“Good management is one of the best ways to help the environment”. How to lower office costs? Can you make money by sorting your waste?

Read an inside story of Pavel, an office manager of an international non-governmental network organization that maintains its headquarter in the Czech Republic.

“People either don’t recognize what is metal and what is plastic, or they simply don’t give a damn”- once you decide to implement a waste sorting system in your office, you will face these typical challenges. It may sound simple, but some plastic waste items do contain a metallic-looking layer, which is actually not metal. Or, a glass-looking component may be actually be made out of plastic instead.

After all, for a motivated office manager or owner, implementing a waste sorting system is not too complicated. In his office, Pavel has reduced amount of unsorted, non-recyclable waste to a small bin that is emptied once per week.

“If you are charged by the waste collecting company according to your bin’s size and how often they have to dispose of its contents, and if this charge is big enough, this could be a good move”. But of course the waste system in your district or city is contingent on the local rules…

In Prague, the biggest organisation responsible for waste collection is Pražské služby (Prague services) and they are the ones who set the rules on waste separation in the city. Your first move should be finding out which company is in charge of your waste bins and then check out their website for tips on how they want the waste to be sorted. They sometimes provide leaflets and stickers with explanations on what to put into which bin, which you can then stick on your office waste bins. There should be specific symbols and/or numbers on the wrappers which correspond with particular bin types. Each symbol or number represents a particular kind of material, so you can easily recognise where to throw it away.

As for compostable organic waste, you can order a special paid service from Pražské služby: “You just call them and order a special bin, which you place somewhere in your yard or in front of your house. The company will then come regularly to empty it.” You need to pay for this service in addition to your mixed waste bin, but you can split the cost with others in your building or neighboring buildings, which minimizes how much money you personally need to spend on this service.

“If there is no bin for metal waste, just bring it to the nearest salvage yard” says Pavel “and then you can confirm with them whether or not there are any special rules for sorting metal”.

Furthermore, in his office, they are in the practice of reusing the printer paper – on the other side. For external and/or formal documents we use new recycled paper. Nowadays recycled paper can have amazing quality, including gloss shiny covers, which can still come from recycled sources. But we prefer to use the least-processed paper available, with minimal whitening/blanching”

What have been the costs of starting a waste separation policy in the office? Only buying additional bins, and the aforementioned extra charge for collecting bio-waste, which can be shared. “And the time it takes to go to the salvage yard once a month or two… but you can also make some money!” adds Pavel with a grin, ”4 Czech Crowns for 1 kg of iron, anyway…”

In any event, his office has managed to reduce its energy bills by encouraging good habits, mainly switching off all the electric equipment that doesn’t need to work overnight and all “stand by” control lights – switched electricity outlets. The last person leaving the office is always responsible for checking to see if all lights, computers, monitors and printer are switched off. In big offices this could be organised with building guards or receptionists.

“Still, the crucial move in environmental office management is choosing the right business premises. When looking for the office space, pay attention to the heating system installed in the building, heating of running water and the premise’s insulation. Insufficiently insulated windows especially can waste a lot of heat. Think about how much artificial light will be needed during the working day and how the walls are insulated. A properly isolated building doesn’t lose a lot of heat. This is another way that you can make your office bills substantially lower.”

If you are considering improvements to your insulation or heating system your current office, make sure to check out state and European subsidies that you can get for these sorts of investments. In the long term, it should end up paying for itself.

Recently, the mobile operator Vodafone invested in a shift to green energy. In this case, their decision may attract more environmentally conscious customers. You could also consider how a “green image” could bring you additional PR benefits.

Furthermore, “take a closer look at soft measures, such as the travel policy of your organization. If your strategic planning is efficient, the environmental measures should go hand-in-hand with saving money.

We have a policy of choosing the train instead of planes whenever it’s reasonable, basically inside Europe. If someone needs to fly, it is better to get a direct flight instead of transfer flight, as a bulk of greenhouse gases are produced during landing and takeoff. The train tickets are more expensive…when you do the booking at the last moment. If you can plan the travel strategically and early you may find good ticket offers and you will avoid last-minute compromises, when the choices are limited and more costly. As you see, good time management is one of the best ways to help the environment.”

Pavel advises: “I would rather invest in long-lasting, high-quality telecom solutions, than travel tickets, as in the long run the environmental impact is much lower. And you will save lots of money by replacing travel with video conference calls and remote participation, whenever possible.”

Efficient overall strategic planning also helps the environment. “Imagine, you produce leaflets, which have no impact whatsoever on your audience or, more likely, you don’t even know what impact they have, because you have never bothered to measure it. It’s a waste of money and more waste for the environment. Here’s another example: your distribution plan for some product was wrong and suddenly you need to organize additional, separate shipments. Or, one department produced some product, which another department failed to distribute properly. When you look at it this way, efficiency really is the best way of alleviating environmental concerns.”

Links:

Waste segregation in Prague / Pražské služby: http://www.psas.cz/index.cfm/caste-dotazy/jak-spravne-tridit/

Ordering organic waste service in Prague: http://www.psas.cz/index.cfm/sluzby-firmam/odpady/svoz-bioodpadu/uvod/

Jobs in waste management: www.ecojobs.cz/en/tag/waste-management/