This is one company's story about transitioning to an environmentally aware company.
By Dan Forster
Ours was a typical office as offices go. Free coffee or tea in Styrofoam cups, copier with sorter, printers everywhere, bottled water in the staff kitchen fridge, which was also replete with Styrofoam containers of forgotten leftover meals. And a staff completely oblivious to the impact they make on our environment.
What's wrong with this picture? Nothing, if it were a few years ago. But today it's different. The debate over global warming (the more correct phrase is climate change) has turned to discussions of how much to do, how soon, and how much will it cost us. This is generating important discussions in the boardrooms of many of the largest companies in the world about how they can both contribute to and benefit from this new trend.
Last November in Bali, Indonesia, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Bali Conference) updated the Kyoto Protocol international treaty, and all major powers have signed it. The race is now on to slow, then stop, and then reverse deadly emissions flooding into our atmosphere.
We are a close-knit group of professionals at inFORM Decisions (IFD). Last year, we made the decision to go with virtual offices. Now most of us work at home with occasional forays into the office. So it was an easy step to take our small organization beyond our extended company walls and commit to making both the office environment and the IT functions green.
The first thing we did was draw up a Green Manifesto, which you can see on our Web site's IFD Green Page, to document what we wanted to do in 2008. It outlines some easy changes that had little effect on our daily lives. Other changes affected us a bit more. And some changes we weren't prepared to make just yet. Some changes affected our private lives and families, while others were limited to our office environment.
Commitment #1: Pitch the Plastic
The plastic items we eliminated included water bottles, knives and forks, Styrofoam containers, disposable drinking glasses, and coffee stirrers. Recycling plastic bottles can keep the 40 million plastic bottles produced in the U.S. alone from heading to the dump.
Commitment #2: Kill the Commute
We made a decision to telecommute, working out of our homes, and to keep a small office available for occasional meetings.
Commitment #3: Choose a Conservation Organization
We selected a short list of environmental organizations to support from the many organizations helping to protect our planet. Since inFORM Decisions is involved in technologies that save the destruction of trees, our attention was on organizations that focus on saving trees. Among these, the Arbor Day Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, and Conservation International were our favorites.
Commitment #4: Cut the Power
We are more vigilant about keeping lights turned off. We turn off all those electronic wait states that silently suck power by controlling them via power strips. IBM recently announced a new generation of servers and storage as part of their Project Big Green, and we're presently researching our IBM Partnership to see how we can get involved in IBM's Green Data Centers. Much of what's being written about saving the environment is directly tied to reducing power usage to reduce the demand for petroleum.
Commitment #5: Go with Green Guys
We decided to work with vendors that operated with some level of ecological awareness, even if just a little. Our laser printer operations now work with vendors of biodegradable inks, recyclable toner cartridges, and paper made from recycled fiber. Pursuing recycling programs with our vendors and customers not only saves them money, but also makes a valuable contribution to minimizing our landfills.
Commitment #6: Change Mindset, Change Habits
The most challenging aspect of going green is changing our thinking and our habits. If we can influence our staff, our vendors, and our customers, even a little, the impact can be significant. Our staff members are continually on the lookout for new opportunities to help preserve scarce or threatened plant, animal, and mineral resources. Starting a recycling program with other people in your office building (or neighborhood, if you're working virtually) is a good example. For those of us living here in Southern California, carpooling not only improves quality of life, but also makes a huge contribution to eliminating carbon emissions (plus it reduces our traffic!).
Commitment #7: Preach Going Paperless
We have made the somewhat risky decision to invest dollars to alter and increase our advertising message that utilizing "paperless" technologies like the ones our company develops will not only save a company time and money, but also reduce the harvesting of our valuable resources. This change to our message, our presentations, our white papers, and our general outreach to the IT community costs money, so we're hoping this valuable message resonates with our present and future clientele.
Going paperless is a financially and environmentally sound decision; it's really greening your bottom line.
Commitment #8: Green the IT
We replaced older PCs and monitors in our server room with newer Energy Star equipment running on Intel processors and increased our AC setting from 68°F to 73°F. We also replaced our aging AS/400 170 and 270 models with a single System i Model 820 with multiple LPARs. Then we replaced our aging analog phone system and hardware with a VOIP computer-based phone system hosted remotely. The result: Our electric bill shrank by 17.5 percent.
Any company with a desire to be a positive force in the fight against climate change can join the green movement. You will be in good company. Check out Chevron's climate change action plan, Delta Airlines' Force for Global Good, and Bank of America's "go paperless" program.
I'm sure you'll discover that going green has both expected and unexpected financial rewards along with the satisfaction of being in the Mother of all Battles, the one to save our planet.