Best for NYC: Best Practices

by Don Friedman on December 22, 2015

I’ve discussed recycling and reuse and why we have reduced our reliance on paper but are unlikely to be a paperless office soon. I thought I had bled this topic dry, but apparently not: I recently took a look at our office-supply purchasing history and I realized how little paper we use now compared to the past.  We average something like two pieces of paper per working day per engineer and that number has been dropping since 2011. Quite a bit of the 8-1/2 x 11 paper we use is for forms to be filed with the New York Department of Buildings, which is (slowly) switching to on-line submission of documents.

Or, another take: we may literally never buy file folders or hanging files again, as the number of paper documents we have stored is decreasing, so we are simply reusing the folders and files we have. We’ve stopped buying Post-It notes, as Evernote, Slack, and using the back of discarded paper as handy scrap have replaced their usefulness.

The depth of this change was brought home to me on the topic of colored pencils. When I began work as an engineer, in 1987, they were critical for marking up drawings internally and for reviewing shop drawings. At my first job, the engineers turned in the stubs at the supply desk to prove we deserved new pencils, because we ran through them so quickly. Well, Old Structures bought a large box of colored pencils in 2010 and we’ve used less than half of them since.

It may be a small thing, but it’s not nothing. We would be using computers for our work regardless, but the fact that they have enabled us to reduce consumption and trash is a great bonus. A lot of small steps are easier to take than one big one, and movement toward the goals is what matters, bother in general as as part of the Best for NYC Challenge.

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