Ever been to a garage sale? Of course you have. And if you are a real bargain seeker, you know that you have to get there early before all the best paperweights and used kitchen utensils are gone. So, does the American tradition of determined haggle hunters spending Saturday mornings driving place to place just to buy other people’s junk play into the corporate world? It does at Aflac.
Just like any other business, at Aflac there is a dark, mysterious place that exists in the organization. It’s the Bermuda Triangle of the workplace where what goes in may never come out. Commonly known as the “office supply closet,” this enigmatic storeroom is a black hole of file folders, notepads and other various paper products accumulated and then–without warning–inexplicably lost forever.
Thankfully, environmentally conscious inhabitants of corporate America are working hard to shed light on this danger by clearing out the dusty piles of unused supplies and giving them to good homes (still inside the company) where they’ll be used as intended.
The idea is referred to as “freecyling” and, while private citizens have long practiced it with great success, the business world is just starting to see the benefits. Instead of tossing unused and unwanted office supplies into a landfill, companies can exchange items internally between departments. Freecycling does double duty: one supply closet loses its junk while another finds treasure. It’s a win-win for all areas of the company and the environment.
Some forward-thinking companies, like Aflac, are already fans of freecycling. If your company isn’t hip to the idea yet, get the training tables, paint the signage and take matters into your own capable hands. Host a freecycling event. Here’s how.
Because your company leaders may not be familiar with the idea, you’ll probably need to explain the freecycling concept before they’ll agree. Remember to focus on the financial benefits to the company: Instead of purchasing new supplies when so many are collecting dust, you’ll save money by better utilizing what’s already been purchased. According to Aflac, their first freecycling event saved the company more than $12,000.
Plus, your company will get to promote its cool new green event—something customers and investors love.
Plan and promote it
Once you’ve got everyone on board, it’s time to plan your event. Find a central location that will be relatively easy for each department to haul office supplies to. You may also want to provide plastic bins to each department participating to make transportation easier.
Pick a drop-off and event date and then, begin promoting the event. Send an email to invite all employees who are responsible for purchasing supplies. Be sure they understand the concept: They are bringing their unwanted items and taking items they need.
Put up a few posters in common areas like break rooms or on digital message boards, just to get the whole company buzzing about the idea.
Do it up
Set up tables around the room and display the office supplies so attendees can see what’s available. You may want to organize everything by batching like items together, just to make the exchange process easier and faster. Post a sign on each table to indicate what goes where. For example, you can have a table for folders, one for computer disks and USB drives, one for envelopes and letterhead, etc.
It’s happened to all of us. We come home from the garage sale, look at our cache and ask ourselves, “What the heck did I buy that for?” So at your office freecycling party remember to only take what you need. Don’t get caught up in the moment and encourage fellow attendees to be thoughtful as well. When it’s free, it can be tempting to grab everything you can carry. But you don’t want this to be a clutter exchange. Of course, you can always host another event next year for those who do go overboard.
There will always be items that pile up in office supply closets, no matter how careful you are. Systems change, procedures get updated, purchasers make mistakes. It’s the nature of business. But that doesn’t mean we have to live with the clutter or toss it into a landfill. There is a much better option.
If your office is in need of a good Spring-cleaning, consider hosting your very own freecycling event. It’s the perfect platform for productive purging. Take it from Aflac. After hosting three freecycling events, the company estimates they saved a total of $30,656!