Reduce & Reuse
Waste and pollution can occur at all stages of the product lifecycle: in the manufacturing process, during use, and certainly when the product becomes obsolete. Reducing consumption is the first step in preventing waste and pollution. The obvious result is that fewer products are needed and therefore fewer products are produced, used and disposed of in the first place. American wealth and consumer culture has given rise to many unnecessary and frivolous products and often leads to wasteful practice. In the workplace the tendency for overconsumption is often mitigated by budget constraints and an emphasis on efficiency. Still, the discerning office user will find numerous opportunities to reduce material throughput, in particular the use of products that contain acid, toxins and other hazardous materials. Oftentimes products with only minor blemishes or deficiencies are discarded for what is new. Though this act of narcissism is encouraged by the slick marketing campaigns (often touted as essential for productivity or happiness) it rarely generates significant performance improvement and serves foremost to accelerate the stream of waste and pollution released into the environment.
The imaginative reader will find the terms “reduce” and “reuse” enough to illuminate the path of greener purchasing. Treading deeper in to the issue it is instructive to point out that there is a fine line between needs and wants. In the work world it is often difficult to distinguish between products that increase efficiency and products that simply add luxury; sometimes they are one and the same. On this front it must be left to the user to reconcile the competing interests of environmental responsibility and creature comfort. In other areas the choice is philosophical. Look for products with inherent durability, a reputation for lasting craftsmanship, the potential for multiple owners, or that can serve a secondary function after the primary usefulness is spent. Also, seek products with reduced packaging and those that have traveled relatively few miles between the points of manufacturer and purchase.
- Eliminate non-essential or frivolous consumption. Start by making a mental list of product needs versus wants.
- Challenge yourself to achieve the same result using less. Paper is a good place to start. Also consider the use of writing utensils, ink and toner, glue, etc.
- Purchase durable, long-lasting products.
- Find secondary and even tertiary uses for products you would otherwise throw away.
Whereas reduction is more closely related to purchasing patterns, reuse is more directly associated with office practice. Having made responsible purchasing decisions, the challenge is to see how long you can make your products last. Obvious ways to reuse include using the back side of printed documents for scratch paper, re-labeling manila folders, and saving and reusing packaging materials such and envelopes, boxes, bubble-tape, and Styrofoam filler.
- Using durable coffee mugs.
- Using cloth napkins or towels.
- Refilling bottles.
- Donating old magazines or surplus equipment.
- Reusing boxes.
- Turning empty jars into containers for leftover food.
- Purchasing refillable pens and pencils.
- Keep a tray for scratch paper.
- Reuse paperclips, folders, binders, and other organizational supplies.