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Joel Makower's Posts


Taking the wrinkles out of paper recycling

Recycling paper at your company? How's it going? If you answered "yes" to the first question and "not so good" to the second, you're in fine company. After years of trying, an astonishing number of outfits both large and small are having trouble accomplishing this seemingly simple task. At least, that's my conclusion after talking with companies -- and hearing from Grist readers. Same sheet, different day. Photo: iStockphoto. Why is paper recycling such a challenge? The answers have to do with the natural reluctance of people to change habits, with the designed-to-fail nature of many programs, and with the …


How green printing can make a good impression

Can't go paperless? Go green. Photo: iStockphoto. Look around your workplace, and you'll likely find plenty of printed material, from business cards to brochures to books. Printing words and images on paper may seem like one of the more environmentally benign things your company does, but that isn't necessarily the case. If you examine the life cycle of printed matter -- from turning trees into paper through the witch's brew of chemicals involved -- professional printing takes on a decidedly non-green hue. The explosion of web and digital technology doesn't seem to have changed things -- as one pundit put …


Tips for greening conferences and events

Surely you've attended the Conference from Eco-Hell. Eco-hell, or just plain hell? Photo: iStockphoto/Elerium Studios. You know the one. It begins with an endless paper trail of direct-mail advertisements. It's held in some remote suburban locale, accessible only by car. At registration, you are issued a conference bag filled with promotional papers and doodads you'll never look at or use (most of which you'll conveniently "forget" in your hotel room). Meals appear unappetizingly on disposable plastic dishes, and single-serve bottles of water and soda are everywhere you look. Then there's that inch-thick pile of wasted paper known as the conference …


Get your company to clean up its janitorial act

Three years ago, the National Geographic Society's director of general services wanted to clean up his cleaning operations. Bob Cline launched an investigation into the impacts of maintaining the society's facilities, examining everything from the chemical composition of cleaning products to the decibel level of vacuums, from filtration systems to fuels. Mess is more. "Basically, it was a matter of goal congruency," Cline says. "Conservation is part of the National Geographic Society mission, and we felt that it would be good if our facilities matched our vision." As he discovered, cleaning up can be a dirty business. Consider this: Institutional …


How to put the brakes on employee driving

Even before last month's Gulf Coast catastrophes sent the nation's oil companies scurrying to hike gas prices, the cost of driving to work was nearing the pain point. And not just the price of filling up: as average commute times have grown over the past five years, even in green-minded cities like Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., the economic, environmental, and psychic costs of commuting by car have been anything from a mere headache to a major migraine. It just makes cents. As a result, teleworking, carpooling, and other commuting alternatives are undergoing a revival, much as they have during …


How to green your company’s cafeteria

Let's do lunch ... right. © Corbis. "Got anything green to eat?" That's probably not a question you hear much around your company's cafeteria, but you might soon. A growing number of companies are thinking about the environmental impacts of the food they serve. And along the way, the oft-maligned institutional food is giving way to cuisine that won't bite the land that feeds you. Company cafeterias and restaurants have not, to date, been a hotbed of environmental activism. A few have set up modest recycling or composting programs, or initiated some basic energy- or water-conservation measures. But food represents, …