assist those unable to read page headers. Finally, I print 20 copies of this vital document with the printer’s staple setting engaged and distribute the precious findings to my colleagues.

The whole process is a bit tedious but is validated when I nestle a copy into each inbox – atop the previous month’s report?? You mean no one even bothered to lift January’s report out of their inbox? No one even glanced at the godforsaken cover sheet, let alone flipped open a page to the actual information? I print over half a ream of paper – sometimes a full ream if I forget to correctly format the page – that no one ever uses!

I felt a forest writhe in agony, heard the individual trees scream. Realizing how an office environment can inadvertently cause you to rape the environment was a painful discovery but one I took seriously.

In the ensuing months I made several changes to my daily grind, not only to “save the whales” but to inspire my coworkers to follow in my tiny carbon footprint.

Fact: You will use more paper this year than the number of times domestic house cats throw up in North America. Incredible!

As I’ve already mentioned, the first and easiest step to an eco-friendly office is to eliminate all paper waste. It might be hard, but just bite the bullet and throw out any and all paper in your office. This includes memos, sticky notes, contracts, books, anything that is currently using paper. Books are the worst offender. They have dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of pages. Throw away the books.

Fact: For each packet of sticky notes you devour the icebergs melt 1/64th the size of a newborn Giant Panda. Whoa!

When sharing this stat at the office, one colleague said, “Sure, easy for you to get rid of all your paper – you have a fancy laptop and smartphone. How will I doodle in boring meetings and make notes of my boss’s Chinese take-out order with no paper?” Well, her body’s biggest organ had the answer: that’s right, skin! Grab a Sharpie and jot away on your hand, arm, leg, forehead, buttock – whatever part of your epidermis is most readily accessible. Plus, now you won’t lose your notes. Win-Win!

Fact: Every time you bring your lunch to work in a paper bag a baby seal gets clubbed, and it’s estimated that 23 monarch butterflies are killed in the making of each plastic sandwich baggie. Holy Moly!

Obviously the most responsible solution as a champion of the environment is to just not eat. Unfortunately, a week of this landed me in the hospital with a plastic feeding tube down my throat. (This greatly upset me as when I was fluttering in and out of consciousness I demanded the nurse use a bamboo shoot, but medical facilities are even worse than offices when it comes to ravaging our Mother Earth.)

The best alternative I’ve found is to bring a small lunch (reduce!) in a glass mason jar (reuse!). I’ve noticed my coworkers must wash their midday meal containers, but what a waste of water! Plus, I find the flavors from the previous weeks’ lunches meld deliciously (recycle!).

Fact: Engaging in these selfless acts of environmentalism will cause your colleagues to refer to you with affectionate nicknames like that “thin-smelly-tattooed-Girl-With-the-Dragon-Tattoo-wannabe-freak.”

These playful monikers don’t bother me. I found Lisbeth Salander to be a strong and inspiring female character and enjoyed the entire Stieg Larsson trilogy. I mean, when I was a naive book-loving nature-hater.