G. Go green. Be green.
Climate change is now recognised as one of the most serious challenges to the global community, potentially affecting almost all aspects of life across the planet. With the world’s increasing reliance on technology and diminishing resources it is vital that every individual understands their impact on the environment. You should be aware of the mission policy on environmental impact.
The basic principles of environmental awareness by which you are expected to abide are:
- reduction and safe disposal of waste;
- emission and pollution reduction;
- using resources sparingly (e.g. electricity, water, raw materials) and using renewable energy sources where possible;
- raise awareness!
1. Reduce waste
In peacekeeping missions, waste is generated that may be hazardous to public health and the environment. The improper disposal of hazardous waste leads to the contamination of the environment and dangerous goods may be diverted to the ‘black’ market for resale or misuse.
For this reason, adequate control measures should be in place to minimise these hazards. Employers must maintain awareness in protecting not only their own employees, but also the environment from biohazards. Employees, on the other hand, also have responsibilities with respect to controlling and reporting potentially biohazardous situations and adhering to safe procedures.
- Yellow: laboratory waste, including blood.
- Red: human tissue, contaminated material (e.g. bandages, tubing, drains, Porto-Vac, catheters, vaculiters, latex gloves).
- Black: normal household waste.
The three Rs of waste minimisation – an environmental ethos!
Office procurement and waste minimisation should embrace the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Some examples for the three Rs include:
- Print double-sided documents and ask yourself if you really need a hard copy before printing a document.
- Implement a paper-free electronic database for information storage and communication within your office.
- Reuse single-sided paper for draft copies or notepaper.
- Reuse folders, file clips and covers.
- Encourage staff to use reusable cups, crockery and cutlery for lunch and tea breaks in order to avoid unnecessary waste.
- Construct a primary recycling station in a central location within the office.
- Every desk should have a paper-recycling box.
- Used printer toner cartridges can be recycled. Toner cartridges contain harmful chemicals that should not be placed in landfills.
2. Reduce emissions
Most organisations encourage staff to reduce their environmental footprint in different ways, for example by avoiding unnecessary travel in missions by conducting meetings through video-conferences or the internet. Solar panels for information and communications technology (ICT) equipment can be deployed in remote bases. Other ideas include:
- Travel: reduced travel and more efficient travel supported by a proper travel policy.
- Buildings: active measures (e.g. reducing consumption through use of natural lighting) and passive measures (e.g. improving the efficiency of whatever functions energy is used for).
- Processes: procurement, administration, budgeting and meetings.
- Organisational culture: policies, environmental management systems, formal checkpoints and innovative incentives.
3. Use resources sparingly
To reduce energy consumption, take the following into consideration with regard to office supplies and equipment:
- Use natural light wherever possible.
- Replace traditional incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs to reduce running costs by up to 75 % and energy consumption by 20-30 %. Replace any existing 50W halogen lights with 20W lights.
- Use separate light switches for different areas in your office.
- Install movement sensors or timer switches in areas such as store rooms, meeting rooms and photocopy rooms to reduce light usage. Attach eye-catching energy saving reminder signs and stickers.
- Switch all equipment off when not in use (e.g. at night) and programme equipment to hibernate when not in use during office hours.
- Make sure your computer settings are capable of the following energy-saving functions after the respective period of inactivity: 15 minutes – monitor hibernation mode (switches off); 30 minutes – system standby (hard drive switches off); 2 hours – system hibernation (entire system switches off).
- Deactivate your screensaver! Monitors should be set to hibernation, as screensavers often waste energy rather than save it.
- Minimise the number of photocopiers and printers in the office. Turn the photocopier off at the power point during periods of inactivity. The majority of electricity used by photocopiers is in the initial ‘warm up’ stage. Save your copying tasks up and do them in one batch.
Did you know?
A computer left on overnight all year generates the same amount of greenhouse gas as a car driving from Madrid to Moscow – that’s more than 4,000 km!
Climate control accounts for about 40 % of an office’s total energy use. The opportunity for big savings in energy efficiency can be found in your heating, cooling and ventilation (HVAC) systems.
- Use natural ventilation and fans where possible.
- Set air-conditioner systems to a minimum of 24 °Celsius. If air-conditioning is used, close all windows and doors to reduce the escape of cool air. If the machine has adjustable louvres, adjust them towards the ceiling when cooling and towards the floor when heating (as cool air falls and hot air rises). Switch off heating and cooling after office hours.
Inspect potential office equipment for energy saving and environmentally sustainable ‘tags’ or ‘eco-labelling’. Energy-efficient products on the market today can reduce energy costs by 25-50 % or more without compromising quality or performance.
Think of longevity, reusability, refillability and recyclability when buying office equipment such as printers, scanners and photocopiers.
- When boiling the kettle, only use as much water as you personally need.
- If you use a washing machine for your clothes and linen, try to wait until you can fill the machine fully.
- Make use of low-flow showerheads and taps (less than 10 litres per minute); a tap aerator reduces the use of hot water.
- Use press taps and adjust toilet cisterns to control water consumption; use recycled water instead of drinking water for flushing toilets.
- Collect rainwater and store it in tanks (to prevent mosquitoes breeding there, put mosquito nets over the top). It can be used for showers and washing hands and dishes.
The UN has set up a Community of Practice on Environmental Management for all UN missions to share best practices and experience; a website with green tips has also been created (www.greeningtheblue.org). Some missions have created green committees to give a local response to environmental issues. It is simple to conserve energy through switching off appliances, sufficiently insulating houses and offices, and avoiding excessive use of personal transport. However, it takes a little more understanding to avoid purchasing unsustainable products that are at risk of becoming exhausted or supporting unscrupulous companies that employ techniques that adversely affect the environment.
4. Take action, raise awareness!
- Raise awareness on environmental issues through regular meetings for all staff and through emails reminding them of particular environmentally benign measures to be adopted, etc.
- Regularly provide comprehensive information on the ecological footprint of the mission in order to raise awareness of the impact of your modes of practice.
- Elaborate guidelines (on the use of water, electricity, paper, production of waste, etc.) supporting the environmentally sustainable performance of staff. Monitor and report on the results of implementation and publicise those achievements. Adopt these green guidelines during meetings and conferences as well.
- Try to initiate a climate action plan by getting into contact with one of the elected representatives at the local, state or federal level. Climate change is no longer seen only as an environmental problem – its effects on
health, food production, economic development, infrastructure, and even peace and security are now commonly recognised.