Five years ago, I took over as manager in a retail store in rural Illinois. When taking a tour of my new location, I was quietly horrified to see aluminum cans in the garbage. My employees were great people, but did not consider recycling or conservation as part of their daily operating procedure.
My, how times have changed.
One of the first modifications I made as manager was to start collecting aluminum cans for recycling in our lounge. Since most people do this at home, it wasn't a big adjustment and several of my employees expressed gratitude that I had initiated even the most rudimentary of recycling programs at work. But, as I'm the "Crazy Recycler," it certainly wasn't enough.
Since cardboard was already saved and baled at our facility, the next item we collected was plastic. Starting with our lounge, my employees and I set aside our break materials — pop and water bottles, mostly — and when I had a carload, I would shuffle these to the recycling facility near my house. My day off ritual consisted of trying to squeeze into my car with all the bags of trash and having a nice conversation with the crew at Eagle Enterprises
while we unloaded it.
Since they are also the team that gathers the recycling at my residence, Eagle gave me the go-ahead to leave all my work recycling on the curb for pickup. They went so far as to test the different soft plastics that wrap cases of product I receive to see which items they could recycle. The same went for hangers, the bags we use for cash, pallet covers, packaging materials ... anything I hoped could be salvaged, Eagle was willing to test and take for me.
Now my team and I are stewards of the environment. We practice electrical conservation, compost some of our waste, but most of all, recycle as much as we can. Paper is mixed with cardboard in our baler. Apparel film and pallet wrap is also saved for baling. In our lounge, not much is thrown away. Chip bags, candy bar wrappers and other items are mailed to Terracycle for reuse. Plastic, paperboard, aluminum, foil and even baggies are put into boxes and toted to my house, where Eagle collects them. We take the time to empty product (as possible, per our corporate policies) on items that are defective and recycle them. The mass of hangers we keep from the landfill, #5 plastics, is daunting. Some of my employees even bring their household plastics to work, so that I can haul them home for collection, since the areas where they live do not have a recycling option.
Each employee participates, making this a great team effort. And to honor their recycling practices, this year I entered my team in a contest from Preserve Products for local recycling heroes
. We placed as regional winners.
As a shout-out to my employees, I wanted to thank them for their amazing ability to change and support conservation at work. For others who think that going green at work is impossible, let us stand as an example. My employees, who had never even thought about recycling, now look for it in all aspects of their lives. Just this year I asked that they give up the paper towels used for cleaning shelves and the glass cases on our sales floor. I thought this would be met with great resistance and would not be adopted by many employees.
I was wrong.
Now we have reusable rags that I take home and launder. And, thanks to Preserve Products and the prizes we won, our lounge is full of reusable dishware and instead of bottles of water, we are enjoying the benefits of the Brita pitcher that was part of our winning package.
Thank you, team!
Photo: Tom Tottleben