Powwownow provides a service which is environmentally friendly in the sense that it encourages people to communicate over distance rather than contributing to CO2 emissions by travelling.
But our green commitment extends to our day-to-day operations as well. Like any company, we generate a significant amount of cardboard waste and paper waste. None of this goes to a landfill. It is collected by our recycling company, FirstMile, along with drinks cans, food tins, glass bottles & jars, drinks cartons, and even plastic bottles & bags. Printer components such as exhausted toner cartridges and image drums are notoriously hazardous for the environment, so we’re careful to only use printers whose manufacturers offer a free recycling service for used parts, which we post back to them rather than throwing them away.
Decommissioned hardware poses an awkward waste disposal problem. Ironically, the very servers which help to reduce CO2 emissions by making conference calling possible pose a potential threat to the environment once they are replaced with more up-to-date technology and become surplus to requirements. Our unwanted servers and network equipment are given to Secure IT Recycling, one of the few companies licensed by the Environment Agency to collect and recycle WEEE (“Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment”) according to UK and European law. After securely wiping all data, SITR resell any working equipment which is not obsolete and pass on to us a percentage of the resale value. Anything else is broken down into its component materials for recycling.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle” is a mantra that I remember having drilled into me many years ago at school. The order is important: recycling is a complicated and labour-intensive process, so if something can be put to another use first and its working life extended, then it should be. This is the principle behind Freecycle (and, in a sense, eBay) – why should somebody put a perfectly good desk in a landfill while somebody else is setting off (with that inevitable sense of dread) down the Purley Way to Ikea to buy a desk?
With this in mind, we came up with an ingenious solution to the growing stockpile of redundant desktops in the office. Rather than have them collected for a fee by SITR, we decided to give them to Powwownow employees in return for donations to Cancer Research UK via JustGiving. Through this scheme, we’ve so far given away six second-hand desktops at very reasonable prices, and raised £110 for charity (which will rise to £220 once everyone has taken home their PC and settled their debt!). We hope to carry on this scheme in the future, lessening our environmental impact by re-using unwanted equipment, and simultaneously raising money for a good cause!