Not long ago, most people at Local Motors would toss their paper plate, napkin, and a plastic cup away in the same trash can without a second thought. That’s not the case anymore.
Local Motors has implemented a new recycling program in which everyone does their part to make us a more environmentally friendly and sustainable company. As we work to bring sustainable vehicles to market through the power of co-creation and microfactories, we’re ensuring that every employee understands the importance of making recycling an everyday habit.
The idea for this new program was born earlier this year when the company’s leadership made a conscious decision to create a more sustainable company, which includes taking seriously our environmental responsibilities. Jay Rogers, our CEO and co-founder, led the company through understanding the problems with unsustainable manufacturing – the opposite of our local micromanufacturing approach. As a company, we viewed the documentary film Manufactured Landscapes, which details the devastating environmental effects that can sometimes result from manufacturing.
After viewing the film and discussing it, we took a hard look at ourselves and made the commitment to push ourselves harder when it comes to sustainability.
Launching an official recycling program
James van Vorst, Local Motors build floor technician and trainer, has always been driven to be sustainable. Within the company, he’s one of our strongest advocates for recycling, reducing, and reusing (a.k.a., the three Rs).
“I’ve seen a lot of waste from our consumer society, and I feel strongly about the problems with too much waste going to landfills,” he said.
Since February, van Vorst has been leading our efforts to educate everyone in the company about what products we dispose of, helping us place them in the proper receptacles, and informing us what is not recyclable.
Of course the concept of recycling wasn’t foreign to us. As an automotive manufacturer, we recycle our motor oil and we often dispose of cardboard or other large recyclables in the proper dumpster. But that was about where our recycling program ended until van Vorst took the lead.
He helped install dedicated receptacles that indicate which materials are accepted. He also went on to host a company-wide training on the fundamentals of recycling, so we’re able to be more informed about the what we individually had to do to make a difference. James later explained to me the issues with cross-contaminating one material with others. For instance, tossing a Starbucks cup with a few ounces of coffee remaining can cause other articles not to get recycled later. Generally speaking, recyclables should be free of any liquids, foods, or other organic matter.
We learned more about recycling and ourselves
You’re probably thinking, “I recycle at home, so what’s the big deal?” The reality is that it’s a lot of work to ever-so-slightly shift the behavior of approximately 130 employees. We learned some lessons along the way and these can help you when you adopt a recycling program at home or work.
While I was talking with James for this blog post, a couple of employees from our retail team interrupted our conversation, “Hey James, is this packing material recyclable?” I was delighted because I saw exactly what James was going after: influencing people to change their default behavior to make a difference for our planet. Unfortunately, the packing material wasn’t recyclable, but it was good that they asked as they could have contaminated other recyclable material.
Since we’ve implemented our recycling program, here are a few observations. First, we discovered that people are very supportive of recycling, especially once they are shown how to do it properly. Second, many folks don’t realize that styrofoam isn’t typically recyclable. Luckily, we found a local recycler that accepts it, Earth Friendly Building Products.
Third, we observed that employees who don’t have recycling service at their homes utilized Local Motors to drop off their recyclables. Of course, it goes without saying, having an advocate like James on-site available to answer questions and guide the company around its recycling efforts has helped us tremendously.
Not only is recycling smart for our planet, but it forces us to think about the products we use, how we use them, and how we dispose of them. Sustainability is at the core of why Local Motors is out to revolutionize manufacturing. Recycling is one of the ways we can make a big difference through a series of smaller actions – and we expect these practices to continue to cascade across our entire company.