Easy tips for making work more eco-friendly

I've been trying to make the place I work a little more eco-concious. It's slow going and some things I just can't control, but there are a few things I've done that you can do too.

Tips the average worker can apply

  1. Ask yourself if I need to print this. - Think about how much paper offices use each day for stuff that is printed, then discarded. We could all try to do better in this by asking, "Do I really need to print this document?" If so, try printing it on fewer pages or by printing on both sides of the paper. If it's an internet document, you can use the tool GreenPrint World to preview your document and remoce those pesky last pages with just one line on them or to remove unnecessary images.

  2. Bring your own utensils, plates, cups, etc. - If your office provides plastic utensils and styrofoam cups, you can cut down on their use and subsequent disposal by bringing your own, reusuable utensils from home. I drink coffee every morning and bring it with me in a stainless steel travel mug. I then use this mug to refill the coffee at work, plus the travel mug keeps it warm.

Tips a business can use, cheaply

  1. Recycle - Most waste haulers have a recycling program. You can contact them, sign up for it, and then put recycling containers in prominant places such as the lunchroom. Just recycling the aluminum cans and plastic bottles from machines can help. Even better, recycle the paper from the offices and the junk mail.

    Remember to always recycle your e-waste so the toxic chemicals in printers, computers, etc. do not enter the landfill. Many places will remove it for you and recycle it for a reasonable fee. Have a collection day a few times a year for broken or non-working electronic items to be brought to a central location for pick-up.

    Another easy, free, tip is recycling printer cartridges. Most laser toner cartridges have a mailing or UPS label in the new cartridge so that you can ship the old one back. If not, check the company's website for information on printing a label. HP is very good about doing this and they also have a box you can order to fill with spent ink-jet cartridges and then ship back, all for free

  2. Buy recycled paper - Most office supply stores sell recycled paper products. Purchasing products made from post-consumer recycled paper helps to prevent new trees from being cut down. The higher the recycled content, the less energy and water used to make the paper and the less waste produced.
  3. Purchase compostable or biodegradable breakroom supplies - If you aren't able to switch everyone to using their own, reusable utensils, there are more options available each day for purchasing compostable or biodegradable supplies. Sugar-cane plates and hot cups, disposable cutlery made from cornstarch, the list goes on. Just start searching your office supplier's site or catalog for the words "compostable", "biodegradable", or "recycled" to see what they offer and find what works best for your workplace.

These are just a few things I've done where I work, what have you done where you work?


http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Paper/Recycled/ - facts about recycled paper

http://www.recycled-papers.net/ - recycled paper info

http://www.conservatree.org/ - tips on choosing paper

http://earth911.com/paper/paper-recycling-at-work/ - recycling paper in the workplace

http://www.recyclespot.org/business_tips.asp - starting a recycling program at work

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/work-connect/office-ewaste-recycling.html - e-waste recycling

http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship/environment/recycling/product-recycling.html - HP recycling information

http://www.b3.net/customer/home.php - Baumgartens, a supplier of compostable utensils and other supplies

Funny thought...


I hate when I forget my bags.

How to stop being a packrat

I am a packrat. I fully admit it. I have a hard time getting rid of stuff. Over the past few weeks, though, I have been trying to reduce and de-clutter, and do it in a way that's good for the environment.

First, I cleaned out all of my closets. I had tons of clothes I haven't worn for various reasons. If your closet is overflowing, take a day and go through it and ask yourself, "When did I last wear this?" If it's been a year, ask, "Why haven't I worn this? Does it not fit right? Is it something that isn't flattering or just not my style anymore?" If it's a yes to those answers, then put it in a pile to donate, provided it's in good shape. I took most of my stuff to the Goodwill in town, as it's only a few blocks away, but you can check shelters in your area or post the items for free on places like Freecycle, if that's easier for you. If it's something a bit pricier or a unique vintage item, then you can try selling it on eBay or Craigslist. Vintage items seem to sell best on eBay and then you know that someone really wants the item and will enjoy it.

After sorting out all the items I could get rid of, now I had to put the stuff to keep back in the closets. I am not an organized person. Since I had everything out and pared down, I took the opportunity to rearrange and organize my items into storage boxes, that I then labeled. It's so much easier to find things when you label the boxes so that you can see them when you open the closet.

I also have a bad habit of keeping papers. I don't want to throw them away but I also don't have the space to store them and many of them aren't important. I had tons of recipes I had printed from blogs and cooking sights. I kept those and sorted and arranged them in binders so I could find them later. I sorted out the important papers I should keep, and filed them in the filing cabinet. The rest I tossed in the recycling bin. Remember to shred anything that contains personal information before getting rid of it.

My place is coming along now. Int he future, I will post about my adventures buying and selling furniture on Craigslist.

Organic Patio Gardening

Nothing is better than the taste of a freshly picked, perfectly ripe tomato. However, those of us who live in apartments may think we can't grow huge tomato plants. That would be wrong.

I've been able to grow tomatoes and other vegetable for a few years using different containers. The first ones I tried were the Topsy Turvy tomato and herb planters. Both are meant to be hung up. The tomato planter has the plant growing out the bottom and the herb planter has multiple spots to plant herbs. I live on the bottom floor so this was perfect for me as I could hang it from the deck joists of the above patio.

When the apartment complex I lived in put in corrugated roofing between the top and bottom patios, I didn't get as much sun on the upside-down planters. Most of the sun hits the ledge of my patio, which is at ground level. Since tomatoes love sun, I tried using an Earthbox last year. I had seen these on "Mexico, One Plate at a Time" with Rick Bayless. The planter fit on my patio perfectly and the tomato plant grew well. It was huge and produced plenty of tasty tomatoes.

I ordered more Earthboxes this year to expand my growing. They are really easy to use. There is a tube that you pour water, which keeps the plants watered. They have attachable caster if you need to be able to move them around, as well as a staking system for large plants like tomatoes.

Many large hardware and garden centers sell organic potting mix and fertilizers, so you can fill your containers with this and be on your way to having fresh, organic vegetables, no matter where you live!

Greening the workplace, Pt. 1

A few months ago someone at work approached me about recycling. I would love to recycle here. I get so many junk catalogs and mail that could be recycled, not to mention all the cans and bottles from our vending machines. Unfortunately, recycling is not my decision to make. I've gone to our Purchasing Manager about contacting our waste disposal company. I know they have single-stream recycling so we wouldn't even have to rely on people to seperate their items. I think I need to write up a plan and actually go to him with it, along with the others who support recycling.

At least we recycle our e-waste. My boss wanted to just throw it away, but we have a standing PO with a company to take our old computers and such for recycling.

So far, the only "greening" I've been able to do is replace our plastic cutlery with compostable ones and try out a compostable coffee cup to try to replace the styrofoam ones. I found the coffee cups and cutlery from Baumgarten's in the Conserve line. I was having a hard time finding a greener option for disposable coffee cups that wouldn't burn people's hands. These work really well! Having everyone bring their own, washable dishes would be best but most of our employees work in the plant and there isn't space to store and wash all those dishes.

Plants for sale

Opportunity Enterprises is having a plant sale every weekend in the month of May. Opportunity Enterprises is a non-profit organization that helps people who have physical, mental, and/or emotional disabilities gain self-suffiency. The plant sale will benefit the vacation fund for their clients.

The plants will be on sale Fridays from noon to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through May 30. The sale is being held at Yeager's Greenhouses in Valparaiso, IN at 348 N. 450 E.

CFL, is it worth it?

I've heard much about how much energy compact flourescent light bulbs (CFL) can save you but I've also been concerned about the mercury content of them. I live near Lake Michigan. The lake and other waterways are already polluted with mercury from powerplant emissions. My concern with CFL bulbs is that so many people will just throw them away instead of recycling them, causing the mercury to enter the environment through landfills.

The fact that many household items are toxic and need to be recycled isn't widely communicated. There are communities where curbside recycling isn't offered, forcing the consumer to find a place to recycle these items and take them there or wait for a community recycle day, storing these items until then.

Today I got a tweet about an article on a blog called TheEnvironmentalAge.com titled "So Called Green Lightbulbs Poision Many Workers" that addressed one of the concerns I have about CFL bulbs. Their article also links to previous articles they have done on this subject. For me, I am still unsure of whether the energy savings these provide is worth the mercury in them. Am I just replacing mercury with mercury? Something to think about and research.


Welcome to my new blog about being green and about environmental issues. I picked the title "Green Isn't Easy" because it isn't. It's easier to throw things away rather than recycle them; it's easier to use disposable dishes than to wash dishes; it's cheaper to buy conventionally farmed foods than it is to buy organic foods or those that are less intensively farmed. I find that I am continually learning and adjusting my habits to be friendlier to the earth. As I do this, I am going to post about what I wonder about and what I learn.