When 1,000 workers in a 20-story office building start recycling, how many tons of plastic water bottles, aluminum pop cans and mixed office paper are diverted from the city of Spokane’s waste stream?
Property manager Chrissy McCullough is still tallying the total. But she knows this: The Bank of America Financial Center’s garbage bill will drop by about $9,000 over the next 12 months.
“We pay $165 plus taxes every time this is emptied,” said McCullough, waving at the Dumpster in the loading dock of downtown Spokane’s largest office building, 601 W. Riverside Ave.
Based on the results of a recycling pilot program, McCullough expects the ? 330,000-square-foot financial center to reduce the amount of garbage it generates by one-third. The number of weekly trash pickups will drop from three to two.
Today – Earth Day – marks the official start of the building’s recycling program. All 32 tenants are participating.
While recycling at home is a well-honed ethic for many Inland Northwest residents, commercial office buildings have been slower to embrace the trend.
The city of Spokane doesn’t keep numbers on how many office buildings offer recycling programs. The data is hard to track, because some companies work directly with private contractors, said Suzanne Tresko, recycling coordinator for the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System.
But generally, office buildings haven’t been at the forefront of recycling, said Susanne Croft, an incentive specialist for the city. That’s why it’s exciting, she said, to see recycling bins appear in the lobby of a downtown landmark like the Bank of America center.
“When you see creative leadership coming from that sector, it shows that this is becoming embedded in the mainstream,” Croft said.
Cory Barbieri is president of the Spokane Building Owners & Managers Association, which represents about 70 people who work in the commercial real estate industry. He sees a growing interest in the “greening” of office space.
Investing in energy-efficient lighting and heating systems has paid off for cost-conscious building owners. Recycling is a natural next step, he said.
Barbieri works for Goodale & Barbieri, which manages three million square feet of office, retail and residential space in the Inland Northwest. The company offers cardboard and paper recycling and eventually plans to do more.
“Certain things can be buzzwords from time to time, but going green isn’t going away,” Barbieri said.
The Bank of America Financial Center worked with the city to set up its recycling program. McCullough said the program will cost about $1,000 a year – an investment that will more than pay for itself through lower garbage bills.
Recycling is a core value of Unico Properties LLC of Seattle, which bought the Bank of America building two years ago, McCullough said.
“We believe in looking at our building and its impact on the environment and the community,” she said.
The tenants – including a day care, restaurants, attorneys and accountants – share the interest in creating a socially responsible work environment, McCullough said.
Moss-Adams, an accounting firm that occupies nearly two floors of the building, participated in the recycling pilot. The company welcomed the chance to recycle office paper – a voluminous byproduct of the accounting business, said Emaline Vance, a senior auditor.
In addition to recycling, McCullough said the building’s management encourages bike commuting by offering secure indoor racks. Cleaning crews have switched to less toxic chemicals since Unico purchased the building. And the building recently earned an Energy Star rating for efficiency upgrades, including an overhaul of 20-year-old elevators.
Eventually, McCullough would like the building’s waste stream to drop to almost zero. Recycling organic material, such as coffee grounds, is a possibility.
Wastebaskets would disappear from under people’s desks, she said. Recycling bins would replace them.
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