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Creating an eco-friendly office

Seven tips for greening the workplace, as environmental concerns increase in SA.
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Earth Day 2008, celebrated on 22 April, highlighted the need for South Africans, who have a growing track record, to redouble their efforts to consider the environment.

Recycling has been catching on in SA, where people have easy access to the requisite infrastructure. In 2006, consumers and businesses recycled over 900 000 tons of paper. The majority was in the workplace where employees have direct and easy access to paper recycling bins.

Government set in place a national waste management strategy with an action plan incorporated between 1999 and 2004 to minimise reliance on landfills and recycle more trash.

Several private trash collectors have successful separation and recycling efforts in place, and in November last year, Gauteng and Western Cape school kids established a Guinness World Record when they collected almost two million cans for recycling in a special drive.

New avenues constantly open up to South African consumers and businesses to recycle their garbage to reduce its impact in the environment and reduce our consumption of precious natural resources.

Some of the avenues already open to people in the workplace:

1. Cut paper use: Printing on both sides of the page is called duplexing in the printer industry. Printing multiple images per page and printing only the quantity needed at the time needed saves paper and energy. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates it takes 10 times more energy to manufacture a piece of paper than to create another print or copy.

2. Recycle the paper used and use recycled paper: Install bins in several office locations to make it easy to collect paper for recycling or for reuse as notepaper. They're readily available in SA. Commit to buying recycled paper - it can meet the same performance specifications as non-recycled paper and some don't use chlorine in the manufacturing process.

3. Conserve energy: reduce expenses and save the environment. It costs money to generate power and it hurts businesses financially when there is none. Eskom's recent woes have resulted in a number of national energy-saving initiatives that include people switching off their geysers at home when they leave for work in the morning. Companies can help that process by using energy-efficient multifunction devices, printers and copiers that meet Energy Star standards. Energy Star is a joint programme of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy that set stringent energy-efficiency standards.

4. Replace copiers or printers with products that do it all: An office copier, two printers and a fax machine can consume 1 070kwh of energy each year. But if one multifunction device can handle all document needs, it uses only 800kwh annually. Xerox studies show that some devices typically use 20% to 30% less energy per year than the individual copier, printer and fax products they replace.

New avenues constantly open up to South African consumers and businesses to recycle their garbage to reduce its impact in the environment and reduce our consumption of precious natural resources.

Rob Abraham is MD of Bytes Document Solutions.

5. Don't throw away empty toner cartridges: Reputable vendors provide customers with prepaid postage to return cartridges for reuse and recycling - they should also remanufacture cartridges and test them to the same performance specifications as new products - or, consider using solid ink printers, which eliminate cartridges altogether and generate about 90% less waste during use than a typical colour laser printer.

6. Seek office equipment designed for remanufacturing or recycling: Despite more than a decade of proof, there are still buyers who mistakenly believe products with recycled parts are not as good as those built with new parts. The major vendors' devices are designed with recycling and reuse in mind and involve rebuilding and upgrading returned products and parts to as-new performance and appearance. One company alone has diverted almost a billion kilograms of waste from landfills since 2001 and energy savings from parts reuse totalled 500 000 megawatt hours - enough energy to light almost 400 000 homes for one year.

7. Use software to simplify the way documents are used: Cut back the time and energy spent on manual paper-based processes with workflow management systems and collaboration tools. For paper-intensive processes like legal discovery or mortgage loan document management, special software combined with scan-enabled multifunction devices can help reduce errors and improve version control - and ultimately eliminate the costs of producing, storing and shipping paper documents.

* Rob Abraham is MD of Bytes Document Solutions.

Rob Abraham

MD of Bytes Document Solutions

Rob Abraham is MD of Bytes Document Solutions.

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