On the [Sustainable] Road | A 2-Sided Los Angeles

Here’s the thing about the Sustainable Roadmap – it’s really not that complicated. Being sustainable, after all, is partially about doing less for a greater good. Doing less.

So it’s no revelation that when the Los Angeles “Sustainable Ops” group got together to discuss ways to be more sustainable in our day-to-day operations, many of the action items on our list were … simple. Now, an office can be a complicated and hungry beast. It’s hard to see quite how hungry it is as you go about your day. You walk in, you get a coffee. You turn on a light, you turn on your computer. There’s the emails to read, the instructions to remember. You print out a document – 10 pages. And now it’s 9:05. You haven’t even started, really. And there are 1400 others at HOK who have started their day in some similar fashion. That’s a lot of, uh … office food.

Each piece of paper in this stack has two sides. Really.

Each piece of paper in this stack has two sides. Really.

As a group focused on operations, we had to recognize this lifestyle. People have to get work done. Period. Getting that work done requires that you feed the office beast. As we rattled off ways to feed the beast less, a list began to emerge. It was clear that we’d been over-feeding. I suppose that’s not much of a revelation, either; the whole nation seems to be over-feeding one thing or another. [There’s plenty of food for that conversation, too, but for another time, another post.]

So with a giant list of things our group could accomplish, it was our responsibility to break it down to simple items each person could complete. There were idealistic suggestions, like “be proactive,” and “archive responsibly.” There were things we asked each employee to do, like “check to see if your lightbulb is energy-efficient.” And, finally, there were items that we felt, as the Sustainable Ops group, should just be fixed. My personal favorite of this group was eliminating paper kitchen products from the building. Simple, right? Just take away paper plates and replace them with actual kitchenware! Not only do we stop throwing away our lunch dishes, but we look pretty darn classy using silverware for pizza. [I know, dishes have to be washed. There’s plenty of soap for that conversation, too, but let’s focus on not wasting for now.]

But as a group, our favorite item from the list was potentially the simplest of all. It may well be that this item has the biggest single impact, to boot. We have set our printers to double-sided. That’s it. No big deal. Every time an employee sends a black and white document to a printer, both sides are used.  There’s no action item, there’s no procedure. It just is.

Now we feed the copy machine beast 1/2 the paper we used to. ONE HALF! Just like that.

As an architecture firm, we focus on sustainable practices for our clients. We endeavor to create a sustainable built environment – it’s a mission. So you’ll read lots of posts in this series, I’m guessing, about building and designing to sustainable goals. There are lots of very complex and extremely interesting ways our firm reduces the human impact on the environment. Clearly, this is not one of them. This one, simply, is about common sense – paper does have two sides, after all. I think it always has.

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