It’s easy for companies to say the words: We are green. We recycle. We care about our environment. It’s something entirely different to put systems in place which actually reduce your carbon footprint.
As a working owner of Awning Works and a mother of two young children, becoming more “green” and recycling whenever possible is something, honestly, that’s relatively new for me.
At our first house in Clearwater, curbside recycling was part of our waste management service and recycling was a no-brainer; but when we moved to St. Petersburg that option wasn’t yet available and I’ll admit, it became an entirely different challenge. It was a chore to have to save our recycling and then drive it somewhere, especially with little kids, homework, and all of the extracurricular activities that goes with having a family. I always wanted to have a recycling program at work, but I knew the task would be even more daunting then what I was dealing with at home.
Several times throughout the years, I would begin researching how — as a business — we could recycle, but every time, it seemed like I would hit a brick wall. Our city doesn’t offer curb side recycling to businesses and our need was becoming greater since we have more than doubled our workforce over the last two years. The amount of garbage that 50 people were producing, as well as pounds and pounds of fabric scraps from our day-to-day operations, was becoming out of control and I knew it was time to make a change.
As fate would have it, a relative introduced me to someone who does independent audits of the carbon footprint of businesses and I happily signed up to be evaluated.
Needless to say, it was embarrassing. When we actually took the time to walk around, we saw perfectly good wood – in the garbage. We saw fabric – in the garbage. We saw all kind of plastic – in the garbage. We saw trash in the pond behind our building. Everything — and I mean everything — went into the dumpster. I knew we had to make a change and we had to make it fast.
We started hitting the low hanging fruit first and let me tell you, it’s not easy. For starters, getting our employees to “buy” into the program wasn’t easy! I had no idea the chaos it would cause when we removed everyone’s trash cans in an effort to force them to make a choice to recycle before just throwing something away.
The actual process of recycling isn’t easy either. There aren’t a lot of options out there and the ones that are available are expensive! Spoiler alert: It costs a lot of money to be green!
I’m happy to say that in 6 months, we have made progress! I’m going to continue to report on how we are doing — on all aspects of how we’re doing — but in this communication, I’m proud to say that yesterday we transported over 1,000 pounds of vinyl fabric scraps that would have previously ended up in a landfill.
We’re also making strides in the areas of cardboard, plastics, and paper and although we have a long way to go, it’s very exciting to see the change that a company can make if they put their mind and their wallet behind an initiative to not just speak the words but to actually do something about reducing your footprint.
I’d like to thank Recycle Plastics LLC of Thonotosassa, FL for agreeing to help with this initiative because, amazingly, they operate in a world of recycling 60,000 pounds at a time and they had to make special consideration for us to drop off only 1,000.
I’d also like to thank Janet Hall from Destination Better for taking the time to help us start this process, and of course to all of our employees who have helped embrace this change.
Awning Works Inc.