The whole concept of a sustainable Earth is gradually becoming more a part of the mainstream consciousness, and not just something that only “tree-huggers” consider. And as consumers are growing to demand corporate responsibility more and more, businesses are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon. In this way, the free market helps contribute toward solutions, at least to some degree.
Many companies are doing their part, but I want to comment on Staples for a moment. They’ve taken corporate responsibility and consideration of the environment very seriously. For example, about 2,700 products they sell share environmental attributes. Many of these are unique Staples brands. Beyond recycled materials, they’re also making efforts to reduce PVC material in their packaging, and according to their website, they are developing products with “green” eco-responsible raw materials. These include wood fiber from certified sustainable forests, agricultural wastes, and lower impact bio-based alternatives.
One thing that impressed my family was the Staples recycling programme you find inside their stores. They will recycle computers and office technology products (i.e. e-waste), as well as ink and toner cartridges, cell phones, electronics, and batteries. Their ink and toner program alone deserves some attention. Starting in 2008, they came up with the Million Cartridge Challenge, designed to keep cartridges in the recycling stream rather than making their way into landfills. In seven months they managed to recycle 1.3 million cartridges. The following year they recycled 2.1 million! The program has been very successful.
We now take our all sorts of materials from our house to Staples for recycling. Many of you already recycle e-waste, but what are you doing with used pens, pen refills and markers that have run out? Staples will take all of that from you and recycle it, avoiding adding to the landfill. In 2010 alone, the diverted over one billion tons from garbage sites through their aggressive recycling programme.
Sustainability is all about using resources wisely. As a species, human beings are a part of the environment. There’s no getting around the fact that each one of us needs materials and energy. What we want and what we need may not always match too closely, but we can’t return to living as we did tens of thousands of years ago very easily.
The best way to live in today’s world is with consideration of this reality. We can avoid waste in the first place (precycle); consume renewable materials like paper and wood products over norenewables like plastic; use renewable sources of energy like wind and water over nonrenewables like fossil fuels; and recycle and compost rather than throw away.
If everyone of us can do our best to live our lives in that manner, we’ll go a long way toward saving our environment. And we should consider which businesses to support such as Staples which are also working hard to help contribute toward the solutions instead of the problem.