The life cycle of those seemingly ubiquitous interoffice envelopes may seem trivial, but as a few Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) employees found, questioning the path the envelopes take between departments can lead to cost savings and waste reduction.
It all started when Endowment, Gift, and Chart of Accounts Administrator Jen Doleva discovered that while interoffice envelopes were piling up in some departments, such as her own in Financial Services, they were absent from others, resulting in unnecessary purchasing of new envelopes. In an effort to reduce costs and promote reuse, Doleva, who is a member of the HSPH’s Eco-Opportunity green team, met with the Director of Accounts Payable for HSPH to determine how often departments were ordering new interoffice envelopes. After running a report, results found that over the course of 15 months, $950 was spent on interoffice envelopes alone.
Doleva and fellow Eco-Opportunity team members then successfully launched a new reuse system for interoffice envelopes. "It’s great ideas like this one from our Green Team members that truly can make a difference in our efforts to be a more sustainable university. We spend a lot of time seeking that one big idea, and there are plenty of really simple ones that are easy to implement now," says Doleva.
How can you start one in your department or business? The HSPH team focused on several key steps to implement their reuse system:
- School-wide Communication: The Eco-Opportunity team included a call-to-action in their monthly e-newsletter alerting office members of the surplus of interoffice envelopes in administrative offices and encouraging them to contact the team to receive a used bundle, rather than ordering new ones.
- Expand Through Partnerships: Doleva, with the help of Alanna Paiva at HSPH Accounts Payable, contacted Harvard’s Central Accounts Payable office and the University Mailroom discovering that these departments had similar abundances of interoffice envelopes. The Mailroom happily agreed to partner with HSPH to ship any office, university-wide, boxes of used envelopes.
- Reach Out to Your Office Suppliers: Doleva and Paiva also contacted W.B. Mason, Harvard’s preferred office supply vendor, to ask if the company would be willing to help block people from ordering new envelopes. W.B. Mason was more than willing to assist, creating a pop-up notification on their website’s page for new interoffice envelopes, directing HSPH purchasers to the appropriate contacts to receive surplus envelopes at no cost.