We have launched Green Bean in the office. It is an initiative within the Aegis Group network, where we have to perform our work in line with best practices in an effort to help preserve the environment, which has become more fragile than ever.
I have come up with my own set of initiatives to contribute to this cause:
1. Eat breakfast before going to office
This might offend a few who bring take out food when coming into the office. Avoid using plastic bags as much as possible. By taking out food for breakfast or lunch in the office, we contribute more plastic bags to the dumpster. Bring lunch box so we can minimize usage of Styrofoam packaging used for “take away” food. Get the idea, McDonald’s?
2. Avoid food deliveries
I know Food by Phone will get mad at this but it’s a fact that despite their nice convenient service, they’re still contributing piles of trash in form of packaging bags, disposable chopsticks and spoons/forks, pizza cartons (no matter how recyclable they are). Go to the restaurant instead where washable plates are used.
3. Open the windows
I know Hong Kong is polluted, but by opening windows we don’t mean we’re inviting smog and filthy air infiltrate our interiors. By opening windows, we invite natural light (if closing them makes the room darker). This reduces the need to turn on light bulbs.
4. Don’t buy neckties
Neckties, coupled with coats, make office workers feel hot and in turn tend to switch air conditioners cooler when these workers can easily loosen their clothing by getting rid of neckties. I am wearing neckties every time I go to a client meeting. But that practice has to be ditched soon.
5. Live closer to the office
This is a tough call. But by doing so, we avoid the traffic mess (thereby reducing our carbon footprint) and finding more time for work which means we could finish our tasks faster and go home earlier.
6. Shutdown PCs when leaving the office
PCs must also be treated as humans, they need to rest. Shut down personal computers when not in use; i.e., even when we’re still around the office.The best use of our computer when we’re away from keyboard is to shut it down.
7. Don’t treat toilet paper as hand towel
If there is a hand dryer, use it. I can’t find a good explanation, just imagine dogs when you pour water into them before you wrap them in towels. Pick fewer pieces of toilet paper instead of treating them like your typical hand towel.
8. Practice efficient printing of documents
For documents drafts and prints used for internal discussion, use gray scale printing and utilize both sides of print paper and double sided if possible. This saves ink (which in turn saves print cartridges) and paper usage.
9. Report spammy fax message senders
Hong Kong has a law on unwanted messages through spam email, fax or SMS. By reporting these crooks to authorities, they stop terrorizing our fax machines from churning out wasteful printed material.
10. Wear comfortable clothing
This could be subjective, but what I mean is that make it a point that we don’t really need room temperature to be too cold during summers or too hot during winters. 30% of Hong Kong’s energy is spent on air conditioning (and heating) equipment. That translates to staggering amounts of carbon emissions.
11. Shutdown your monitors when you’re not staring at them
Screensavers are named such because they save screens, but they don’t save energy as much as when you shut them down when you’ll be away from your machine for say, half an hour. There are settings on PCs that enable automatic shutdown of monitors when there’s no keyword activity for a certain period of time.
12. Ride the tram, subway or bus
Call me jealous, but I’d say shame on those who own cars and drive them to work, even if they live on areas widely served by Hong Kong’s extensive transportation network. Tram, MTR or bus transports more people and in effect saves money supposedly spent on gasoline, toll fees, parking spaces and so on. If you have a car, consider carpooling. Better yet, share a taxi with colleagues when going for client meetings or going to office, if you live close to each other.
13. Do transactions online
We don’t have to leave the comforts of our homes to do money transfers or paying bills. We get to avoid long bank queues (even PowerVantage users still form a long lines at times) and crowds littered with insensitive smokers. We also avoid getting to the bus which leaves us some trail of carbon footprint or for those who have cars, make several rounds (and spend gas dollars in the process) to get a better parking. Again, shame on you car owners who think you look great even if there’s no particular need to own a car.
14. Don’t leave chargers or electric appliances plugged if they are not used
It is a good idea to use multi-plugged power cables to connect different appliances at one switch of a button. When they are not in use, supply is cut off by switching off the power supply. It is better than when we just put them on standby mode.
15. Minimize steak for lunch or dinner… or breakfast
During lunch time, minimize eating meat or steak. By doing so, we don’t contribute to the growing demand for livestock, and industry which by nature generates significant amount of roughly 18% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions—even more than transportation—according to a report last year from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Livestock manure contains methane that has a warming effect that is 23 times as great as that of carbon, while nitrous oxide is 296 times as great. It saves food they eat, trees felled for grazing and water consumption, all of which can be used for human consumption. Now we know.
16. Turn off all lights when nobody is in the office
When I was new in the company, the whole floor lights had to be kept on all night long. A guard was present to keep things in order. A year later, the practice was to shut off the lights in the whole floor and gone were the guards. When I pass by the building aboard the bus that takes me home via the Eastern Corridor, I see no more lights on our office floor. Good work!
17. Reuse paper
When writing personal tasks for the day (I do this) or planning a new project plan brainstorming session, don’t take a fresh new sheets of paper. Instead, pick one from the pile of old printouts with unused back pages. I don’t have the stats but apparently this move will save trees from being felled on a wider scale.
18. Bring your own chopsticks
This helps ease the massive demand for bamboos, which can be used for other purposes. It also reduces our risks to ailments possibly transmitted by chopsticks improperly treated and sanitized by its manufacturers. I saw a slide about how they are made, transported, treated and gasp.. recycled after use!
19. Don’t buy South China Morning Post paper
Subscribe online. And even if SCMP will provide free hard copy anyway, turn it down if you can access the news consistently on the Web. Meanwhile, The Standard is free. The same thing applies to other magazines. Stop multi-subscriptions and instead make a conscious effort that the only copy of each magazine gets through to someone who needs to read it.
20. Consume less
Live simply. Meditate. Consume less. Think more. Get to know your neighbors. Let’s ask ourselves before we buy an item “Do I need this or do I just want this?”. Learn to say “Ng sai la Ng koi” (No need, thanks) at ParkNShop or Wellcome offers of plastic bags and instead let’s bring our own bags. Borrow when you need to and lend when asked. E.F. Schumacher praised that philosophy this way in Small Is Beautiful: “Amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfying results.”
At the end of the day, before we leave the office, let’s look at our designated rubbish bins and check how much more are we adding to the rapidly vanishing spaces of Hong Kong’s landfills.
We have seen Hong Kong people do their part in helping create awareness on environment impact of fossil fuels, growing landfills and carbon emitting machines. No Lights campaign and No Plastic Bags campaign are good examples. But I hope we don’t have to wait for these campaigns to work on their own. We have a role to play. We must work together to make this initiative be an effective initiative.