The University Record, June 25, 1997

Practice reduce, reuse, recycle throughout office

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Think reduce before recycling, Erica Spiegel of the Recycling Office told her class on "The Environmentally Responsible Office" at the recent Workplace 2000 conference. Instead of throwing them in the trash or letting them pile up in a desk, set up an office supply exchange to trade reusable items like rubberbands and folders within a department. Send used Campus Mail envelopes back to M-Stores and take used equipment to Property Disposition.

Spiegel practices what she preaches, and brought as samples "routing slips" and "note paper" printed on reused paper and helpful hints that were contained in a reused manila folder. That's right, the back side of the slips and notes were printed with information once distributed at another time and place. "Paper is the largest waste item in an office," Spiegel said. "Yet of the 9,800 tons of solid waste generated by the U-M last year, only 1,600 tons (less than 20 percent) was paper separated for recycling. Reducing waste, or not creating it in the first place, is the preferred approach. Benefits of reduce and reuse include saving money on office supply purchases, reducing filing space needs and lowering postage costs."

Do you know what's found in every U-M office that can be used (for free) up to 36 times, but in many instances thrown away after only one? If you answered campus envelopes, you're a winner. Spiegel suggests not buying new Campus Mail envelopes, but purchasing "used" ones from M-Stores at less than half the price of new ones. U-M units collectively spent $8,500 on new envelopes last year, in spite of a glut of the lower-cost used ones available at M-Stores.

Campus departments also bought 4,158,000 paper clips from M-Stores last year. Spiegel wondered aloud where all these ended up, and suggests having a "PC Roundup" in the office to gather them from the bottom of desk drawers and file cabinets. Envelopes full of free paper clips are available at the LS&A Cashier's Office, Spiegel says, since they often have a surplus.

From how to get your name off a mailing list to "green computing" and guidelines for planning a "waste-reduced" meeting or event, the Grounds and Waste Management Recycling Office on East Huron has ideas and programs to help U-M units and individuals plan strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle. For a tip sheet and a packet of samples used in the Workplace 2000 workshop, call 763-5539, or send e-mail to

Waste Management and Recycling also maintains a Web site ( where you can get information and suggestions on campus recycling, materials recycled on campus, waste management, current events and news, waste prevention tips, frequently asked questions, the Recycling Matters newsletter, the library maintained by Grounds & Waste Management and off-campus recycling, as well as links to other sources for information on waste management and recycling.

Tips to reduce waste in the workplace


  • Make your own routing slips or "From Desk Of" notes using scrap paper. Print the new image on the clean side and cut the sheet into quarters.


  • Save and reuse shipping peanuts. (Great for flower pot drainage, too.)


  • Buy recycled-content paper or unbleached, chlorine-free paper through M-Stores.


  • Turn off lights and computer monitor when you leave the office.


  • Print packets and handouts on both sides of a sheet of paper.


  • Scale down mailing lists; better define the target audience.


  • Set the fax machine so it does not print out a confirmation after each fax.


  • Save copies on the computer, not on paper in file cabinets.


  • Don't print out e-mail messages.


  • Share telephone books---order fewer books from UMTEL this year.


  • Use double-sided photocopying or duplex printing on laser printers.


  • Keep a set of silverware in the office to use with take-out food---avoid disposables.


  • Serve "finger foods" at meetings and events to avoid use of disposable utensils and plates.


  • Keep a set of ceramic mugs in the office for employees and visitors.