Simple changes to our daily lives can have long-lasting impacts on the environment. Electric cars and reusable straws are some of the most popular examples in our everyday lives. However, sustainable changes to our offices can also have beneficial effects on the environment. From utilizing post-consumer waste recycled paper to reusable water bottles, basic modifications can help make our offices more sustainable.
It is often easy to overlook the waste and water usage of non-recycled or “virgin” paper. In the U.S. alone, approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away every year. Plus, a single 8.5 x 11” sheet of virgin paper takes about 5-6 gallons of water to produce. Since the average office worker uses over 10,000 sheets per year, that means an estimated 50,000-60,000 gallons of water goes down the drain. Fortunately, 100% PCW (post-consumer waste) recycled paper can help alleviate these issues.
Producing recycled paper utilizes approximately 47% less water and paper can be recycled up to 5-7 times. The act of recycling a pound of paper alone saves 3.5 gallons of water. Overall, each ton (2,000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy, and 7,000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution. We simply don’t need to use vast amounts of water and cut down virgin trees in order to have a quality paper source.
A case of 4,000 sheets of non-recycled content copy paper uses 20,000-24,000 gallons of water to produce and is priced at $0.009 per sheet. In comparison, 5,000 sheets of 100% recycled copy paper use 9,400-11,280 gallons of water and is priced at $0.014 per sheet. That’s a minimum difference of 10,600 gallons in water usage. With just a small cost increase for 100% PCW recycled paper, you can make a great change for long-term sustainability.
Approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic water bottles each year. In addition, landfills receive about 27 million tons of plastic a year where plastic bottles can take an estimated 450 years to decompose. These single-use plastics generate unnecessary waste, especially for people working in a centralized location like an office.
By switching to reusable alternatives, you can save both waste and money. More sustainable options would be to provide reusable cups or mugs or give out reusable stainless steel or glass water bottles to staff. Then, provide a refillable water cooler or install a reverse osmosis unit on site. On average, each person in the U.S. spends $5 a week on bottled water. By switching to these sustainable options, you can save yourself and your staff an estimated $260 each per year.
We can now access information through computers, phones, tablets, and many more devices, making the need for printing less necessary. Unfortunately, offices continue to produce large amounts of paper waste. With the average office worker using 10,000 sheets of paper a year, roughly 25-33% of municipal dumps and landfills are paper waste. In addition to this waste, the constant repurchasing of toner and ink is costly. The average cost per page while printing is 5.5 cents in black ink and 8.9 cents in color. These prices easily add up in the office but you can avoid them by using electronics.
In a shared office, space is another critical element to consider. Paper files require sorting and organization, however digital files are easier to keep track of and claim significantly less space. Scanning old paper files into digital is one of the many options to help with the transition to a digital office space. Sometimes, it may be unavoidable to print certain documents. But, recycling and the use of 100% PCW recycled paper can help reduce the environmental impacts of paper waste.
Saving thousands of gallons of water, reducing plastic and paper waste and saving money are all advantages of making sustainable changes in your office. By replacing commonly-used virgin paper with PCW recycled paper, we can prevent cutting down more trees and wasting more water. Eliminating single-use plastics with water filters and reusable bottles reduces waste in landfills and saves money in the long run. Avoiding unnecessary printing also saves money. You can reduce the need for purchasing as many ink and toner cartridges. Ultimately, making sustainable changes in your office space keeps our waste out of the environment and preserves a dwindling water supply for more vital concerns.