As we near the end of plastic-free July, it has me thinking about ways that my firm can do more. Each year I like to add some additional items to the ever-growing list of steps we take at Travis Schultz & Partners to reduce, reuse and recycle. As Sir David Attenborough says, the present habit of throwing everything away is only relatively new even though, on a finite planet, there is no such thing as ‘away’.
Being more environmentally conscious is also becoming an essential part of any business as more consumers expect and demand the companies they deal with to have an environmental (and social) conscience. Navigating or commencing a plan can feel overwhelming as to where to start and what practical steps a firm or business can take, but there’s really nothing to fear. There are many ways companies can take action, many of which cost nothing and can even save money.
Looking at the first of the Rs – Reducing. One of the most significant impacts businesses can have is to reduce their carbon emissions. Not all companies are able to install solar power as we have (although this is becoming more economical and accessible), but there are other ways. Even small changes can make a difference overall, for example, ensuring all lights are LEDs. They might be a little more costly upfront, but they use less electricity and last longer, giving an overall net benefit financially. Simply ensuring appliances, equipment and lights are off when not in use. For example, if no one is using the boardroom, do the lights need to be on? Also, when staff are on leave, their computers and other equipment should be turned off at the wall. Another way to reduce emissions (and electricity bills) is to ensure air-conditioners and heaters are set at optimal temperatures. For summer, the air-con temperature should be between 21 and 23 degrees and for heating in winter it should be 17 degrees.
Reducing travel and transport emissions is also easy to do. Consider whether you need to personally travel to that meeting or can you use zoom when “face to face” isn’t required. Try to carpool whenever possible, or offset your emissions through Greenfleet or a similar organisation. Even swapping to local suppliers and purchasing more local and Australian goods can make a huge difference.
As many businesses, especially law firms, move towards going paperless, this organically reduces paper consumption. It can be challenging and takes time to learn new ways of doing things (and we are still evolving in this space as it can be easier to simply press print and revert to old habits). Still, over time, it becomes second nature which in turn increases efficiencies.
For business, Reusing is probably the hardest of all of the Rs. We have attempted to find some ways to reuse items where we can. For example, instead of buying ‘pretty’ bins for confidential waste or soft plastics, we have reused paper boxes. When we get fax reports, we bind these together to make a notebook. Further, purchasing items that can be refilled rather than thrown out also helps reuse product packaging and reduces waste simultaneously, such as hand wash or cleaning products.
And finally, Recycling. I have found that people tend to be good recyclers at home but don’t view it as a priority at work. We all know about the everyday items we can recycle – paper, bottles, cans, boxes, etc., but various other items can also be recycled, just not in the traditional way. Items such as e-waste (including computers, keyboards, mice, cables and chargers), printer cartridges, pens and highlighters, old mobile phones and batteries can all be recycled at places like Battery World, Officeworks, Planet Ark and Terracycle. There are too many things and places to name in this regard, but for many day-to-day items, there is usually somewhere that will take them or ways that they can be recycled if you are motivated to look. The other important side of the recycling coin is purchasing products with recycled content, helping to increase demand for all of our recycled materials.
This summary of our efforts towards reducing, reusing and recycling is just the tip of the iceberg, and I can literally go on and on and or (just ask Travis and Kelly!). Whilst it all can be overwhelming, small steps done by a lot add up to significant and meaningful change for all.
Environmental Officer and Managing Law Clerk (Diploma in Science)