Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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Trimming your waste

For decades, the federal workplace has been rife with exhortations to be vigilant for “waste, fraud or abuse.” But up until now, much of the “waste” part of that—whether perceived as waste or not—has been chalked up to the cost of doing business.

The new sustainability plans that agencies turned in last week under an executive order may start to change all that. Although the mandate for agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions may summon up visions of tailpipe exhaust, it reaches into every aspect of the workplace.

Almost everything you do in your workplace consumes energy that probably came from a carbon-based source. That means turning on your desk lamp, using the electric pencil sharpener, drinking from the water cooler, and using any materials that consumed energy during its manufacture—from the ink in your pen to the reams of paper that shoot through the copier. (And of course, the paper came from trees…)

Sustainability fixes include consolidating functions and facilities, closely metering and adjusting energy use, building more environmentally sound facilities, cutting the use of materials and supplies, teleworking, and so on.

But everything is a trade-off. The so-called “paperless” office relies on electronic media that consume plenty of energy. Your computer is still using juice during the five minutes you’re away from your desk. It’s like leaving the water running.

You’ve heard the oft-quoted phrase “change starts at the top,” and this administration has indeed gotten the ball rolling with the sustainability mandate, and with its efforts to solicit ideas from the ranks.

Still, none of that works without individual efforts to behave in a way that conserves energy and resources.

So we throw out this question: Is there anything you as an individual have done (on your own, without the prodding of management) to behave in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way in the workplace?

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Sep 14, 2010 at 4:02 PM


Reader comments

Tue, Sep 28, 2010

Honestly, if you believe the comment from Mississippi you are uninformed.

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 Brenda Berkley

We had a team meeting this week. There was a lot of bottled water purchased. I saw those bottles being thrown into the regular trash cans at the meeting. This was a good opportuntiy to use recycle bins.

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 WI

Our office recycles glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, print 2-sided, batteries, cell phones, energy saving lights set up in all garage and bathrooms (turn on w/movement), lights out when people are not present.

Wed, Sep 15, 2010

I don't use the paper plates/plastic utensils provided by our office.

Wed, Sep 15, 2010 Cindy Waldport, OR

That's right! Our IT person asks us NOT to shut down our PCs because of updates, etc. The government has been re-using file folders and old notebooks for years. Maybe a few get tossed but most people are trying to help where they can. At Residential facilities like Job Corps, we've found that we throw away about 250lbs of food solids daily. Students throw it away and we send it to the dump. This creates methane gases in landfills. Our trash bill is huge. We are looking into using a food pulper that can accept napkins, cardboard, old food, and paper plates. This pulper turns the waste into a sanitized, reusable compost that is much like dried cow manure. We are very excited about it. To the guy getting the harrassment suit: I'm so sorry people are that way! Too chicken-livered to discuss it with their bosses so they go off the deep end. I'm so sick and tired of all the grievances and whining.

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