Trimming your waste

For decades, the federal workplace has been rife with exhortations to be vigilant for “waste, fraud or abuse.” But up until now, much of the “waste” part of that—whether perceived as waste or not—has been chalked up to the cost of doing business.

For decades, the federal workplace has been rife with exhortations to be vigilant for “waste, fraud or abuse.” But up until now, much of the “waste” part of that—whether perceived as waste or not—has been chalked up to the cost of doing business.

The new sustainability plans that agencies turned in last week under an executive order may start to change all that. Although the mandate for agencies to cut greenhouse gas emissions may summon up visions of tailpipe exhaust, it reaches into every aspect of the workplace.

Almost everything you do in your workplace consumes energy that probably came from a carbon-based source. That means turning on your desk lamp, using the electric pencil sharpener, drinking from the water cooler, and using any materials that consumed energy during its manufacture—from the ink in your pen to the reams of paper that shoot through the copier. (And of course, the paper came from trees…)

Sustainability fixes include consolidating functions and facilities, closely metering and adjusting energy use, building more environmentally sound facilities, cutting the use of materials and supplies, teleworking, and so on.

But everything is a trade-off. The so-called “paperless” office relies on electronic media that consume plenty of energy. Your computer is still using juice during the five minutes you’re away from your desk. It’s like leaving the water running.

You’ve heard the oft-quoted phrase “change starts at the top,” and this administration has indeed gotten the ball rolling with the sustainability mandate, and with its efforts to solicit ideas from the ranks.

Still, none of that works without individual efforts to behave in a way that conserves energy and resources.

So we throw out this question: Is there anything you as an individual have done (on your own, without the prodding of management) to behave in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way in the workplace?

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