The ULS Report TM
Helping people Use Less Stuff by conserving
resources and reducing waste.
Volume 5, Number 2
It may be time for spring cleaning, but there's a blizzard out there! Of paper, that is. The rise of the service economy over the last 35 or so years has given rise to the paper economy. Both were aided by a revolution in widely used office equipment -- computers, printers, copiers and fax machines. And now, with the proliferation of home offices and home computers (and kids using computers at home and school), the same forces are also creating masses of paper clutter and waste where we live.
THE PAPER CHASE
Today, office paper and related business materials (brochures, flyers, newsletters, pamphlets, catalogs, etc.) represent the largest source of non-durable solid waste -- bigger than such typically vilified items as disposable diapers or plastic packaging. For perspective,the volume of office paper and commercial printing increased a whopping 245% between 1960 and 1994, from 3.9 to 13.5 million tons. During this time, all other solid municipal waste generated was up much less -- about 133% (which is still a lot!).
And even though much of this paper is high quality and easily recycled, we're printing, faxing,copying and collating memos at a much faster rate than can be dealt with by recycling programs. Whatever happened to the so-called paperless society?
Time to ULS!
Businesses have stuff hauled away by the dumpster-full. By using less and reducing the number of dumpster loads, the environment will benefit, but so too will the bottom line.
Given that up to 80 percent of the waste in a typical office is high-grade white paper, there's plenty that can be done to reduce waste. In fact, by creating a system that follows the three R's, it's possible to eliminate virtually ALL paper waste. We know Ð the only papers at our office that don't get reduced, reused or recycled are glossy advertising materials that we have little control over. We estimate that since starting our program, paper waste has been reduced an amazing 99%! Here's what you can do:
- Share electronic files, voice mail and e-mail with associates, rather than paper memos. Save what you need to electronically; use hard copies only when really necessary.
- Scan documents into the computer and transfer information by disk or intra-office network.
- If you must send paper to more than one person, attach a routing slip and pass along as necessary. Do the same with newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
- If your company has electronic funds transfer (EFT) for payroll, sign up for it. Have suppliers and vendors arrange for EFT between your firm and theirs.
- Reduce fax traffic by switching to fax modems. You can send and receive faxes on your computer and view them on-screen. For those worth saving, do so electronically.
- Try to skip cover sheets when sending faxes. Most letters and memos already include the name of the receiver, and your fax machine probably stamps your name and phone number on the top of each page.
- Subscribe to online rather than paper news services.
- Reduce the amount of paper that is easily available in the supply closet. Psychologically, when people see ream upon ream, they think that paper is plentiful and cheap. But when they see less and are led to believe that there isn't any more, or that additional quantities will cost more and be charged to their budget, paper consumption will drop dramatically! (Ditto for pencils, pens, clips, rubber bands, etc.)
- Reduce the weight of the paper used in your printers, copiers, and fax machines. Given how much paper the typical office uses in a year, even a few ounces saved per ream adds up quickly.
- Photocopy on both sides of the paper. The extra few seconds it takes to push the "duplex" -- or double sided -- button on the machine can help cut copy paper usage by almost as much as 50%.
- Reduce catalog clutter and third class mailings by calling the 800 number of the catalog and asking to be removed from their list, or put on a reduced list, if available. Call the Mail Preference Service for their direct mail reduction kit at 212-768-7277.
- Flip faxes over and use the paper again. If you want your faxes printed, get a "plain paper" versus a "thermal" fax. The thermal paper is harder to write on, discolors, and can't be reused or recycled.
- Collate old single-sided memos, faxes, etc. into piles, with the printed side face down. Separate them into piles of about 25 sheets. Staple each pile four times along the edge of one of the two longer sides. Use the paper cutter to divide the stapled pile into two stapled sections, creating 5.5" x 8.5" scratch pads.
- When all the name and address spaces on interoffice mail envelopes have been filled in, tape a blank piece of paper to the envelope and label with two columns, one for name and the other for address. (Better yet, have your art department develop a form.) Voila! The envelope can be used again and again!
- Keep a large plastic bag next to the shredder, and fill it when the shredder basket becomes full. Use this material for packing and cushioning, eliminating the need to purchase "peanuts." (Check with your mail room to see if they can use it, too.)
- Clearly mark recycling bins and provide an incentive for using them. A simple thing to do is to credit sections or departments for part of the money that the company receives when it sells the paper. (Ask your purchasing or maintenance department how much it is paid per pound of recycled paper. Weigh a full recycling bin to find out what it is worth and negotiate a credit. Use the money for employee perks, such as a party, charitable donation or whatever employees would like to work towards.)
- Use scrap paper and paper clips rather than sticky notes.
- Buy and use white paper as much as possible. If you need colors, try to purchase light ones Ñ they use less dye and are easier to recycle. Use the cardboard back of paper tablets as dividers in your file drawers.
Other ways to reduce waste in your work area
That wasn't very hard, was it? Think of all the paper and money you just saved! Grab your reusable ceramic or plastic mug and reward yourself with a nice hot cup of coffee or tea.
- Switch to refillable pens and mechanical pencils. Long term, this will save money along with reducing waste.
- Encourage employee carpooling. Consider charging for parking space, or offer an incentive to those people who regularly carpool. Some organizations even provide vans for employees to use, splitting the cost of the van among the users and subsidizing part of the expenses.Thus, the cost to car- or van-pool is less than the cost of driving alone. Gas usage will drop too.
- Join the EPA's Waste Wise (800-EPA-WISE) and Green Lights (888-STAR-YES) programs, which can provide savings tips and also help you set and achieve conservation and cost reduction goals. Waste Wise examines all phases of your business, while Green Lights focuses (obviously!) on lighting, especially the use of fluorescent fixtures, bulbs and reflectors.
- When purchasing new equipment, look for the EPA's "Energy Star" logo, which means the unit is an energy efficient one. Also, have technical support folks make sure that all computers, monitors and printers that have Energy Star capabilities are actually using them.
- Setting up a home office? Check out the new multi-function machines that combine a laser printer, fax, scanner and copier. You'll not only reduce the amount of equipment you own, you'll save significant money as well as valuable office space.
- For laser printers, remanufactured cartridges can save 40 or 50 percent over buying new ones. Assuming you must make copies, invest in and maintain a quality machine that makes clear copies. And think carefully about how many copies you really need to produce.
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The results are in! We received thousands of entries from all over the country. As you may remember, we announced the contest on ULS Day 1997, asking children 6-12 years of age for their ideas about ways to reduce waste. Our judges -- Bob Lilienfeld of The ULS Report, Bill Rathje of The Garbage Project and Colleen Barton of Keep America Beautiful had a hard time picking winners, but pick we did:
ULS Day Contest Results
Calvin Cherry, Sun Prairie WI, age 9, Northside School: Every collection day, we combine our garbage and recyclable trash with our neighbors' trash so that the garbage trucks make fewer stops. This creates less pollution. [And we might add it uses less energy and saves on brakes and tires. You'll also get to know your neighbors!]
Grand Prize -- New Bicycle
Johnny Hoover, Chicago, IL, age 6: When we go to fast food restaurants, we always stop to give back all the extra sugar, creamer, salt and ketchup packets they put in our bags.
Runners-Up -- In-Line Skates from Rollerblade, Inc.
Tobay Salas, Hinesburg, VT, age 6, home school: When something breaks, I make it into something else. For example, the arm broke on my robot and I made it into a toy pocket clock. I didn't throw anything away, and got a new toy by using my imagination.
Emily R., Gadsden, AL, age 6, Mitchell Elementary: Buy water filters for your sink instead of bottled water.
Laura Cahalios, Little Neck, NY, age 9, PS 94: My mother buys immense containers of products like oil, flour and laundry detergent. She then puts the products into reusable containers for everyday use. We save money and reduce packaging waste because we don't buy a lot of small containers.
Judith A. Resnick Elementary School, Gaithersburg, MD: Virtually the entire school entered the contest, had a waste-free lunch on ULS Day and even made daily "public service announcements" on the public address system. Now THAT'S school spirit!
Matthew Benjamin, Mountaintop, PA, age 9, Fairview Elementary: My family reuses cereal boxes by turning them into magazine and file holders. Start with an empty cereal box, scissors, [reused] paper, tape and markers. Trim the box to make it look like a magazine file (e.g., cut it diagonally from one corner to a point about two-thirds of the way down the other side). Cover with paper, decorate and label.
Brittney Monserrate, Plano, TX, age 9, Sewell Elementary: Make a small animal exercise wheel by cutting the ends off a discarded chip can. Cover in pretty used paper and let your mouse or hampster roll around inside.
Matt Smith, Atlanta, GA, age 10, Johnston Elementary: Intead of throwing away mail, we use it as kindling and then put the ashes in our compost pile. I then put the compost on our flowers.
Joe Cartella, Rochester, NY, age 11, Apollo Middle School: We buy cereal in bags, rather than in boxes with bags inside. This reduces packaging waste and saves money.
Matthew Hodges, West Columbia, SC, age 11, Northside School: Buy quality products that will last for a long time.
Oak Johnson, Las Cruces, NM, age 7, Hillrise School: Instead of throwing items away, put them in a really big box. Whenever you have a project to do, go to the box and see if there is anything you could use. We saved our orange tops and used them to make scales for a big fish.
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Kids and Pests. Entymologists at the University of Florida are coordinating a statewide program to reduce the use of pesticides around children. The researchers are using a technique known as Integrated Pest Management, which relies on natural predators, rather than chemicals, to control undesirable species such as cockroaches and rats. For more info, call Phil Koehler, 352-392-2484.
Orange You Glad? Chrysler, ARCO Chemical and Texaco are testing a new antifreeze that is less toxic than current formulations, will last up to five years or 100,000 miles and uses up to 100% recycled propylene glycol. Besides replacing the more harmful ethylene glycol, conventional corrosion-reducing additives are being replaced with organic materials which are depleted more slowly, thus extending coolant life. The new product will be colored orange rather than the more traditional green. Contact Denise Sulinski, 248-512-2317.
It's in the Chemistry. The editors of Chemical and Engineering News have peered into their crystal balls and predicted the future of the chemical industry. If they're right, it's good news indeed. Among their prognostications: plants (green ones, not factories!) will become the main source of oil and plastics, and green chemistry and similar technologies will eliminate pollution from the industry. The editors went so far as to state that within 25 years from now, virtually no pollution will come from chemical plants. Bravo!
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Last issue, we asked for your help in controlling paper waste and the costs associated with The ULS Report. Our hearfelt thanks to those of you who switched to the electronic versions of the report and/or sent donations. It was also encouraging to learn how many loyal and happy readers we have, especially within the business community.
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The ULS Report is a bi-monthly publication of Partners for Environmental Progress. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Snail mail address: P.O. Box 130116, Ann Arbor, MI 48113
Editor: Robert Lilienfeld
Technical Advisor: Dr. William Rathje
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Copyright 1998 Partners for Environmental Progress
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