World Environment Day is coming up on June 5th, providing us with another opportunity to reflect on what we can to do help protect our planet. Many of us tend to focus on the small steps we can take at home – recycling, composting, etc. – or about the major initiatives that global corporations are undertaking to reduce their carbon footprint. However, there are also various ways through which businesses of all sizes can make their workspaces more sustainable and less wasteful. It starts with the type of office equipment we have - and how we are using it.
Even though technology helps aid our lives in ways we couldn’t live without, the improper disposal of tech products and the waste associated with them take an enormous toll on the environment. According to the UN’s Global E-waste monitor, the amount of e-waste generated worldwide in 2019 was up 21% in just five years (amounting to 53.6 million metric tons) and continues to trend upward. The UN report also found that only 17.4% of e-waste in 2019 was collected and recycled. We can do so much better.
The United States has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, but government actions alone will not be enough for us to achieve this, nor the many other benchmarks outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. Our deadline is less than 30 years away, which is like a second of a geologic era. Every individual and business must do their part now in helping minimize their environmental impact. In office spaces, the two biggest environmental challenges are e-waste and choosing the right technology to power a business.
Curbing E-Waste Through Proper Recycling
Recycling – the right way – is one place to start within your business. Whether it is a multifunction printer or similar products, vital office technologies are still in high demand and necessary for many businesses.
Toner cartridges, bottles, containers and drum units are all recyclable, so it is important to make sure you have a plan before you run out. Many manufacturers offer kits for bulk recycling, which include shipping boxes, liners and zip ties to make this process easier. Small businesses and solopreneurs can also turn to a wider variety of retailers, such as Office Depot and Staples, that accept toner cartridges and other accessories for recycling.
Selecting the Right Tech
We need to do our part to ensure we’re working with partners, dealers and clients to institute environmentally friendly practices. Every business should check to make sure that the vendors, dealers and equipment manufacturers they work with have sustainable practices in place within their operations, including designing and packaging products in an eco-friendly way, using recycled materials and plant-based paints and whether the parts provided are easy to recycle at the end of use.
When it comes to purchasing office technology, one reliable way you can confirm that the products are environmentally friendly is looking for ENERGY STAR® certified products. These labels indicate that the products reduce pollutants and offer extra savings on energy bills. Another tool you can use is a third-party rating system called the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool® (EPEAT) to source verified, environmentally friendly products including computers and displays, imaging equipment, cell phones, TVs and other devices.
Additionally, it’s important to look for printers that have internal finishers, rather than optional pieces of external machinery, for stapling, hole-punching and other elements to wrap up your print job. Printers that have these built-in, robust capabilities offer a lower carbon footprint due to their compact size.
If your business prefers to innovate as quickly as the latest office technology, leasing is also a great option to explore. This allows you to upgrade old copiers, printers and other office tech that could otherwise be less efficient. For example, newer printers are typically manufactured with energy-saving measures, such as holding printing jobs until you are ready to print and staying in sleep mode until a user walks up to the device. Leasing office tech means you will likely have the most environmentally-conscious products available to use every few years. This is beneficial not only for the environment but can also provide cost savings for many businesses.
If your business is still in the early stages of evaluating its environmental footprint and you find it daunting to figure out how to make it work, always remember that you can begin by taking small steps. Recycling your toner, carefully researching office tech products, and considering leasing options are just some examples of how you can get started. No matter how you decide to proceed, the important part is that you are actively considering the impact you have on the environment and what you can do to make a difference.