Kane County government employs over 1000 individuals responsible for carrying out a wide variety of tasks in distinctly varied environments. The day-to-day activities, habits and decision-making of employees can have a significant impact on the sustainable future of Kane County’s operations.
Employee habits such as powering down computers and equipment, reducing waste, and recycling as much as possible rely heavily on long-term cooperation. The active, concerted efforts of employees to make more sustainable choices in the workplace will maximize implementation of the County’s sustainability gains, save taxpayer dollars, improve public image and act as a model for other organizations both public and private. This chapter highlights County guidance that will assist employees in making more sustainable choices in the office.
Progress to Date
• Quarterly recycling newsletters are e-mailed to all staff.
• Staff in the Development Department recycle a wide variety of items; use existing ceiling fans; turn computers and lights off at the end of the day; use more sustainable/recycled/recyclable products at meetings and workshops; and reuse outdated letterhead by asking the print shop to make pads of paper into notepads.
• Environmental Resources Division staff provide coffee mugs for hot drinks; turn computers and lights off at the end of the day; instituted paperless meeting note-taking and tele-meetings; carpool to meetings and conferences; maintain plants for indoor air quality; select smaller margins, default duplex printing and black and white printing; use single sided paper for scratch paper; initiated a pilot surplus exchange program for Building A; and printed the 8-page annual Kane County Recycles Green Guide (2012) on 100% post-consumer recycled content paper.
• The Health Department uses water filtration machines which dispense hot and cold water. These machines are located on each floor and in the large conference room used for meetings with outside partners. It eliminates the need for bottled water and delivery of the large containers used in dispensers. Bottled water and heating water is not necessary since people bring their own bottles to fill up and use the hot water for coffee, tea and hot chocolate. The department also participates in the Cintas document destruction program, with designated bins around the office where paper is shredded and recycled. There are copy machines that allow employees to scan and e-mail documents directly to recipients, cutting down on the amount of paper used. The department has smart boards that can capture notes taken during meetings, which are then downloaded to a jump drive and e-mailed out. This helps reduce the amount of paper needed for taking notes.
• The Finance Department staff reduced their paper usage.
• Staff in GIS-Technologies save paper by scanning instead of copying; turn computers and printers off at night; print on both sides to save paper; recycle shredded documents; and submit the GIS Monthly newsletter digitally.
• Juvenile Justice Center residents use reusable trays, spoons and cups; staff have converted many paper forms to electronic forms; purchased large washing machines able to wash several loads of laundry at once; and residents in the Challenge program grow vegetables for salads and salsa.
• Staff in the Purchasing Department use duplex printing; surplus supply redistribution; and reuse blank back pages of all printed paper in the fax machine.
• In the last two years (2010 & 2011), staff in the State’s Attorney’s Office disposed of over 45,000 pounds of old files by pulping and recycling the paper at RockTenn; set copiers on the energy saving mode when not in use; sent subpoenas to all police officers via email; scanned voluminous discovery to disc for defense attorneys instead of copying those documents; initiated an internal surplus program to reuse office supplies and equipment; and utilized an office intranet site for various contact lists, the employee handbook, schedules and instructions for use of office equipment such as phones, scanners and computers to reduce paper use.
• Supervisor of Assessments staff use less paper by scanning documents and selecting duplex printing instead of single copies where feasible; purchased energy saving copiers; receive and send faxes electronically when possible; are transitioning to electronic Board of Review packets; and shut off all non-essential electronics at night.
Strategies and Action Items
For the purpose of the Sustainability Plan, energy conservation is defined as the efforts by Kane County staff to reduce the amount of energy consumed through our day-to-day activities, habits and decision-making. Energy efficiency is the result of efforts to reduce energy consumption through improvements to the buildings and infrastructure operated by Kane County and is addressed in the Facilities chapter.
Strategy WH1: Develop Energy Conservation Education Program
A program will be designed to educate Kane County employees about energy consumption of office/workplace equipment and the advantages of conserving energy. Outreach and education will emphasize opportunities and offer usable strategies for employees to operate computers, copiers and other office equipment in a manner that conserves energy.
1. Research Employee Education Programs Investigate successful examples to include in Kane County’s program.
2. Develop Employee Energy Conservation Education Program Compile resources using various media to educate Kane County employees and provide accessible tools that encourage energy conservation.
3. Implement Employee Energy Conservation Education Program Offer educational resources and tools to each department in Kane County, selecting the most appropriate medium.
4. Track progress of Employee Energy Conservation Education Program Schedule regular follow-ups with each department to determine progress and need for additional assistance.
While the County Facilities Department is responsible for the management of waste and the coordinated efforts of the recycling program, the employees are responsible for how they use and preserve their office supplies and materials. By addressing office habits, there are many opportunities to reduce, reuse, recycle and minimize waste, reducing costs and improving efficiency. Effective education and outreach is the key component in affecting positive behavior change and attention to conservation in the work place. In conjunction with improved infrastructure and signage, a regular outreach effort will educate staff, support understanding, and encourage participation in the County Buildings Recycling Program.
Strategy WH2: Develop Recycling Education & Outreach Program Through a number of efforts, Kane County employees will be encouraged to conserve, reuse and recycle in order to reduce waste to a minimum. Quarterly newsletters on the Recycling Program will continue to offer tips, instructions, and opportunities for rewards. The Recycling Coordinator will form a Green Advocates Team, including interested staff from each building/ department/ office, and work with them to promote conservation, recycling and waste minimization. Developing a method for employees to track data on office supply usage will enable ongoing measurement and analysis of the County’s sustainability efforts. This could be incentivized through friendly office competitions planned and monitored by the Green Advocates Team.
1. Research Employee Education Programs and Review Kane County Recycling and Waste Reduction Policies Coordinate Kane County’s recycling and waste reduction policies with examples of successful educational programs to develop a recycling and waste reduction program adaptable to each department/building.
2. Form a Green Advocates Team Invite interested representatives from each department or building to participate in the Green Advocates Team.
3. Educate and Train Green Advocates Team Prepare members of the Green Advocates Team to implement the recycling and waste reduction program.
4. Track progress of the Green Advocates Team Schedule regular meetings with the Green Advocates Team to determine progress and need for additional assistance.
The Kane County Recycling Education & Outreach Program will address the following categories and elements in order to minimize resource use, encourage reuse and recycling and to reduce costs:
The best way to cut costs - financial, social, and environmental – is to conserve. Employ paper-use reduction strategies, such as defaulting all printers to duplex (2-sided) printing, reducing margin widths, and encouraging paperless practices like scanning instead of printing. These reductions in use may offset any costs associated with purchasing recycled-content paper. The use of digital organizers instead of paper calendars can provide further paper reduction. The use of eco-font or gray font shading may reduce toner usage. Use of water coolers with reusable bottles, and pitchers with glasses for meetings will help to avoid bottled water and the associated waste.
Waste can be greatly reduced by using ceramic, washable mugs, instead of single-use foam cups for coffee. Reusing office supplies, furniture, and materials saves resources and money. Environmental Resources staff will work with the Purchasing Department to promote the Surplus Exchange program.
Items accepted in the single-stream recycling bins include all paper products from office printing paper, envelopes and notebooks to magazines, newspapers and cardboard boxes are recyclable, as well as glass, plastic, tin, and aluminum containers. Single-stream recycling is a term that refers to the mixing of the previously separated categories of paper and containers. Recyclables are then taken to a recycling facility that sorts the materials, bales them, and sends them to remanufacturing markets. These materials are valuable resources that can be remanufactured again and again. Education will help to inform all employees of this value. Used toner cartridges can also be recycled through easy-to-use take back programs through manufacturers or suppliers. Electronics are recycled through the IT department.
Strategy WH3: Model a culture of Zero Waste events and meetings
Successful zero waste events and meetings require planning ahead of the scheduled event. Waste reduction becomes a priority when creating meeting documents. Reusable and/or compostable food service items need to be secured ahead of time either by the host or the caterer. As commercial compost processing facilities become more common and accessible, the development of a Kane County food-scrap composting program may be feasible.
1. Develop Guidelines for Hosting Zero Waste Events and Meetings Investigate successful examples of other zero waste programs and feasibility timeline for a food-scrap composting program to include in guidelines for Kane County.
2. Provide Zero Waste Guidelines to Appropriate Departments Determine departments that host meetings or events and make guidelines and assistance available.
3. Implement Food Scrap Composting Program Timeline Meet with appropriate County staff and compost processing facilities representatives to develop and implement a Kane County Food-Scrap Composting Program.
4. Install Dishwashers Investigate priority locations for dishwasher installations that provide access for departments that regularly host meetings or that employ a large number of staff. Secure funding, purchase and install dishwashers.
5. Track Progress of Zero Waste Initiative Schedule regular follow-ups with each department to determine progress and need for additional assistance.
For More Information ...
Energy Star Green Team Checklist
Bring Your Green to Work
EPA Food Waste Pages
U.S. Composting Council
Zero Waste International Alliance