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Sustainability From the Home to the Office

The city of West Palm Beach has a mission to make this tropical paradise an even greener place. To go green, it aims to help individuals as well as larger businesses make smarter choices from recycling to buying local and buying smarter from national companies.

Yalmaz Saddiqui, Senior Director of Environmental and Supplier Diversity Strategy for Office Deport
Yalmaz Saddiqui

Everyone now has recycling bins at home and at offices for paper, plastic and metals, but much bigger issues are at stake. At a seminar sponsored by the City of West Palm Beach on July 15th at the Quantum Foundation, Yalmaz Saddiqui, Senior Director of Environmental and Supplier Diversity Strategy for Office Deport, spoke to the eager crowd about how his company is helping to change the world by helping to change peoples’ minds and buying habits.

Knowledge is power, and the easiest way to impart knowledge can be by marking and labeling the products companies and individuals purchase as to their contents and green rating. Office Depot should know as they have been named the #1 Greenest Large Retailer in America by Newsweek Magazine for 3 years and have developed a catalog with extensive information about how going green benefits companies in many ways. Beyond that they even help companies “do the math” as to how smarter purchasing can save enormously down the road, which frees companies up for growth in other areas as well as allowing them to purchase products that will help save even more money.

Sustainability From the Home to the Office

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They have started a Business Challenge for Green Sustainability as cities can only do so much. Engaging the business community reaches out into larger sectors including water, paper products and electric.

What Office Depot has often found is that companies believe that green products are either too costly or do not have the same high quality as other products. This is often true for electric and hybrid cars as well as organic foods. But then why do people spend so much on bottled water when tap water is free? The mindset is often a confusing field to navigate.

With some products there are higher initial costs but those lead to substantial savings. One example Siddiqui cited was with their customer SouthWest Airlines, who saved over $300,000 by purchasing reusable printer ink cartridges.

Another company, a large furniture retailer, replaced their showroom bulbs with LED lights. They had been replacing bulbs every month at a large cost as well as high energy bills plus the trash waste all those discarded bulbs created. The LED bulbs, while pricier initially, saved them over $200,000 in a year on replacement costs, allowing them to expand their showroom space.

“People think that what they do won’t make a difference in the larger scheme of things,” Siddiqui said. “But we like to show them that every step counts – from the self, to organizations, to some sectors, then to all sectors. Every small thing can and does have an impact on the planet. The power of purchase is powerful, and everyone can be part of the shift.”

Going green has tangible benefits outside of “just the right thing to do” as it enhances a companies image as being environmentally conscious. Office Depot has become a retailer of choice for their eco-friendly products that take much of the guesswork out of green buying. Their extensive catalog has icons attached to each product page that explains their green benefits. There are icons that save resources/avoid waste; save energy/avoid emissions; and use safer chemicals/avoid exposure.

More categories for the icons include items that are biodegradable; designed for the environment; made from forests that are managed to avoid over harvesting; and items that are certified organic and bio-based. Some icons show that they are energy efficient.

At the workshop, after a delicious lunch of veggie wraps and green tea – served on paper and wood products that can be recycled – Siddiqui handed out a copy of the hefty Office Depot catalog and had us turn to any page and pick an item. I landed on Avery Eco-Friendly Adhesive Name Badges. Next to them were four symbols. He then asked us to decode what the symbols meant in terms of how green the item was. A key to the symbols is in the front of the catalog. The Name Badges had the symbols for the Forest Stewardship Council – meaning it was made from forests managed responsibly; there was a CL symbol meaning it’s chlorine free; a green triangle symbolizing it can be recycled; and also a green rating of high as it has many positive attributes.

Every single item in the catalog has at least one green quality as the company only buys from suppliers that adhere to at least some standards.

Yalmaz Saddiqui encouraged the businesses attending the workshop to sign up for the Green Business Challenge, they have several events around the city to support and celebrate those actively involved.

Launched in September 2014, the Green Business Challenge is a year long friendly competition open to all West Palm Beach businesses and organizations. Points are accrued as the businesses connect with free resources to save energy, water, waste, and money. It’s free to join and recognition is provided on the Challenge website, storefront labels and an award ceremony at the end of the year. The next event is a happy hour mixer on August 13th at the Palm Beach Zoo; and another on August 27th focusing on financing energy saving retrofits. They also sponsor Green Health and Wellness Expos and give free trees to companies that switch to paper-free Public Utilities Water billing.

As West Palm Beach moves into a new era with a younger, more environmentally-aware demographic moving in, the time is right for entire buildings to be constructed with all eco-friendly elements from solar to electric car charge stations in the garages. In turn the businesses these people start or join to work can have those same green ideas. It’s already happening with several new condo buildings like the Z Palm Beach that has LEED Green lighting, solar power and wind turbines to energize the place.

The time to go green has never been easier or more supported by business both local and national.

For info on the Green initiative, check www.Wpb.org/gbc.

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Sandra-Schulman Sandra Schulman is an arts writer, music and film producer. Born in Miami, her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, Country Music Magazine, The New York Daily News, News From Indian Country, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an entertainment columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years. She has authored three books on pop culture. She currently lives in West Palm Beach with her blue eyed whippet. Sandra Schulman’s column appears weekly. Contact her at sandraslink@gmail.com.
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Go Green WPB! Sustainability From the Home to the Office. See how Companies are Changing the Future by Helping to Change Peoples’ Minds and Buying Habits.