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Reducing waste in an office

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Protecting the environment is important to my civil engineering consulting firm, but so is saving money. That’s why we decided to start a number of initiatives to save money by reducing the amount of waste our business creates. Here are ten ways we cut back on our trash and saved money.
1. We e-mail contracts to clients. We used to send our contracts via courier, but with electronic signature technology it is much more practical to have them virtually sign and send the documents back to us.
2. We recycle. Everything from paper to plastic bottles is recycled in our office. Not only does it help the environment, but it reduces the amount we spend on dumpster fees.
3. We send reports electronically. Our environmental reports can be hundreds of pages long. E-mailing them as pdf files saves us money on printing, reduces our waste, and saves money on our postage costs.
4. We transfer blueprints via CD. Our blueprints take up too much file space for most of our clients to get them via e-mail, so we transfer the files to CD and mail the disk. We save on printing costs and we aren’t contributing to a landfill.
5. We use well water for our testing. A lot of our soil testing involves testing drainage which requires a lot of water usage. Rather than use tap water, we use well water. We’re not wasting potable water by pouring it into the ground (part of the testing process), and we saw savings on our water bill.
6. We bought Energy Star appliances for our break room. When the refrigerator finally died in our break room, we decided to spend a little extra to replace it with an Energy Star rated appliance. We have plans to do the same when our microwave goes. If may have cost us more upfront, but we’re not wasting electricity and we cut down on our power bill.
7. We turn off our computers at night. The same is true for our lights. Too many businesses waste electricity by leaving equipment on when no one is using it. While sleep mode for things such as printers and the fax machine is a good option, we found that investing in more efficient computers that start up quicker in the mornings made it practical for us to turn off our machines when we left work in the afternoon.
8. We donate our old equipment. We take our old computers and printers and donate them to our local school district. We get a tax deduction, and our office equipment doesn’t end up in a landfill.
9. We receive our trade journals in electronic format. The amount of mail our small office used to get was staggering. Our receptionist was probably throwing away several pounds of glossy, non-recyclable paper every day. By getting our magazines and trade journals electronically, we’re better able to share relevant articles and we’ve cut down on our paper waste.
10. We cut back on office cleaning. The professional service we hired to clean our office placed fresh bags in each trash can every night. By having them come only a few times a week our trash cans get a little fuller, but we’ve cut down on how much we’re putting into a landfill.

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