Greener Printing Methods and Products for Small Businesses

Cartridge ChangingIn Office Depots 2012 Small Index Study, they found that 60% of small businesses want to green their ink and toner cartridges. Not only are printer and toner cartridges expensive for businesses, they have a high environmental cost. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 350 million printer cartridges are thrown away each year, and each one takes over 450 years to decompose.  That’s a lot of cartridges filling up our landfills.

There are several ways to green up your printer usage.

  1. Recycle Used Cartridges: Recycling used printer cartridges is a popular way to save money and help save the environment. Many office supply stores will take back used cartridges and give you a store credit in return. Office Max and Staples both offer a $2 credit for each cartridge, which also saves you money on office supplies if you purchase from these businesses. There are also numerous toner cartridge recycling businesses popping up nationwide. In addition to the environmental benefits, recycled cartridges often cost half of what new cartridges do, offering savings to business owners.
  2. Use Soy Ink: Another option is to switch to soy ink, instead of the more common ink products, which are petroleum-based.  Soy ink has several benefits. It is made from soy oil, which comes from a renewable resource, while petroleum products are not. Soy ink is more biodegradable, degrading four  times faster than regular ink. Also, less soy ink is required for the same amount of printing, leading to few cartridges made and fewer cartridges thrown away.
  3. Consolidate Printing: A final option is printer consolidation. Consider removing desktop printers and fewer networked printers. This leads to less printing by your staff and fewer cartridges that need to be purchased. Educating your employees on the costs of managing paper is also beneficial for a company attempting to go green in the printing department.

If you would like to move to a paperless office, then contact us for more information.

Small Businesses Can Save Money by Preventing Pollution and Waste

A recent story in the Daily Journal of Commerce notes that small businesses in Washington State found that by preventing pollution and waste they saved money. Over the past four years, specialists worked with small business owners to “help them properly manage, store, and dispose of hazardous materials” so they wouldn’t end up in the air, water, or soil.

Why it Matters

These efforts are important considering that DoSomething.org reports: 

  • 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of America’s lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life
  • 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into U.S. waters annually
  • Each year, U.S. factories spew 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the air, land, and water
  • Over 80% of items in landfills can be recycled, but they’re not costing taxpayers millions of dollars

Results of Helping Small Businesses Prevent Pollution

Because of the efforts in Washington State, one golf course took action to prevent pesticides from leaking into the ground, including developing a prevention and clean-up plan, as well as moved gas cans into cabinets for flammables. Additionally, a group of dental offices along with two veterinary hospitals adopted practices to dispose of hazardous waste, such as dental amalgam and fluorescent tubes, while a group of specialists worked with a local mall to correct storm water system problems.

Your Small Business Can Prevent Pollution and Waste

As a small business owner, you may be wondering how you can do your part to help prevent pollution and waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that when your small business generates waste, it costs you more money because you pay for it twice – “once when you buy it and the second time when you throw it away. The bottom line is that preventing waste will save you money.”

Some EPA suggestions for waste prevention include:

  • Purchasing durable, long-lasting materials which reduce waste and hopefully will reduce cost
  • Using products free of toxic materials to improve air quality and reduce toxins in the environment
  • Reducing the amount of packaging to reduce waste
  • Recycle and compost waste materials

When it comes to running your small business, you have a choice to improve your local community’s environment. Let us show you how. Click here to find out about how we support small businesses.

The Greenest Way to Dry Your Hands

You washed your hands and now what? Do I blow dry, towel dry or air dry? What is the greenest option? Interestingly enough there have been studies done on this.

Dyson, the maker of air dryers actually commissioned a study by MIT called Life Cycle Assessment of Hand Drying Systems. The study claimed that Dyson’s own hand dryer produce70% less carbon emissions than the conventional hand dryers or paper towels (obviously 100% recycled paper was better than virgin paper).  Greenbiz.com did a nice article review on the Life Cycle reports findings.

Overall, most studies find that hand dryers will be the greener choice in about 95 percent of circumstances. It is the option that is lowest in carbon emissions and waste. However probably the greenest option of all is to carry your own handkerchief and dry your own hands. This is a custom in Japan and some parts of Asia and has worked well.  No worries on paper towel dispensers being empty or dealing with hand dryers that don’t seem to work anymore. You take your own drying into your own hands!

Reduce Your Plastic Use and Improve your Health and the Environment

There has been a lot written about plastic lately. Not only is it harmful to the environment but overwhelming studies are finding plastic harmful to your health. Consider these facts;

  • Plastics production produces 14 percent of toxic air emissions in the U.S., and each plant emits an average of 300-500 gallons of contaminated wastewater per minute. (It’s Easy Being Green book)
  • 100 million plastic bottles dumped in US every year. Each bottle will take over 1,000 years to biodegrade.  (SIGG)
  • BPA (a plastic hardening agent prevalent in bottles, cups and lined tin cans) is so prevalent in food packaging and other consumer items that prior research has detected its presence in at least 90% of Americans. A group of 20 San Francisco residents had 66% less BPA in their urine after three days on a diet of fresh, organic and unpackaged food, scientists found. (Silent Spring Institute)
  • 500 billion plastic bags or wraps are thrown away in America each year and are created with 12 million barrels of oil. (DropthePlasticBag.org)

Find out the facts about plastic for yourself with these resources;

Plastic Disclosure is a great website that offers facts and information about the harmful effects of plastic.

GreenBiz released this article a few weeks ago about the plastic use in corporations.

New York Times released this article on the issue of plastic and waste

If you want a more lighthearted approach, view the movie Bag It, that was released early in 2011. It discusses all the issues with plastic. For a review, go to this blog entry.

Five Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Your Home

In a recent article on food waste by e-magazine, they cited that roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year—approximately 1.3 billion tons—gets lost or wasted. This was based on the report, FAO report Global Food Losses and Food Waste, which was released May 2011. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that Americans are responsible for most of this food waste—more than 34 million tons of food was tossed in the U.S. in 2009, which amounted to more than 14% of the nation’s total municipal solid waste stream. And only 3% of food scraps are recycled into compost—the remaining 97% is sent to landfills where it rarely decomposes and instead rots and produces harmful methane gas which contributes to global warming.

Here are top 5 tips you can do to reduce food waste in your home;

  1. Create a Shopping List and Menu Plan: Plan out the week of meals and figure out how much you need to purchase for your family. You will reduce food waste by only buying what you need.
  2. Make Smoothies: instead of throwing away wilted veggies or fruit, convert them into a smoothie. Go to Smoothie Recipes for some ideas.
  3. Buy Only What You Need: consider purchasing in bulk, when possible, and only buy the quantities of food that you need. You can also freeze un-used fruit and vegetables and use them at a later time.
  4. Compost: The best way not to feel guilty about throwing away unused food, is to compost it. Consider getting a home-based composter for your yard. Go to composters.com which has a broad range of composters plus information on how to get started.
  5. Portion Control: Start with smaller portion helpings on plates and let each family member take more if they want. This is the quickest way to reduce food waste.

DIVE! is an excellent movie on food waste. Learn more about it on our past blog post DIVE!.

Plastic Industry vs. Reuseable Bags

An interesting lawsuit has been announced between The Plastics Industry and Chico bags, a reuseable bag company based in California. In Green America’s announcement of this in Stand Up Against Big Plastic.

An interesting lawsuit has been announced between The Plastics Industry and Chico bags, a reuseable bag company based in California. According to Green America’s article Stand Up Against Big Plastic., the lawsuit is about ChicoBag’s claims that its products are superior to plastic bags with regard to environmental impact. There has been some debate around this topic of what is more environmentally friendly when you take into the account the entire lifecycle and manufacturing process of bags.

According to a academic paper on the plastic bag footprint, Plastic Grocery Bags: An Ecological Footprint, with extraction of the petroleum, the use of toxic chemicals and emissions during the manufacturing process and in particular the disposal and environmental issues around making the plastic bag adds up to some harmful impacts.

On the other side, some research has said that a cloth bag needs to be used 173 times to compare to a plastic bag environmental footprint. This is based on these reusable bags are made in China and use a higher amount of water and fertilizer in their production, along with the transportation footprint.

A report commissioned by the Environmental Agency of the UK was released in March 2011 called Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags, came to the conclusion that all multi-use bags- whether plastic, cotton or paper—need to be reused multiple times to reduce the environmental footprint. They also found that the biggest environmental footprint is resource use and manufacturing over the end of life impact.

As many environmentalists note the best case scenario is always to reduce and reuse as much as possible. The less we use disposable bags and the more we reuse the bags we have the better it is for the environment.

42 Ways to Reduce Waste

Collin Beavan, star of environmental movie, No Impact Man, came out with his list of 42 ways to not make trash. Collin did a one year experiment of changing he and his families behaviors to a more green lifestyle that he profiles in No Impact Man. One of the goals was to be zero waste and he came pretty darn close!

The average American generates over 1,600 pounds of trash per year- more than twice the garbage of the average European. If all Americans recycled paper, plastic and glass bottles, and aluminum cans, this would divert over 51% of the waste in our current landfills. If all Americans composted food scraps and yard waste this would divert another 25%.  Each American has the potential to divert over 75% of their current waste just through recycling and composting.

Companies are trying to do their part. A report by McKinsey and Company called Reducing Our Footprint found that global companies have already taken measures to reduce more than 1.5 billion pounds of packaging waste since 2005.  However there is still room for a lot of improvement. According to research published by the Natural Resource Defense Council, annually, airlines throw away 9,000 tons of plastic, enough aluminum cans to build 58 Boeing 747 jets, and enough newspaper and magazines to cover a football field 230 meters deep.

Another great website to learn more about reducing waste is Reduce.org.

Bag it! Movie

Recently at the Boulder Film Festival the movie, Bag It! was presented. A very entertaining, funny and delightful film about how plastic affects our life. Featuring Jeb based in Telluride, a normal guy, just trying to find out the answers about plastic and how it affects our environment, community, oceans and health. It provides excellent statistics and information about how plastic gets consumed in our daily life.  You can purchase the DVD online or go to their ‘Showings’ page to see when it will be coming to your area.

They also have a ‘Take Action’ page of specific actions you can take to eliminate plastic from your life.

Flat Out by Tupperware: Alternative packaging for to-go items

We are bombarded by to-go packaging. Some of the packaging is nice and hard to throw out but difficult to re-use. Tupperware has come up with a great, portable solution called Flat Out!

I am usually not a fan of plastic type items however, this collapse-able bowl product is a great replacement for to-go packaging. They actually flatten and can be easily stored in a briefcase or bag. They come in 3 and 4 cup sizes. A perfect solution for restaurant to-go items or leftovers.

Discontinue Using Plastic Bags in Your Business

Plastic bags are just a mess for the environment. Worldwide there are now 500 billion plastic bags used annually. If you haven’t seen the big plastic patch in the ocean, then watch this video from Good Morning America. Unfortunately, these bags are petroleum based and don’t seem to break down in our landfills or water causing major toxins and pollution issues. Cities like  San Francisco have banned plastic bags and other cities like Boston and Portland are considering it. Be in the forefront and refrain from using plastic bags in your business. Here are some options;

Bring Your Own: Ask your customers to bring their own bags. Better yet, create a promotional re-useable bag and sell it. Companies like Chico Bag are nice convenient to carry.

Offer Compostable Bags: Consider purchasing and using compostable bags. Roplast Industries and BioBags both make good compostable plastic-type bags.

Offer Recycling: In the interim, offer recycling containers and disposal for the plastic bags. They need to be clean and dry and usually #2 or #4 plastic which most of the regular plastic shopping bags are made from.  There is an organization called Plastic Bag Recycling that provides a system and container to help businesses recycle plastic bags.