I spent an hour the other night stealing trash cans. Not, I’m not a kleptomaniac (though I’ve heard they have a tendency to do exactly the same kind of thing I was — stealing a whole bunch of the same thing).
I was stealing trash cans from my floor in our office building. See, it was Monday, and our company had a big shebang of stuff going to celebrate Earth Week (the run-up to Earth Day … April 22nd … maybe you’ve heard?). One of the events was taking away the trash cans on the 5th, 6th, and 7th floors (floors 1&4 don’t have many people … 2&3 have cars). I decided to lead the charge to take away the cans on the 8th floor, so that “corporate” (where I work) wouldn’t look like the ecological special-needs kids.
In case you didn’t get your matchbook degree in the custodial arts, it’s alotta hard, tedious work. Pull all plastic bags fulla trash. Stack cans with other cans. Concatenate ever-swelling cloud of plastic. Concatenate ever-heavier stack of cans. Remove trash. Put cans in storage. Phew!
And hey, guess what? After all my efforts, I got some positive comments, mostly from the green-inclined. And I heard a few grumblings, too, including a comment from one of the accountant worker-bees, who said, “You are a hated man.”
Hah. Imagine having to get up off your fat ass and walk for fifteen seconds to a break area to drop off your trash, or sort it into its proper recycling bin. Oh man, what a colossal inconvenience!
It’s the micro version of what one study found recently:
In a nationwide telephone poll, the consumer behavior research firm America’s Research Group found that while 43 percent of shoppers say protecting the environment is important, only 18 percent said they were willing to pay extra for an environmentally sound product.
Then — if you dare — imagine if this hated trash-can removal had been a permanent change: Every time you generated trash, you’d have to deal with it. I know … the horror, the horror! Janet Leigh screaming, slasher music, the whole Hitchcockian nightmare. It’s enough to get you out of bed at 3 am with the cold sweats.
But guess what? It’s no big deal. Sure, the first day I kept leaning over to toss my teabag of toothpick or other scrap of refuse into my habit-bin, but by lunchtime I’d figured out that I needed someplace to put it until the time I decided to to march to the break area. Once I’d made that tiny habit change, I didn’t even notice.
The state of California (aka Arnold and the Granolas) are at the forefront of these insane eco-communist notions, and the state’s Integrated Waste Management Board (don’t you wish you worked for them?) has concluded that moving to “mini trash” cans (i.e., small cans without plastic liners) reduce waste 50 percent and more.
Going on a brief tangent, The CIWMB is also behind keeping worms in the office.
Keep worms in your office. We’re not kidding. We do it at CIWMB, and throughout the entire agency, Cal/EPA. More than 100 staff members throughout the building have received a worm bin with worms, and training on how to practice vermicomposting. These volunteers, referred to as “Worm Wranglers,” bury their coffee grounds, tea bags, and food scraps such as apple cores and banana peels, in a bedding of shredded newspaper. A wiggle (the recognized name for a group of worms) of more than a thousand worms in each bin consume the waste and generate a rich, valuable soil amendment.
Not long ago I read a great piece by some AP writer about worms in California offices. Turns out they love coffee grounds. But baloney? Not so much.
Okay, where was I? Ah yes, small habit change, bit benefits. In addition to cutting waste by 50 percent, think of all the damn cans we could get rid of (300 in my office alone), or the plastic we would avoid using. 300 bags x 52 weeks x 2 times a week = 312,000 bags a year. Oh, and since your custodial artists don’t have to stoop 300 times twice a week do your trash, they spend less time in your office, which means you can renegotiate to pay less for custodial. Less trash, save money, too!
All this by walking your teabags to the staff kitchen. Anyhow, come Monday, people in our office will be able to go to the 4th floor and retrieve a can.
I’ll be fighting the urge to throw soggy teabags at them.