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Monday, June 21, 2021

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Everyone is under pressure to reduce their environmental impact. And at work, there is a combination of personal desires, and a corporate commitment to demonstrate a reduction in carbon footprint. In some sectors of industry, usage of energy is already subject to a “carbon reduction commitment” which requires businesses to look for ongoing reductions or face an increasing tax burden. With this in mind, what areas need to be considered when planning office supplies and the procurement of office consumables?

Despite the arrival of the computer and the dream of the paperless office, it is a fact that most offices continue to use a substantial amount of paper for letters, reports and communications of all sorts. While it is true that the production of modern papers uses less energy and raw materials than in days gone by, an increasing number of British users are demanding recycled paper. The key points to look for here are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label, the Blue Angel scheme, and accreditation from the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). Each of these has its own criteria for monitoring the environmental impact of office products, and a responsible supplier will be able to explain the key differences.

It is now possible to recycle an ever wider range of paper, card, plastics and other packaging materials. A decade ago, we all threw rubbish into a single bin, it went in a single sack and was sent to landfill. All that has changed, and now it is increasingly practical for office users to sort the material they are throwing out, and send a large percentage of it for recycling rather than going into a hole in the ground. Refuse disposal companies have become more and more adept at collecting sorted waste for recycling. And in the office, it makes sense to encourage this at the point the rubbish is produced. Many office supplies companies will be able to provide suitable waste bins to help encourage office workers to sort their rubbish and dispose of it responsibly.

Often, simple changes in the office environment can help reduce overall energy consumption, and this step can have a double benefit in reducing business running costs, too. A review of lighting could identify opportunities to change lighting, perhaps reducing overall light levels and using more efficient task lighting instead. It is also now becoming easier to obtain LED lights, which can often provide the same light as traditional fluorescent lights but use a third less energy. The bulbs will last longer too, further reducing waste.

Whenever a new office machine is required, it makes sense to review the carbon footprint of its replacement. Today, we might expect a replacement printer, computer or screen to use less energy than the one it is replacing, but this needs to be checked. Some machines run very hot, further increasing the need to cool the premises during the summer. Printers may look attractive initially, but increase their carbon footprint by consuming ink cartridges which cannot be recycled. A responsible supplier should be able to advise on the options, while helping to select the most appropriate piece of equipment for the task at hand.

Many of us are still coming to understand the overall environmental impact of the goods and services we consume, including office supplies, as we go about our business. But one thing is for sure, the regulatory environment around us is driving us all to take a closer look, as authorities adopt a carrot and stick approach to encourage us to respect the environment more. For the sake of our children, we need to ensure we are all paying attention.
Posted in: Green Issues
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