JUNK THE POLITICIANS & BE GREENER !

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JUNK THE POLITICIANS & BE GREENER !

 user 2005-08-09 at 11:21:00 am Views: 57
  • #11951


    Junk the politicians and work on being greener
     
    When it comes to the environment, more harm is done in the office than at
    home. But, as Sean Coughlan reports, you can do your bit to make the workplace
    more eco-friendly
     
    Employees don’t have to wait for political leaders to tackle the threat of
    global warming. They can make their own contribution to making their workplaces
    more eco-friendly.
     
    That is the message from trade unions and the green movement after a
    lacklustre G8 summit and backtracking this week by the government on some key
    green targets.
     
    If ministers are going to drag their feet, workers can play their own
    practical part in reducing the damage to the environment. A report from the
    Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee, called Greening the
    Workplace, urges people to engage with their employers to find ways to reduce
    waste and to improve standards of environmental protection.
     
    Even if we’re using recycling bins and bottle banks, at work we’re still
    churning out a trail of junk.
     
    “People are often much more aware of recycling at home than at work, and we
    want people to make the link,” says Philip Pearson, the TUC’s policy adviser on
    sustainability.
     
    Projections from the Department for Trade and Industry show that it is our
    working lives are more likely to be producing greenhouse gases. By the end of
    the decade it’s expected that 22m metric tonnes of carbon emissions will be
    produced each year by people at home – but industry will be producing 31m. And
    under a separate heading, power stations will be generating 38m tonnes.
     
    Plans to cut emissions from homes have, according to recent reports, been
    ditched, placing even more pressure on offices and factories. Proposed building
    regulations on refurbished houses have been dropped altogether and regulations
    for new buildings postponed until next year.
     
    The TUC report urges workers to lobby their employers for more
    environmentally aware working practices – and it gives examples of where unions
    and management can cooperate. In terms of a white collar, office environment,
    the Prospect union has been working on improving the green credentials of the
    Scottish Agricultural College, set across 30 sites in Scotland.
     
    The college had an annual electricity bill approaching £400,000 and churns
    out large amounts of paper. And a union and management environment committee has
    promoted ways of cutting energy and paper waste.
     
    “On a bright summer day, you’d go into an office and all the lights would
    be switched on. They’d have been on since the cleaners turned them on when it
    was still dark in the morning,” says the college’s Clive Davey.
     
    With an information campaign to switch off lights and not leave computers
    on all night, £12,000 is saved per year. Environmental benefits are calculated
    as saving the equivalent of 200 balloons, 10m in diameter, filled with carbon
    dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
     
    The college sends about 10 skip loads of paper a week for recycling. Clive
    Davey says that the cost of getting it taken away is the same as getting it to a
    tip.
     
    Office cynics might be wondering whether the green recycling box really
    goes where it is intended – or whether it’s just a dustbin with a feelgood
    factor.
     
    But the TUC’s Philip Pearson says that it is up to people to make sure that
    recycling services are legitimate. “You need to ask some serious questions about
    where the material is going and what it’s being used for,” he says. “It’s no
    good being cynical, the question is to find out, ask the contractor and ring up
    if you’re suspicious. “There’s nothing worse than meaningless gestures where
    people have a sense of engagement and find out further on down the chain that
    nothing is happening.”
     
    A report last month from the government-funded Envirowise campaign, says
    that office paper consumption is rising by 20% per year.
     
    Instead of creating the paperless office, technology means we print out
    more and more. Launching a project to reduce office waste, it says that on
    average each worker uses 50 sheets of A4 a day.
     
    Envirowise has published advice on cutting use, such as printing on both
    sides, using recycled paper, reusing scrap paper and not printing documents sent
    on emails.
     
    There are other items chucked out that are less easy to recycle, such as
    polystyrene cups which do not degrade when buried.
     
    In an attempt to mop up some of this, the drinks vending industry has
    subsidised a free collection service, called Save a Cup, which will take away
    bags of cups and reuse the material. But they won’t take expanded polystyrene,
    which can’t be recycled.
     
    A spokeswoman for Envirowise says offices can avoid the problem by using
    mugs or paper cups.
     
    Rather than chucking printer cartridges in the bin, a charity, ActionAid,
    will collect and recycle them, with the proceeds from the reclaimed materials
    going towards its aid work in developing countries.
     
    The drive for a greener workplace is also about manufacturing and heavy
    industry. Construction union UCATT is working on housebuilding projects which
    reduce waste and lessen environmental damage.
     
    At Millennium Chemicals on Humberside, transport and general union
    representatives have been part of a process of removing the impact of chemical
    production on riverlife. But the TUC’s Philip Pearson says it’s also about
    thinking beyond what an industry produces.
     
    In terms of the emissions contributing to climate change, road transport is
    one of the biggest offenders. A person driving from London to Edinburgh is six
    times more damaging than someone travelling by train. So rearranging travel
    patterns could be a firm’s contribution.
     
    The Greening the Workplace report also forecasts that thousands of jobs
    will created by the drive to reduce emissions often because of pressure from
    above to meet international targets.
     
    The government is committed to reducing carbon emissions by the end of the
    decade to 20% below the 1990 levels and a target of 20% of energy coming from
    renewable sources by 2020.
     
    Only about 8,000 people are working in renewable energy, which would have
    to rise substantially if the power industry is going to get anywhere near these
    targets.
     
    Another government-backed agency, the Waste and Resources Action Programme
    (Wrap), says the recycling figures show the rhetoric on going green is being
    turned into reality. “Companies are becoming much more aware,” says Wrap’s Pat
    Jennings.
     
    Last year more than seven million tonnes of paper were recycled –
    representing a 56% “recycling rate”. And this is being pushed up by companies
    buying more recycled paper, which says Pat Jennings, “closes the loop”. About a
    third of inkjet and toner cartridges are “remanufactured or recycled”, says
    WRAP, and 40% of glass bottles. But other figures show much waste is still being
    put into landfill. Last year, London alone generated more than 17m tonnes of
    domestic and business rubbish, 70% which ended up in landfill.
     
    What you can do
     
    The trade union report Greening the Workplace says employees should set up
    an environment committee with employers to find ways to cut waste and prevent
    environmental damage.
     
    These committees could set up recycling services or cut energy consumption
    by using timers on heating or lights and ensuring that computers, printers and
    photocopiers are turned off overnight.
     
    There are specialist recycling services for collecting paper, plastic cups
    and printer cartridges. Employers could be encouraged to buy recycled
    paper.
     
    Employees should press for an annual energy audit. And they should
    encourage managers to select greener options such as electricity providers which
    are committed to renewable power. Start-up buildings can incorporate renewable
    energy, such as solar panels.
     
    Transport arrangements should avoid unnecessary car journeys and should
    encourage public transport, working from home or videoconferencing. Companies
    should consider cleaner “biofuels”.
     
    If a company’s business generates pollution, the paper suggests that unions
    and employers should work together on finding ways to minimise damage and make
    all staff aware of the issue.