You'd have to be living under a rock on Mars not to know that, as a race, we're seriously buggering up our planet. Thankfully, awareness is spreading, and good people are beginning to take it seriously and make changes to the habits that harm. This wave of awareness must continue to dissipate, and it's important to know that every little bit helps. Sure, one person is like a grain of sand in the desert, but when lots of people change their habits, large bodies of sand begin to shift for positive lasting effects.
This post is not about what the individual at home can do; however, I'm coming at it from a business point of view, specifically SME's, ones that might think there's not much they can do. SME's such as us, for example, a digital agency. We don't buy supplies or manufacture products; our activities don't result in much, if any, consumption of tangibles or wastage of a by-product. What can low impact SME's such as us do to help prevent the pounding our planet is getting?
What can SME's do?
1 - Go Paperless
The first and most obvious one is to go paperless. Save those trees by disconnecting your fax machine (seriously, who still faxes?), do online transfers instead of writing cheques, and become an expert with Adobe Acrobat (trees love PDF's!).
Fax machines, do you remember when they were all the rage? They should have died when the internet and email were born! There's not much more to say here other than it's time to remove the fax number from your email signature and disconnect the phone line to your printer - for good.
Paying your bills online instead of writing cheques is a double whammy. Not only do you save paper by not writing that cheque, but you also reduce its carbon footprint. Cheques need to get from the issuer to the receiver and eventually to the bank and either you're going to drive it around yourself, or the other party will, or a courier will. How much unnecessary carbon monoxide is spewed into the atmosphere by couriers zipping around town picking up and dropping off little pieces of paper?
Think Before You Print
Printing documents, especially proposals, quotes, invoices, receipts etc. is in most cases just not necessary. If you need to sign a document, you can do that digitally using Adobe Acrobat. Make PDF's a part of your process. Know how to make them, edit them and sign them. They are way better than their printed counterparts. You can file them in the cloud, meaning you can get to them from wherever you are whenever you want. You can find them easily by using the search feature on your machine (content on a properly made PDF is indexable). You can attach them to emails and share them around while keeping your copy, all without killing trees. It's a no brainer!
If you do have to print for whatever reason, set your printer to print on both sides of the paper, every little bit helps.
Other areas you can remove paper is with things like flyers, brochures, business cards and the like. Think about it, do you really need them?
- Aren't well-targeted online adds better than flyers?
- Isn't a well-designed website better than a brochure?
- Can't you think of another way to share your details other than handing out a business card which will end up in the bin? Perhaps save a QR code containing your contact details (VCard) to your phone wallpaper which others can scan and hence save your details directly to their phone. This not also removes paper but also the need to transfer business card details to ones address book manually. LinkedIn also offers a nifty solution in this regard.
As you can see, there are lots of opportunities to reduce your consumption of paper. You might not be able to do everything at once, but make a start and move on from there.
2 - Meet Online
Meetings. There's quite a lot of good advice online as to why and how to reduce the number of meetings you have. It's generally good advice, for business reasons that is. Meetings are expensive (depending on how many people are present), time-consuming and often inefficient. However, sometimes, they're required. In this day and age, though, meeting in person is not the only way to connect.
Use Video Conferencing Tools
You can have nearly as good an experience meeting online using a video conferencing tool like Zoom (our favourite) for example. Your business and the planet will thank you for it.
From a business point of view, you save a lot of time and money. Why waste unproductive hours driving to and from a location, potentially getting stuck in traffic and struggling to find parking (admit it, parking space in Dubai is always an afterthought)?
Meeting online means you can stay productive right up until a few minutes before the meeting starts, and you won't need to change your shirt from being blasted by the Dubai heat. As a bonus, you can easily record meetings, so you don't have to take notes, making you much more present and attentive. Lastly, if anyone happens to be late for a meeting, you do not have to sit idle in a waiting room. You can continue to work until the person shows up.
However, coming back to the main point, the planet will thank you for it too; for not adding yet more carbon monoxide to the atmosphere. Imagine what Sheikh Zayed Road would look like if everyone met online instead of in person!
3 - Embrace Remote Work
Related to the last point is the fact that for many people, your physical presence in the office is not required to get the job done. Many office workers could comfortably work from home, for some if not most or all days of the week.
There's much content praising the benefits of remote work. Benefits such as the fact that people are more productive, are happier and have a better work/life balance. In the spirit of this blog post though, it's also better for the environment by further decreasing the amount of carbon monoxide from commutes and furthermore improving your company's carbon footprint.
4 - Get in the Habit of Recycling
Lastly, you'd be surprised by how many opportunities there are to recycle stuff in your office. With a little bit of extra effort, you can make sure that electronics, organic waste, glass, paper, cardboard etc. does not end up in landfills.
Electronics is an easy one. Thanks to the great work We Enviroserve are doing, you can give them your old computers, tablets, phones etc. and they will recycle the components. There are collection points spread across the city, or you can subscribe to a bin and have them come to your location and pick stuff up.
Organic waste is also recyclable. Rather than throwing your food scraps in the bin (which will end up adding methane to the atmosphere), buy yourself a bokashi bin for the office. With a bokashi bin, you can ferment kitchen waste, including meat and dairy, into a safe soil builder and nutrient-rich tea for your plants. If you don't have plants in the office, you can donate your bokashi bin contents to a colleague who has a garden or compost heap.
Glass, Paper, Cardboard, Plastic
For the other stuff like glass, paper, cardboard, plastic, etc. it's merely a matter of collecting the waste in separate containers and disposing of it in the appropriate bins provided by your municipality. However, one of the best ways to deal with this type of waste is not to consume it in the first place.
Take plastic bottles, for example. Don't buy water for the office in plastic bottles, even for your guests. You might think it's more convenient or looks better when you provide water in a plastic bottle, but most plastic is not recyclable, so all you're doing is adding waste to the landfills (or the oceans!). Instead, use water dispensers for your staff and your guests. You can even send a message at the same time by using "green cups".
As you can see, even for regular office-type companies (which makes up the majority of businesses in Dubai), there's a lot we can do to help abate the pollution of our planet. If we all did as much as we could do, it would go a long way to help improve the sustainability of Dubai, and of our beautiful blue ball whizzing through space.
Come on, let's do it!