A couple of months back I got on a call with members of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter to discuss ways the company I work for, Jawa, could do its part to go green. We are fortunate here at Jawa, getting meals catered daily and unlimited snacks (yes, I’ve gained weight since working here); but with that fully-stocked kitchen comes trash cans full of otherwise recyclable waste including plastic bottles, aluminum cans, candy wrappers and cardboard. All this, in the trash. Cringe worthy, I know. Clearly an eco-intervention was in order, hence my call to the Sierra Club.
For those not familiar with Arizona’s Sierra Club, it is a grassroots environmental organization that strives to protect the environment, promote renewable energy and educate people about sustainability. During our phone call it struck me how the simplest change in action by a company’s staff can have a tangible effect on the environment and, with a little effort on everyone’s part, how recyclable an office really is.
This brings me to Jawa’s first order of business: implementing a recycling program and encouraging employee participation. The latter had me nervous. Would employees feel forced? Would they take the time to separate paper from plastic? Would they make the effort to break down bulky items? I had a few days to prepare my “the company is going to be recycling and it requires active participation from the staff” speech while we waited on paper and plastic bins, courtesy of Arizona Center for the Blind’s Recycling Program.
The bins arrived within a few days as did the rundown of what in our office could be recycled (which, according to the Center for the Blind’s recycling rep, was about 97% of our office). From cardboard boxes to plastic cutlery; plastic food containers to Styrofoam cups; scrap paper to paper plates, just about everything could be recycled!
Once the bins were in place it was time to let the staff know. I’ll spare you the details of my speech, but I think I received something close to a standing ovation (this could be due to the fact that most people were standing already, but who’s counting).
Within hours of the recycling announcement, most bins were full and I was bombarded with suggestions from employees on how else we could make a difference, like creating custom JAWA reusable water bottles to eliminate the need for bottled water, putting signs next to electronics reminding people to turn them off when not in use and starting a carpooling program.
In the weeks since the recycling started we’ve made headway with more green initiatives including providing employees with ceramic coffee mugs to replace the Styrofoam cups (it’s working too—I haven’t seen a Styrofoam cup in hand in days). We’ve also started using biodegradable plates and silverware made out of natural fibers that breakdown easily in water or a landfill. A few days ago the site of someone scraping food off their plate in order to recycle it properly brought tears to my eyes. But I digress.
It’s amazing how the opportunities for a company to reduce its carbon footprint are endless and with resources like the Sierra Club, there will always be direction on how to do so. For Jawa, it will be an ongoing process as we continue to implement eco-friendly changes around the office; making it easy as possible on employees. Do I want to get rid of our plastic water bottles in favor of reusable ones? Yes. I am afraid of employee backlash when I tell people they have to part with their bottled Arrowhead? Yes. I’m confident we’ll get there though, one step at a time.
Each month Jawa chooses a local charity to donate to as part of our employee-driven philanthropy program “Jawa Gives”. This July the Sierra Club, nominated by an employee who’s been active with the organization for 15 years and shares its passion for environmental sustainability, was chosen to receive a $5,000 donation. The donation is Jawa’s way of saying thanks for the Sierra Club’s impressive efforts to keep Arizona’s environment healthy and also represents a commitment from Jawa to continue with green initiatives.
Last Wednesday the entire Jawa staff gathered as members from Arizona’s Sierra Club were presented with our check and then took a few moments to speak about upcoming hikes, service outings and workshops offered. Shortly after their departure, my inbox was filled with suggestions on how else Jawa could help with the Sierra Club’s mission. My favorite? Starting a hiking club that picks up trash along the way, and then sorts through it to see what’s recyclable.