Aug. 15th, 2007

butterflydreaming: "Cris", in blocks with a blinking cat (Default)
One of the harder things about being at my last job (as a mortgage loan processor) was being surrounded by a culture whose interests, values and priorities were not in perfect alignment with my own. "Water cooler talk" was about last night's American Idol or something else I could equally care less about. I just nodded and smiled, or ignored and focused on my work, for the most part. Conservation of natural resources is one of the items of importance to me to which that culture is indifferent.

Before I got there, DMS was throwing away pop cans. In the garbage. Who throws away aluminum cans?!? It's even more horrifying for me because I grew up with California's redemption value, meaning that each of those cans represents -- in my mind -- a nickle. Even without redemption value, can aluminum is still has a pretty good trade in price at recycling centers.

I couldn't get my boss to approve a switch to buying paper with recycled content. Recycled paper is too much more expensive than standard copy paper. It worked better to cut down our paper use, by switching, where possible, from faxing to using emails, scans, and electronic submissions, all of which were superior ways of sending information. The company saved the cost of paper, and I smiled over "saving trees".

When it, rather abruptly, became time for me to look for new employment, I wanted to find a company where I wouldn't be treated like an eco-eccentric. I count myself lucky with what I have found. It doesn't pay very well, benefits are slim, and I have to allot an hour and a half to get from home to work, but I work for and with good folks. My boss, who used to be a social worker, decided to buy a franchise in a "green" business, a mere two years ago. He's committed to being carbon-neutral. My co-workers are guys who ride bicycles as primary transportation as well as for sport. Everyone there is environmentally conscious. We have reduced packaging where possible, we are careful with water and electrical usage, we reuse anything that stands up to reuse, and we recycle.

It's a real-world application of values that I hold dear. We do what we can, where we can, on a constant path of improvement. Corporate sells the product as a money saver, with the ecological aspect as a secondary benefit. I see our product as a tool of subversive change. It's a little thing in a world that still uses a lot of paper: we refill printer cartridges.

Reuse is a more important than recycling. When you sent your spent ink cartridge back to HP in the postage-paid envelope they provide, that cartridge becomes nothing more than crushed plastic, waiting for a market that wants plastic lumber or other recycled plastic goods. What have *you* bought lately? What's available? ([livejournal.com profile] graphxgrrl, I know about your toothbrush. It'll be a lovely deck, [livejournal.com profile] kendaer.) However, that empty cartridge can be easily refilled to work as well as a new one.

I'm going to put some more information about this under a cut, because it's something of a ramble in a different direction. At least twice a week since I started, I explain what we do to a new customer who is asking what we are about. What we do that's different from DIY refill kits. )

What we do isn't like a thrift store or vintage boutique, because we are not simply reselling still-good items. It's a different kind of second-hand, good-as-new. Nor is it and artistic reincarnation, like the jewelry and journals made from old computer parts. But I see a kinship to both. In seeing things differently, we perceive ways to keep them out of the landfills. It's important to move away from a habit of single-use. And end-use items such as disposable paper products should not come from a virgin source. Paper napkins don't have to be bleached white, either.

On some days, I leave with ink stains on my fingertips. I fill ink cartridges (we do wear gloves, but spills and leaks happen) as well as doing the office work (accounts payable and the like). I get to use a drill, a dremel, and various other toolbox tools on a daily basis. The office work makes me the odd one out, but this time, I don't feel like the odd one. For the most part, the guys treat me as one of the guys, only laughing a bit because I'm not tall enough to reach stuff.

I knew it was a good sign when, on my first day, we went to put stamps on the envelopes, and the drawer held Star Wars stamps. That's unrelated to being eco-friendly but indicative of the environment of my workplace.

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