By Tom Elliot
Changing habits isn’t easy. As with any habit, acknowledging the need for change (NfC) is a precursor to action, and it’s always easier to start with small actions. So, let’s pick just a few unsustainable low-hanging habits – a couple personal and a couple on our jobsites – and identify some small-action fruit. Then, we invite you to share your ideas of easy habits to change for the better, on our whiteboard.
Personal: Everyone can take these steps in their lives at home or at work.
Habit: Plastic bags
Need for Change: Take a look along the banks of the next river, creek or stream you pass and count the bags in the trees lining the banks. The action of bagging your item after scanning is muscle memory for a clerk. Once you become aware of this excess, the things they will bag for you becomes laughable.
Action: Do you really need a bag for that? Sure they are recyclable, but there is nearly as much energy consumed in reprocessing a recycled bag as there is a new one. The savings is primarily in raw materials and landfill diversion. It’s fairly simple to say “I don’t need a bag with that.”
Habit: Leaving the lights on
Need for Change: Do you get on to your kids for wasting power? It adds up and that stuff costs money. It’s also wasteful. Plus, the power bill at your office likely comes out of overhead; the same pot as bonuses.
Action: Flip the switch on your way out the door. It’s really easy and can be done with your elbow or the binder cradled in your arms.
On the jobsite: Everyone on a building project can be green, even if they aren’t working on a LEED project.
Habit: Printing drawings and other documents
Need for Change: The notion of a paperless society doesn’t seem too promising on construction sites. The amount of waste with respect to material and time involved in keeping a set of drawings and contract documents updated is crazy.
Action: You can access all those drawings on your mobile device. Hoar’s information technology team is on the leading edge of providing project information for mobile devices, but even if you are in a place where you don’t have that level of support, you can use free or low-price apps to save and access those files on your device. Besides, it’s a lot easier – and safer – to take your tablet up a ladder than it is to drag that drawing set around! It also involves much less labor to properly archive old versions.
Habit: The trash can
Need for Change: Such a large percentage of what we throw away each day could instead be recycled, if recycling bins were located throughout our jobsites.
Action: Take on the task of organizing your project’s recycling efforts! It doesn’t have to be you rounding up the bins each week and taking them to the recycling center; you can create a sign-up list of people who are willing to share the responsibility. If you can’t get your hands on little blue bins, just use some sturdy cardboard boxes, and just mark them prominently as recycling bins.
Habit: One-sided printing
Need for Change: Usually, it would be as good or better if our documents were printed on both sides of the sheet, instead of only on the front.
Action: We could significantly reduce our paper consumption if we would each just go into our printer settings and choose two-sided printing as our default. If you don’t know how to do this, just ask the computer geek in the next office to show you how.
Awareness of the small decisions that a large number of people make every day can really make a huge difference.