Most of us are aware of the chilling environmental catastrophe lurking around the corner if we don’t do something drastic now to lesson our tread on the planet’s fragile ecosystem. Here are some no-nonsense, effective tips to not only alter your behaviour to save the planet but make considerable long-term cost and efficiency savings for your organisation’s accounts too.
1. Analyse your current carbon emissions
In order to gauge your progress in saving energy overall, you’ll need to know where you started. Begin by factoring in all your energy costs with this useful tool: the Resurgence environmental calculator.
2. Avoid duplicating your business classification scheme
I’ve seen organisations with multiple schemes, with the requisite work, meetings, confusion, and endless paper trails hanging off each overloading staff time and printers all over the show. Hierarchies for the website, another for the intranet, the shared drive folder structure, the disposition/retention schedule, the FOI publication scheme, the physical file structure, and everyone having a different structure on their email folders abound.
Senior management need to bite the dust, ditch the fluff and set up a classification scheme based on the functions and activities of the organisation. If you want a public facing, jargon free version, map it to the one functional based scheme. This will reduce the organisational and printer workload considerably, freeing up staff time to concentrate on what your business does best.
3. Centralise the printers to one energy-efficient behemoth
Having a printer beside every workstation is asking for everything to be printed. Just making it slightly less convenient for staff to print every post-it note they like will prevent much paper, energy loss and noise pollution from browning your work environment. But things need to be thought through to prevent a mutiny.
1. Get flashy flatscreen monitors so staff don’t suffer from eyestrain.
2. Give the old monitors and printers to anyone willing to homework (see below)
3. Go out and purchase a kick-ass energy efficient super-printer. Help available from the US Dept of Energy.
4. Make sure the printer prints double-sided and set this as the default. This can halve storage costs as well as paper use.
5. Use recycled paper as the default. If senior management insist on glossy or archival paper, use one of the old printers for this and allow staff to opt for it when printing for clients or perpetuity.
4. Cut off email strings
Many is the time I’ve opened a file to find the contents being one long email printed out each time a new voice is added to it. It starts off as one page, then finishes as a fifteen page email string, with another ten pages of disclaimers at the end. Not only is it a waste of paper, it increases the need for storage space exponentially and is a potential liability since people often do not delete internal discussions before when they forward an email externally.
Solving the problem is easy. If you are using Outlook, head to Options/Preferences/Email Options, then after ‘When replying to a message:’ choose ‘Do not include original message’. Do the same for forwards if you’re really keen.
‘What about the context!’ I hear you scream, ‘it’ll be lost and receiving an email will be like butting into a conversation half way through’. Not so. As with Gmail and Thunderbird, Outlook allows you the option of viewing your email folders, including the inbox, by conversation. Choose ‘View/Arrange by/Conversation’. All those emails will be joined together in a convenient fashion. When you print the most recent one, instead of twenty-five pages you will only get the content of the email.
5. Give staff a homeworking-friendly records management system
Send ’em back. Humanity’s footprint is never so large as that caused by the daily commute of billions of workers from home to work. That includes you and the staff in your organisation. So creating a work environment conducive to working from home has huge benefits for the planet, but you are also likely to see happier and more productive workers, a dispersed business continuity risk, and less money spent on office space as your staff find their way to work by crawling out of bed.
There are some things you’ll need to set up, such as the scanning and up-loading to the records management system all incoming mail, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so staff can access their information needs records from home, and performance management contracts so staff have work to complete and targets to meet.
6. Work towards EDRM
We’ve all been dreaming of having all records up and running on the servers but, according to the latest AIM study, this is a pipe-dream for most of us. Cost, culture and complications all contribute to the lack of EDRMS implementation, but there are ways to move your organisation towards getting it. Firstly, get that single business classification scheme up and running, it will make it easier to transfer the records across. Second, get someone trained in how to use a system – this involves choosing one, and if you want cheap and effective the only options are Microsoft’s Sharepoint (particularly cheap if you’re in government) or, better still, the open source Alfresco.
Once you’ve got these understood and staff are using the folder structure, you can gradually roll these systems out, starting them off as an intranet, then eventually adding document and records management to the mix. Figure at least a couple of years to get it up and running effectively.
7. Off-set your carbon emissions
Face-up to it. We can’t eliminate all our emissions. But we can do something to mitigate their effect, like planting trees, investing in renewable energy, eating less meat, or buying carbon off-sets, controversial as they are (see the New Internationalist issue devoted to the topic).
Head back to the Resurgence environmental calculator and figure out your emissions. If your organisation runs a canteen or purchases food for functions, add your food footprint to it from the food carbon footprint calculator. Tot up your tonnage, then head over EcoBusinessLinks and choose the best carbon off-setting provider according to their analysis.
Just do it!
Keep checking your emissions, create a graph, and put it up on the wall. Show staff you mean business, and assist them in any ways they can to reduce their personal impact on the environment. Only through rapid, drastic changes such as these combined with a strong political will to punish polluters can we make a real difference.