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Setting Up “Green” Initiatives at Your Public Relations Firm

While a lot of public relations firms are currently pushing the “green” initiatives of their clients, I wonder whether the firms themselves are practicing what their clients are preaching. Compared to other businesses, public relations firms probably expend a fairly minimal amount of energy. Still, there are plenty of ways public relations firms can cut down on their environmental footprint by setting up green initiatives of their own. In the process, firms will save themselves and employees money.

Offer Telecommuting

Ten years ago I was living in New Jersey and working in New York City. If I had that same job today, my commuting costs would be more than $5,500 per year. I would also burn through gas, or take up space on mass transit despite not physically needing to be in a workplace. A workplace where I would also burn through energy resources.

Public relations firms are the perfect type of business to allow telecommuting. Public relations involves a lot involves distance communication, be it via phone or email, something that could be done from home. Internal meetings can be replaced with web meetings or conference calls. Mundane tasks such as building media lists could be done in your robe instead of a suit.

Telecommuting cuts down on individual–and company–energy consumption and costs. Employees save money on things like dry cleaning and eating out, and employers gain valuable human energy because employees don’t have to waste time commuting or watching the clock at the end of the day.

Carpool

Several years ago I got my next-door neighbor a job at my company. It turned out great because we carpooled to work every day and saved enough money to make a habit of stopping for a good meal once each week on the way home from work. When my neighbor moved a few miles away, we kept up the carpool by having him drive to my home each morning and either pick me up or park. We added another worker to the pool eventually and further cut down on costs by picking up and dropping off a fourth employee at a train station along our route. (She kicked in for gas each week.)

While a public relations firm can’t control a carpool, it can help employees form one through message board postings and emails. My neighbor and I found our other two carpoolers because our company’s HR person took the initiative to plot where each worker lived and then went about making carpool connections for everyone.

Recycle Everything

I’ve got a cabinet full of plastic grocery bags that will soon end up at a special recycling center. All of my plastic, glass, cardboard and paper is recycled. The few times a month I bother to use my printer, I use recycled printer paper. My old computers and electronics–they went to a special recycling program a few months ago.

The amount of waste I see at a typical public relations firm is disgraceful, and I can only assume laziness and ignorance lies behind it such wastefulness. Recycling programs are easy to design, implement, and maintain. PR firms can empower employees by creating “recycling officers” who help ensure that employees understand and follow recycling rules.

In addition, much of what I’m handed on paper in a meeting can simply be thrown onto a projector screen or emailed. Cutting down on paper use cuts down on the need for recycling.

Turn Off the Lights

Last month I checked into a hotel in Manhattan while some work was being done on my apartment. I spent the weekend lounging on a terrace. The view was great except for the fact that many of the offices in the buildings across the street had lights on 24/7. Did someone forget to turn off the lights? Was it some sort of security measure? Either way, I did not see any reason why lights on the 23rd floor of a Manhattan office building would need to be on all day on a Sunday.

It’s not just lights that are left on. Workers routinely keep computers turned on overnight and keep chargers for gadgets plugged in despite the gadget being in their pocket. (Yes, the charger alone utilizes electricity.) Likewise, offices with ample natural light are often flooded with electric light for no reason.

A public relations firm shouldn’t need to install timers on lights to cut back on energy costs, but if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. It needs to be hammered into people’s heads that leaving lights on burns energy and increases a company’s costs. It’s the simplest thing in the world to turn off the lights. Common sense should be key to your green initiatives.

Ditch the Pizza

My friend was ecstatic last week when her office manager sent a memo ending “Free Pizza Fridays.” Instead of buying pizzas at the end of every week, the company had decided to buy locally produced fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and breads and treat employees to a healthier and more eco-friendly meal. (No more cardboard pizza boxes or electric-burning pizza ovens.) The response was overwhelmingly positive at my friend’s workplace.

Help the Environment With Team-Building Events

Whether it’s cleaning up a stretch of highway or pitching in at a community garden, PR firms can help the environment and conservation causes by designing team-building events around volunteering. Team-building events are simple, fun and effective, not to mention you may make some contacts among the other volunteers.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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