This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

How Erskine Design is growing into a greener agency

22nd May 2007

For some time I’ve been one of those people who recycles my waste and cares about the environment. When I worked at Agenzia the boys had initiated some good recycling policies and I was impressed that people in a small business would care. Nowadays, since starting Erskine Design, I’m verging on the obsessive about running an ethical, “green” business.

Of course my fellow partners in the Erskine Corporation live by this code of conduct in all they do, with a very sturdy Environmental Policy to back this up.

Erskine recycling

Now, my intentions are not cynical here, but I cannot deny that ethical and green issues are sexy these days, and in our case this commitment is attracting the right kinds of clients. As a design agency, we are developing a strong niche working with ethical partners and clients and our genuine willingness to reduce waste and act responsibly is bringing great rewards. The thing is, business is business, and taking steps to improve these things is not easy. It can be hard to find the right kind of information and services to help, and there is much contradiction in the press.

So, in the first of what I think will be many forthcoming “green” articles, I’ve collated a number of links and resources that have helped us get our offices in order, in the hope that they’ll also be of use to you.

What kind of things does a “green” agency do?

Some of these are obvious, but in general we are striving to comply with the following:

  • Carbon offset our websites and mobile phones.
  • Travel less or cycle, and use trains
  • Share a car and keep within the speed limit
  • Turn the computers and printers off at night, or when possible.
  • Unplug iPods and mobile phones once they’ve charged.
  • Keep the heating down and get some jumpers on.
  • Use energy saving lightbulbs in our offices.
  • Print on both sides of paper where possible, and never print emails.
  • Buy locally-sourced food with minimal packaging
  • Get fair-trade tea and coffee in for the team.
  • Use envelopes and stationary printed on recycled material.

Some of these things need will-power, and there are inevitably times when you just have to print that email or can’t share a car. Still, I honestly feel that making an effort is what really matters, and doing so with integrity.

Don’t know where to start? Visit these sites…

Coco: The easy way to offset a website or mobile phone, costing from £6 per year. COCO automatically make a donation and/or purchase carbon offsets to offset the impact of your websites on the environment. A typical web server can generate over 2 tonnes of carbon per year. COCO intentionally over-invest in carbon offsets to ensure the emmissions generated by registered websites are reduced or negated elsewhere.

npower Juice: Responsible electricity supply is within reach, and Juice is generated from a number of renewable energy sources. npower matches every unit of normal electricity that you use and feeds the same amount, generated from renewable sources, into the electricity network. There is no premium to pay with Juice. It costs exactly the same as standard npower electricity.

Recycle Now: Recycling at home or in the workplace. This is the main site for facts, ideas and general info/support about home or office recycling. The composting section will tell you if the local council have any subsidies available to you.

Home Composting: If you work at home, or perhaps have a bit of spare soil where you work, think about sticking a composter on it. This is a great way to reduce rubbish and turn it into something useful. Mine cost just £8, subsidised by the local council, and as well as all the “greens” and “browns” I’m filling it with, it is also a great home for all the shredded paper that I couldn’t reuse.

Lovely As A Tree: Graphic designers are involved in the destruction of forests as well as fuelling the need for oil and increasing air pollution by choosing petroleum-based inks. Us poncey designers are at least partly responsible for the 12.5 million tonnes of paper and card that get thrown into landfill in the UK every year. This website aims to help graphic designers take a more environmentally friendly approach to print projects, with advice on how to reduce the impact of your design, and contacts to help you source environmentally friendlier paper and print.

Green Your Office: Transform your workplace into a socially and environmentally responsible place to be with high quality socially and environmentally responsible office products and services.

WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme): WRAP works in partnership to encourage and enable businesses and consumers to be more efficient in their use of materials and recycle more things more often. This helps to minimise landfill, reduce carbon emissions and improve our environment.

New Consumer: We are biased here as we built this site, but we do read it every day for tips and advice on ethical products for the home, office, garden… everything.

Use Apple computers! Greenpeace’s Green My Apple rang the alarm bells about Apple’s record here, but Steve set the record straight with Apple’s response.

This sheet of paper had been exhausted

Don’t think about it, do it!

I admit that we have not yet implemented all of the above across the board, and we’re realistic enough to know that it is a gradual process. We are building carbon offsetting into our quotes, and as most of us still work at home, individuals take responsibility for their own work environments until we finally find a perfect office space. Still, we’re proud of our progress so far, and we know we have more to do.

I’m sure there are many more resources out there, so I’d be interested to hear of your ideas, initiatives, or of any other useful sites that can help.

Responses

# stuart trann responded on 22nd May 2007 with...

well done, we are quite serious about our consumption, emissions and “greening” over here in vancouver. glad to see you are doing just about everything you can to make a difference.

if you’ve got a car you should check this out:

http://www.terrapass.com/index.html

i’ve got one of those for the car, and i ride my bike or bus to work everyday. we gotta do our part. many offices in vancouver are taking part in ‘bike to work week’ may 28th and we’ve got a sizeable portion of our employees committing to it.

http://www.vacc.bc.ca/biketowork/index.php

# stuart trann responded on 22nd May 2007 with...

sorry didn’t link those urls properly:

offset your car’s carbon emissions with a terrapass

vancouver bike to work week

# Jon responded on 22nd May 2007 with...

Good article Simon.

I use Good Energy
http://www.good-energy.co.uk/
and I’d recommend you all do too over NPower.

Also - keep all packaging and envelopes, open them carefully and they can easily be reused.

# Simon Collison responded on 22nd May 2007 with...

Stuart: Thanks for the links. I don’t have a car any more (not for three years now) although one of our team has a Prius, which is a half-environmentally-friendly car of course. Anyway, good to read that you and your employees are also doing your bit.

Jon: “Keep all packaging and envelopes, open them carefully and they can easily be reused”... to doodle all over in your case and then to sell to punters! Jon, you are the most resourceful recycler I ever did meet!

# Kate Bolin responded on 22nd May 2007 with...

Fantastic article!  I’ve recently been thinking about things like this, and it’s great to see it from other people too.

However, I don’t think you can just say “Buy Apple Computers”.  Surely buying second-hand would be better?

I mean, unless you’re doing some really high-end production, you don’t need the latest model, and a second-hand computer can provide years of quality work without you having to offset what the production of a new computer creates.  Not to mention saving computers from just going to the tip.

I mean, heck, 90% of what I do takes place in a plain text editor.  That behemoth in the corner that runs OS7 can do that.

# Andrew Strachan responded on 23rd May 2007 with...

Some excellent food for thought! I always wondered if we were doing enough - now I know we’re not!

Note to self: Must try harder..

# Jamie Fletcher responded on 23rd May 2007 with...

Hi Simon,

You ought to check out Thinkhost. I haven’t had any first hand experience of them (yet), but I’m setting up a client site with them next week. Shall keep you posted…

# Sun glasses responded on 24th May 2007 with...

Thanks for the links.

# Web design responded on 26th May 2007 with...

Thanks for the links. These are the necessary resources for me, it is probably possible to add still, for the full list. Thanks.

# Colin responded on 26th May 2007 with...

Great tips.

Most of my travel is done by bike (just have to keep myself from riding too fast and arriving all sweaty at my customers’ offices :) ) but when I need to go somewhere public transport can’t take me I use a car sharing service (cambio in my case, but there are similar services all over the world).

Having to take the step of actually booking a car before you use it also stops you from being tempted to grab it for small errands when it’s conveniently sitting outside your front door.

A good trick for keeping printers, phone chargers off when not needed is to invest in power strips with individual switches like these ones from Brennenstuhl.

# Tomasz Gorski responded on 26th May 2007 with...

Thanks for very interesting article Simon. btw. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It’s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view… makes you think more. So please keep up the great work. Greetings

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