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Linda Bortolus is on a mission. She was brought up in a family where conserving resources is a way of life. As part of SAP, she has been at the lead of a number of sustainability measures and projects. Don’t think that means she is a highly-placed member of the executive staff. She is another worker bee, like you and me. She is a great example of how much power that even you, as a worker bee, have to drive change and make a difference. Consider the thought of being able to save the world and doing it right where you are.

Here are 5 1/2 ways to save the world from your cubicle.

1) Redesign spreadsheets and other templates to fit the page

It seems like such a simple thing, right? Well, Linda Bortolus thought about that when looking at the spreadsheets she used – which of course were used by others as well. When they were printed, there were huge, wide margins and Linda felt this was not only inefficient, but a waste of paper.

She didn’t have to be a spreadsheet design specialist, only someone who recognized a possibility and worked with others to get the templates redesigned.

Do you have some shared templates that could be better reconfigured?

2) Handouts on a stick – does it REALLY need to by printed?

Then Linda took the next step – don’t print it out! She was one of the drivers that moved TechEd material off the printed page and on to a flash stick. Attendees still received all the materials and didn’t have to lug around pounds of paper for a couple of days. Not to mention where most of those papers ended up when the attendees go back home.

Have you considered what paperwork you have that doesn’t need to be on paper?

3)  Replace plastic and paper with reusable water bottles and cups

Another idea used at TechEd was to get people to use aluminum water bottles to keep hydrated, instead of individual plastic bottles of water or paper cups. Those aluminum bottles travel back to the office for use there as well. And for those hot beverages at the office, Linda encourages people to use their own mug which saves on paper cups at work.

How could you cut back on using individual plastic bottles of water and going through multiple paper cups each day?

4) Look where you throw it – is it trash or can you recycle?

Get a clue about the blue – the blue recycling bins! It always helps to properly dispose of things and especially to recycle when you can. If takes just a conscious moment to consider what is in your hand before dropping it into a receptacle; make sure it goes into the right one. And don’t forget about that in the copy room or at your desk – a lot of what gets in the trash could have been put in the blue recycle bin.

Is recycling a habit for you?

5) How much is too much for tissues, towels, and napkins?

How many paper towels do you really need to dry your hands? Even if you are a messy eater, do you really need all those napkins? There are any numbers of paper products that we use without much thought and usually grab great gobs of paper to use. Certainly, if you need them, take what you need. But, if you are going to save the world – how about a few less napkins for that coffee?

Please use a tissue when coughing, but save a tissue or napkin when you can.

5 1/2) Try and don’t be shy – mention it to others

Try doing it; even a half-hearted attempt at conservation can make a huge difference for all of us. And you can be a leader, without being a boss. Linda Bortolus, just another worker bee like you and me, spoke up and others took notice. Her suggestions make sense, and save money as well as save the world. She is genuinely passionate about sustainability and by just noticing what could be different has been able to influence changes by speaking up.

Don’t think this means that you have to find a podium or schedule a conference room to make a difference. Sometimes leading by example is easiest, but to make a real impact, don’t be afraid to speak up. When you hear co-workers utter “What would Linda say?” you can understand how your influence can change attitudes, can change behavior, can change the world.

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  1. Linda Bortolus
    Thanks for the recognition and for spreading the message that we can all make an impact towards a more sustainable way to work and live by thinking and acting a little more eco-centrically.
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    1. Bob McGlynn Post author
      You are a great example of what companies are counting on to continuously improve – knowledgeable employees who can use their own insight, experience, and judgement to make the company a better place.

      Thanks again for your leadership!
      Bob

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  2. Marilyn Pratt
    Linda Bortolus indeed deserves praise for her determination.  Anyone looking for ways to save money while saving the planet and doing it in the workplace would do well to engage in a brief dialogue with her.  She has researched, campaigned, modeled, and driven sustainable change for our organization for over a decade (and she’s still young and going strong). She made sure Sustainability was part of the conversation long before it became a popular theme.  She is definitively one of my heroines. You can hear and see Linda being interviewed by James Governor and Tom Raftery at TechEd ’08 Berlin in this Greenmonk Video Clip  with Jim Spath and me.
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    1. Bob McGlynn Post author
      Marilyn,
      Definitely agree that Linda is a great role model because she incorporates her passions with her job.

      Linda shows that if you feed your inner flame by taking action – really ignite your fire at work – you can be a leader without being a boss, you can make dramatic improvements by facilitating changes of the little things and those things you have control over.

      That’s very powerful because so many think only executives or someone else “with the power” can make changes, can make a difference. Especially in a big company where it’s easy to be overwhelmed by processes, procedures, chain-of-command and “that’s how we’ve always done it”.

      Each reader has the ability to make dramatic, positive improvements at their own company and for the entire world Unleash your passion at work and take responsibility that you are the one that can instigate that positive change.

      As Linda’s story demonstrates, big changes start small. Because even seemingly small improvements build over time and pick up momentum as others get passionate as well.

      Keep it positive, keep it passionate, and you feed your own fires as well as changing the world.

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  3. Clinton Jones
    Your posting made me smile because I think sometimes people think I am a little OCD about some of these things, particularly the handouts on a stick – i always tell people I hate printed documents!

    The plastic and paper water bottles and cups is a harder one to drive home, but in the end I think making sure there are plenty of cups in your communal kitchen (donate!) and that people are prevented from exercising the use of paper and plastic is the way to go (hide them!) , plastic knives, forks and spoons should also be on the banned list, most communal offices should have a dishwasher of some sort, and if not, people should be encouraged to wash their own – there is nothing as icky as remnants of food stuck to communal bowls, cups and silverware in the communal sink!

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    1. Bob McGlynn Post author
      Clinton,
      Thanks for being OC about this! There are many people that don’t speak up or encourage colleagues to consider their behavior.

      People have to buy-in to this. When people don’t change their attitudes, they look at changes as an imposition. They resist it, try to find ways around it, and complain about how it’s just a cost-cutting measure masquerading as a sustainability issue.

      Be positive, be pro-active, and help people see how they can help. It doesn’t have to take much effort to do it, only a very little additional time.

      What you are trying to do is present to people how to be mindful of some of the choices they can make.

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  4. Muthu Ranganathan
    In India, we always been brought up with the resource constraints – water, electricity etc. This blog reminded me of the old india where my grandpa, a physics professor, always used to tell me to switch of the lights coming out of the room, close the watertap before you leave the bathroom to avoid water wasted.
    Truly sustainable – Another way to save the world outside the cubicle, at home !!!
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    1. Bob McGlynn Post author
      Muthukumar,
      Isn’t it amazing how the influence of someone, like your grandfather, can make a lasting impression on us?

      We can be that grandfather for others!

      Thanks for sharing,
      Bob

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