Changing Your World – A Little at a Time (and Contest!)

Changing Your World – A Little at a Time (and Contest!)

ByGroovy Green Mar 13, 2007

Update: Throwing this back up top, last chance to get in on the contest. Winner announced this weekend.

I feel pretty good today. That’s pretty odd, considering it’s peak doldrum season here in the northeast, in a city that just received 4.1″ of snow this morning, bringing our season total to 117″ glorious inches of the white fluff. (yes, that’s my front yard one week and 8 inches of snow ago).

Why I feel good is for the following reason: I sat in on a “mission committee” meeting at my company today. At least I thought that I would just be sitting in on it, but it turned out that I had top bill as a presenter on “how we can make changes at [company x] to reduce our environmental impact”. I soon found out that I had the plenty to talk about. The 20 extemporaneous minutes flew by. I dived right in to the “low hanging fruit” in our company, and the committee and I decided on 4 goals to reduce our waste, conserve materials and energy and reduce our carbon emissions. I’ll get back to those in a minute. First, what I want to point out, is that I told a few anecdotes today, based on information that I’ve gathered reading blogs, environmental magazines and articles in newspapers, and have seen in news reports. These were things that I thought that everyone had been at least exposed to, or at least have been given a chance to ignore. Boy was I wrong. The committee members faces lit up as I rambled off a few things that they could do to reduce their energy consumption at home:

  • reduce phantom loads – first defined phantom load. Let them know how all of the electronic devices are sucking a steady (though small) stream of power 24/7, 365 days a year. Then I told them how they could get rid of it – power strips, unplugging equipment when not in use. The jaw dropper to them is that the microwave clock uses more power during the year than the actual operation of the microwave.
  • a computer left on is like steadily burning 2 60 watt lightbulbs – one for the monitor and one for the computer. I taught them to put computers to sleep when not in use, and at least to turn it off at night.
  • conversion to CFL bulbs – a few members were aware of this, but I did notice a few pens jotting it down.
  • lastly – that “green power” is a choice in our area. I go with Green Mountain, which adds about $8 or so to my bill and would add only $8-12 to an average household to get 100% renewable energy (small hydro and wind). No one at the table had heard of this. This was a perfect wrap-up to my talk, and I am glad that it popped into my head at the last minute. “Now that I’ve gotten you feeling guilty about wasting electricity, here is a way that you can feel better while you cut back on your use…” I explained how the program worked and how they can easily sign up for it.

As you can see this meeting focused on electricity and ways to conserve energy. As “energy” goes, electricity seems the easiest for people to grasp, and most likely there is the most “fat” to trim out of that section of the household’s total energy use.

Here are the 4 goals that we came up with:

  1. Get large “blue bin” recycling containers for our office / post reminder notes on garbage cans. I was shocked to find out that we are not as diligent at recycling as I thought. There are large containers for shredding (and recycling) confidential paperwork in our office – due to HIPPA laws anything with someone’s initials has to be shredded, meaning about 60%? of our paper is recycled. That leaves all of the office memos, calendars, etc, that we could improve on.
  2. Make an announcement on Friday afternoons to make sure that everyone shuts down their computer for the weekend. (This may also be on a a daily basis.)
  3. We will be incorporating education on reducing vehicle miles driven into the orientation process, and encouraging time management into grouping travel to appointments.
  4. We will be joining in the “These Come From Trees” guerrilla public service announcement. Placing stickers on the paper towel dispensers in the bathroom and in the lunch room. I’d like to see one on every ream of paper too (or at least above the “copy” button on the copier.)

Yes there are many other things that we could be doing to reduce our companies impact, and we did touch on some of those. (I heard complaints about styrofoam coffee cups mentioned, as well as the lack of recycling in the lunch room.) Like I said, I could have gone on for an hour or more once those ideas started spilling out of me. This was a decent first step in the right direction, IMHO.

I realized two things today at that meaning. #1. I sure have been reading too many blog posts about the environment. #2. Yes, it is important to “be the change” in order to inspire others to do the same, but it is equally important to get out there and inspire! Yes it’s impressive to get your household impact down to 1.7 planets, or whatever measure you choose to impress your on-line buddies with, but how much impact on the earth can you have by convincing others to make a change? How far into negative planets does the scale go? How many tons of CO2 can you personally stop producing? Now, compare with the amount that you could reduce by making sure everyone turns their computer off each night before leaving the office? In a big office, that’s a lot of computers, and a lot of coal being shoveled into that energy plant.

Now, it’s your turn. Leave me a comment with what you are doing in your place of employment, church, friendship circle, bowling league, or other group of people that are in “your world”. Make sure to leave your email info in the box so I can get in touch with you. I’ll randomly draw from the commenters and send you our groovy copy of “Green Design“.