I work for a large corporation that is very wasteful with paper. I am looking for information on whom I can complain to about this so that something will happen. They do not use recycled paper or require any recycling of paper.


Dearest Beth,

Prepare yourself: The fate of reams of office paper is in your hands. You must be the defender of the discarded draft, the champion of the crumpled wad, the protector of the printer jam victim. Happily, the path you are about to travel is well-trodden; most large municipalities have programs to promote business recycling.

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You will begin by gathering persuasive information about the benefits of mixed-paper recycling. Call your local solid waste agency tomorrow and explain the situation (without complaining). Ask them for resources, advice, and good news about the bottom line of companies that recycle. What you are looking for are little inspirational sayings, such as, “After an initial investment to set up the system, recycling can often reduce garbage costs for businesses.” Ask similar companies in the area if they recycle and what makes it worthwhile for them. Pump them for more uplifting quotes, e.g., “We actually make a little money from selling our recyclables, and we use it to buy Tootsie Pops for everyone on staff.”

Meanwhile, back on the frontlines, convince your cubicle cohorts that sorting trash is the best office entertainment since Tetris. When you have gathered plenty of support and plenty of statistics, you are ready to “complain.” Find an approachable, influential person in the corporation — your supervisor, say, or the office manager — and meet with him or her. Present your persuasive, cost-effective, easy-to-institute plan for institutional recycling — and while you’re at it, make a cheerful inquiry into buying recycled paper. You must be nice, reasonable, positive, and patient. Don’t complain. Offer to help. Victory will be yours.

Now print out this letter and get to it.

Umbra Fisk

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