Leave No Trace: At Work Edition
[Editor's Note: This is a new series dedicated to sharing practical know-how for treading a bit lighter and lessening our environmental footprint in very every day kinds of places. New 'editions' will appear from time to time. Enjoy.]
Fellow hikers, backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts should be familiar with the Leave No Trace ethic. It’s a platform for learning (and practicing!) ways to leave as little an impact on Nature as possible while enjoying ourselves in the natural world. It espouses leaving only footprints and relishing the memories of our experiences.
As I committed to at the end of the post on challenging the Throwaway Culture of Convenience, I continue to be mindful of what I consume each day. That also means being mindful of what I may or may not being throwing away as a result of that consumption. Here, the concept of Leave No Trace applies well to this mission of stepping lighter in our everyday lives.
Many times, it’s easier to leave no trace at home: We’re in an environment that we create; we incorporated things throughout to help us live a certain way. That might not be the case when we step out of the house.
Take work for example. Aside from our homes, this is the place where most of us spend the majority of our waking time each day. Often though, it is a physical environment that you may not have created from scratch, putting you at the mercy of someone or something else when it comes to your ability to leave no trace. (Here is how to change that.)
As a result, sometimes you need to get crafty and learn a few things to make leaving no trace easier to do. What follows are steps that I’m taking each day; steps that anyone can do simply and easily.
FOOD & DRINK
One of the simplest (and cheapest!) ways to leave no trace is to being your food and drinks with you to work. This way you control everything from the packaging to the utensils to the clean-up. The image to the right shows my ‘toolkit’:
- A reusable bag to carry my “tools” in
- A re-usable coffee/tea mug and (BPA-free) water bottle takes care of the hydration end of things
- A spork (combination spoon and fork) is the best all-in-one utensil ever invented in my book. (You can pick up one of these at any outdoor sports or camping store.)
- And a cloth napkin to handle everything from spills to drying off stuff.
- The re-usable plate is for when I’m in a pinch and have to buy something from the cafeteria in our building. It makes no sense to put a muffin or sandwich on a one-time-use Styrofoam or plastic plate only to throw it away moments later. Sure, you’ll get a few looks the first few times you use it, but who cares?
This is the bane of any office existence; the mounds and mounds of paper that is printed and copied on only to make its way to the recycling bin or (eeks!) trash. There are easy ways to limit your paper use or avoid it altogether:
- Ditch the File Cabinets. Computers have hard drives. Companies have storage networks. We should use them. Avoid printing and storing anything by saving your digital files and viewing them on-screen. Laptops help immensely with this, allowing you to take your documents with you to meetings and viewing them on screen.
- Take Digital Notes. I spend a lot of time in meetings. That usually meets taking notes. Instead of using spiral notebooks, I start a new Word document and take it from there.
- Project Yourself Better. Avoid printing (and carrying!) copies of documents and presentations to your next meeting. Project (literally and figuratively) yourself better by using a projector hooked up to a desktop or laptop computer. (As an aside, here is an AMAZING resource for taking your presentations to the next level: Presentation Zen.)
It’s tough to avoid using energy at work, but there are easy ways to reduce your use of it:
- Put Them to Sleep. Your computers and monitors that is. Turn them off at the end of the day or when you’re away from your desk for long periods of time. Our Green Team at work calculated a savings of $10,000 annually for every 350 employees who did this every night for a year. Don’t forget about copiers and other office equipment too.
- Take the Stairs. Get fit and save energy at the same time by avoiding elevators — especially for moving between only a few floors.
- Blow(dry) Yourself. Using paper towels to dry your hands requires the ongoing processing of millions of trees and generates tons of waste. Electric hand dryers are a better alternative. Even better, keep a small cloth towel with you and re-use that.
- Stay Out of Your Car. Avoid unnecessary travel to and from meetings by using teleconference lines and/or web-based meeting technology like WebEx and Live Meeting. If you have to go somewhere, try to carpool or take public transportation.
Are you taking steps to leave no trace at work? Feel free to leave a comment to share and inspire. (If you’re reading this post via email, click on the post title to come directly to the site.)
Like this post? Feel free to share it with your circle via Twitter or Facebook. Or consider subscribing to get future Leave No Trace editions delivered right to you. While you’re here, you might also like these posts:
- 7 Steps to a Successful Grassroots Movement at Work
- An Open Letter to CEOs Who Make and Sell Stuff
- Take Action: 10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Community TODAY
[Leave No Trace logo via LNT]