Green Seal recently honored the IEEE Washington Office as a Green Office Partner for promoting a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable work environment.
The office, serving as IEEE-USA and IEEE Computer Society headquarters, was among 14 in the Washington metropolitan area to receive recognition in The Green Seal Green Office Partnership Program. It was chosen for a workplace sustainability review in September 2014, courtesy of the American Society of Association Executives Foundation, which provided a $500 grant to support the activity.
Green Seal Project Coordinator Ben Walsh toured the national capital workspace with a 45-item checklist, evaluating it against a set of mandatory and optional criteria:
- Waste reduction & recycling
- Office supplies
- IT equipment & management
- Kitchen & pantry supplies
- Operational systems
- Staff training & education
Required by law in Washington, D.C., office recycling goes a long way toward keeping items out of landfills and reusing their component parts. Popular items include cans, paper and plastic.
“The big thing is, you don’t want to have people to go looking for recycle bins, because if most don’t see [one], they’ll just go, “Well I don’t see it, so I’ll just throw it in the trash,'” Walsh said. “So you want to make it as easy as possible.”
IEEE Facilities Director John Hunt arranged for IEEE’s participation in the program, and attended the Green Seal certificate presentation in Washington. Marnie James, D.C. office green team coordinator, worked with Green Seal representatives and IEEE facilities staff to implement a variety of changes to help meet the certification criteria.
Among the changes were sourcing 30 percent recycled-content paper and resetting copier defaults to two-sided printing. The office also recently collected electronic waste–e.g., old flash drives, CDs, floppy disks and batteries–for proper disposal.
“That’s fantastic,” Walsh said. “Paper is by far the biggest waste generator that offices have, so even something as simple as moving to 30 percent recycled content makes a big environmental impact.”
Hunt has submitted Green Seal applications for the IEEE Operations Center in Piscataway, N.J., and the IEEE office in New York. When awarded, the partnership is good for two years.
The United Nations defines sustainability as “the pursuit of environmentally sound development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the future.”
“The Green Seal program is concentrated in the D.C. Metro area, but we hope to receive certifications for these offices when the program expands,” Hunt said. “I believe we meet the criteria.”
Helpful Hints for Recycling Food Containers
One thing we can all do when recycling at home and at work is to make sure food doesn’t contaminate paper and boxes.
“The biggest thing with recycling is just making sure there’s no food waste,” Green Seal Project Coordinator Ben Walsh Walsh said. “You should keep your paper and other recyclables separate because you don’t want the paper to get contaminated. When it does, it’s really hard to recycle.”
Walsh suggests rinsing food containers before recycling so that the workers who process the items don’t toss them in the trash, thus defeating the whole reason for recycling.
“You don’t have to necessarily be in there scrubbing the whole thing, but try to get most of [the food] off,” he said. “If you have a yogurt cup or a soda can or a bunch of salad dressing, and it contaminates the other recyclables, a lot of times they’ll just take that and chuck it all into the trash.”
Walsh added that pizza boxes and brown paper bags with grease stains are not recyclable.
~ Chris McManes
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) is IEEE-USA’s public relations manager, and a member of the IEEE Washington green team.