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Opinion: Do your part: Steps for a greener workplace

Adventures in Ink

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That person in the grocery store who loads cloth bags into a bike-rack-topped Subaru adorned with travel stickers? The one who fills a reusable cup at the coffee shop on the way to work?

Yes, that would be yours truly.

My life and home are sustainable. I am able to maintain that environment because it’s my space to develop.

However, the game changes in the workplace.

Creating greater amounts of waste is easier in offices. Think about it: Rather than using a metal utensil that can be deposited in a dishwasher at home, it’s easier at work to use a plastic spoon that can be thrown away quickly. And when all your staff is using plastic utensils, well, that’s a lot of plastic contributing to the already massive amounts disposed annually.

According to a study published by peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, 6.8 billion metric tons of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic produced becomes plastic waste. That’s 80 percent of the world’s waste being deposited in landfills or discarded as litter.

Perspective. It’s all about perspective. What we do every day has a broader impact.

So, what now? How can your workplace become more sustainable?

Ban plastic from the office kitchen. Instead, stock it with reusable cups, dishes and utensils. If you don’t want to make an investment in new products, ask every employee to donate to the cause by bringing their own spare pieces – one plate, bowl or utensil set – to create a hodgepodge collection that stays at work.

Another issue we have to talk about is the Keurig machine. Keurig Green Mountain Inc. sold more than 9 billion cups in 2015. That’s a lot of tiny, plastic cups in landfills – and in oceans and waterways. Keurig is now producing recyclable cups, which certainly is a win, although it’s taken a long time. A New York Times 2016 article on the subject made me laugh when the writer put it in perspective: “It is taking longer than it took for NASA to put a man on the moon, but in the coming months, the company will begin to sell K-Cups made of material that is easily recycled.”

Will your staff recycle K-Cups? Make sure they do. Put up a sign by the Keurig reminding them that if they use the machine, it’s their responsibility to recycle the leftover pods. Or invest $4.70 for a K-cup reusable coffee filter on Amazon so that staff can use their own coffee grinds in the machine. That’s what I use with Springfield Business Journal’s Keurig machine, and it works well.

What about paper? That’s another big conversation. Here at SBJ, we go through a lot of paper. I mean, a lot. However, I’m proud of the way we adamantly recycle this waste. That’s pretty standard. However, here’s a way to take it a step further. We also use paper twice in printers. We have special boxes to deposit paper with a usable white side to be reprocessed through printers before ending up in the recycling bin. It’s a smart system that works.

The bottom line is that the little things add up.

And, I’m certain you’ve heard it before – living sustainably is easier than you’d think and it’s as simple as cloth shopping bags and reusable K-Cups.

Sustainable living is not only an easy choice but also the right one. And it’s overdue for all of us as individuals and businesses to put forth an effort.

Let’s do this.

Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Hanna Smith can be reached at hsmith@sbj.net.

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