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Rebel Without a Car – Setting up a sustainable office

This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker, in February 2011.

A couple months ago we rented an office for our City Council Campaign. We rented from our friend Bechir Blagui, owner of Hollywood Rent A Car, because sustainability is important for us and this space offers some basics that help with our sustainability commitment not just to the campaign, but also to ourselves.

Here are a few things that we looked at when choosing the office:

  1. Is it metro bus and red line accessible? – Yes
  2. Is it ADA compliant? – Yes
  3. Is it near our home so we don’t have to commute? – Yes
  4. Are there places nearby to eat and drink and where we can support small businesses? – Yes

We were excited to move in, and once the furniture was in place, it was up to me to make sure that we were keeping things sustainable within the office.

I’m still working out the glitches, but here are a few things that we do to not be wasteful and to leave little footprint behind after the campaign is over:

  1. Have reusable mugs, utensils and plates at all time around for our volunteers and staff.
  2. Recycle everything, from paper to soda cans, and the food containers that people bring in during their lunch break.
  3. When buying snacks and food, try to buy what is packaged in paper not plastic.
  4. Have a water dispenser instead of water bottles.
  5. Have a coffee maker in the office.
  6. Buy office supplies that are made of 100% recycled paper.
  7. Buy office supplies that have the least packaging and the most sustainable packaging (i.e. recycled paper that is packaged in paper instead of recycled paper that is wrapped in plastic).
  8. Encourage staff to pick up food from the local restaurants on china, not in Styrofoam (we take the china back when we’re finished).
  9. Print double-sided and encourage others to do the same.
  10. Keep communications online and not waste print material.
  11. Printing signs and posters sustainably instead of on plastic banners.
  12. Have the bathroom stocked with 100% recycled TP.
  13. Use towels for drying hands instead of paper (wash towel when needed).
  14. Turn lights off when office of bathroom is not occupied.
  15. Unplug electrical items when not in use.
  16. And again, recycle everything from paper to ink cartridge, from cans to batteries.

The water bottle has been the biggest challenge because so many of my friends are used to having a water bottle waiting for them wherever they arrive. So I have to always remind them to bring their own water bottles that they can refill.

But we have the office stacked with silverware, ceramic mugs, and 100% recycled paper. We have our staff and our volunteers come in via Red Line, bus and a lot of them also come on bikes. We now have 2 inverted U racks where people can lock up their bikes right in front of our office. And we carpool to meetings and ride our bikes to precinct walks.

Having an office is exciting, but it’s even more exciting to have it be sustainable. If you have a home office, or if you work in an office, you can implement a lot of these ideas. You can get yourself a mug, utensils, plates, towels, and pick up food either on china or bring your own container for them to put the food in. Recycle either in the office or take your recyclable waste where you can recycle if the office doesn’t offer bins. Unplug what you don’t use and turn off lights in rooms that are not occupied.

Individuals can do a lot and every little bit helps in reducing our footprint. And if you can encourage others to do the same, you have made a big change.