Many of us want to be responsible citizens of the Earth. We think about the effects our lifestyles have on the environment. We are concerned about global warming. We want to ensure our children's future on this planet is one that still has clean air to breathe, an abundance of trees and wildlife, and clean water to drink. However, many of us also think that the sacrifices might be too great to "go green". At Taxes Made Simple, our New Year's Resolution for 2011 was to take this on as a challenge. We had such great success with this last year, we are continueing this year. We averaged last year during tax season 2-3 large bags of recyclable paper and non-tax season 1-2 large bags.
There are 3 areas where we are making a significant impact without significant expense or inconvenience: paper, lights, and electronics.
PAPER: The average American office worker throws out about 150 pounds of paper per year. Paper manufacturing contributes to the deforestation of the planet and in America is responsible for 35 million tons of CO2 a year. So, at the office, we started by using only recycled paper in our printers and copy machines. Also, we have been trying to print on both sides (duplexing) when possible. For our old tax file folders, we re-use the file folders by placing new labels over the old ones. This way, we are not continuously buying new folders. But we do have lots of paper around the office that we need to get rid of. For paper that has ink only on one side, we cut up the paper and use it as scratch paper. With this being a tax and bookkeeping office with lots of paper, we have been taking the shredded paper and unusable scrap paper to the recycling plant so that it can be re-used again. This accounts for 4-5 large trash bags a week during tax season and 1-2 large trash bags a week during non tax season. We have also bagged up all the paper junk mail and taken that to the recycling plant. This helps with less trees being cut down each year and also less waste going to the trash dump. As we have advertised for the past year, we have changed the way we send out the quarterly newsletters. We are now sending them out electronically by e-mail and not by mass mailing. This has reduced the time, labor, and postage costs. If you still want the newsletter send by paper mail, just let us know or you can register on the website to continue to receive them by USPS. Also, all newsletters are archived on the website for the past 2 years.
Lights: Incandescent bulbs use 4 times more energy than is necessary to produce light. Halogen lights can get as hot as 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Alternately, Energy Star certified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) use 75% less energy to produce the same amount of light, last 10 times longer and produce less heat. We have started replacing the older incandescent bulbs with CLF bulbs. This not only uses less energy, but also saves on the electricity bill. Another way we have cut electricity costs around the office is by replacing some light switches with motion sensors that will turn the lights off when everyone has left the room. These sensors have been installed in areas where the lights tend to be left on and nobody in the room. One place you will notice the sensors will be in the main/handicap bathroom on the first floor.
Electronics: Electronics also account for billions of pounds of municipal waste each year. Just a few of the contaminants that electronics create are toxic heavy metals, lead, PCBs, mercury, and various acids. When we buy any new office equipment, we look for Energy Star certified machines. This will make a huge difference in the amount of electricity that is used to run the office. For example, an Energy Star certified computer is going to be 52% more efficient than a standard one. At the office, we have bought new computers, calculators, and light fixtures for each office that are energy star rated. We replaced the old Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors with flat screen monitors. Flat screen monitors consume only about one-third the energy of a CRT monitor. We took the old computers and monitor screens and donated them where they will stay in use. We also have a company policy to turn off all monitors, printers, and electronic devices at night time prior to closing the office for the night.
Some other ways we have changed are:
*We have started using glass plates and cups around the office. The employees have been using cups and plates that can be washed after using, instead of throwing them in the trash can. We have also placed glass mugs at the coffee pot for clients to use while drinking their hot beverage at the office, instead of using a disposable cup. If you still like your own cup, we still have the disposable cups next to the cappuccino machine.
*If you look around, you may notice that we have decorated the office with live plants. Researchers at NASA have discovered that common household plants can rid the air of a variety of contaminants, and thus act as a living air purifier. Each office has a few.
*We have replaced a refrigerator full of little pint size bottled water with one large 5 gallon container. This will reduce the amount of trash going to the land fill.
*If you drink a can of soda at the office, don't throw it away in the trash can. The kids have a special trash can for soda cans. When the can is full, they will crush the cans and take them to the scrap yard twice a year. It doesn't amount to a lot of money, but it is enough for each kid to get a present or two.
*We have been buying refillable stampers and ink pens. This will reduce the amount of times buying new ones and creating less trash.
*When you drop off/pick up your tax return, you will probably notice a rubber band around your file. This way we can keep your information together in an organized manor and not needing to buy another folder to store the information in. Once your return is picked up, we can re-use the rubber band on the next client.
*THE BIGGEST CHANGE has been the reduction of paper consumption. We started last year scanning all supporting tax documents into the computer. This way, we are not using the copy machine and using paper. All electronic documents created are stored on each individual's tax folder and are only printed on paper if needed. Scanning instead of copying only adds about another minute to the preparation of your taxes, but save a lot of unnecessary paper. Scanning has also helped in bookkeeping. All of your companies reciepts and invoices are now scanned and stored for future use. All of the scanning has reduced the office spending of approximately 30 cases of paper a year.
If you have other ideas, let us know. With all of us fighting for tomorrow, we will have a cleaner environment for our kids to grow into. Thank you.