John Edwards, centre manager at serviced office operator Business Environment in Milton Keynes, explains how local businesses can learn from the great example set by Milton Keynes council.
As far as UK cities go, Milton Keynes is certainly one of the greenest. With over 100 housing estates surrounded by 22 million trees, it equates to a phenomenal 95 trees per person. Combine that with the high number of community recycling centres, solar powered homes, wind powered industrial estates and bespoke bicycle routes and Milton Keynes really does lead the way in sustainability.
It is only right then that households and businesses follow the great example set by the Council and do their bit to help it retain its green status. As a company, Business Environment recycles around 82% of it’s card, paper, food, consumables and general waste across its 18 centres.
At our business centre in Milton Keynes, we wanted to be the first to embrace a new initiative to remove personal waste bins from office floors. Although the initial reaction from employees was mixed, once the benefits and impact on the business and environment were communicated, support grew for their removal and now we’ve been able to expand the initiative to the second floor too. It has really helped to increase general awareness of what can and cannot be recycled and has no doubt encouraged people to do the same at home.
As a city, Milton Keynes was the first to adopt kerbside recycling back in 1992 and recently the council added to its portfolio, kerbside collection of food and garden waste and even used batteries. The recycling initiative in Milton Keynes is also supported by three community recycling centres which are open 7 days a week and strategically placed in the northern, eastern and southern areas of Milton Keynes. These fully manned centres provide free recycling from anything from conventional household waste and mixed recycling to cooking oil and redundant gas bottles.
As a society, it’s almost impossible to ignore the constant focus on green issues – from government to manufacturers, retailers and schools. We are encouraged to think carefully about what we consume and how we dispose of it. Although the UK is now recycling around 35% of its domestic waste, up to 60% of everything that goes into a UK dustbin could still be recycled, so there is lots more work to do. For businesses, it is not just a case of being a socially responsible employer, but there are significant financial benefits to be gained from recycling. Business Environment alone has cut its waste disposal cost by £3,000 per month – a massive saving in what is a difficult financial climate.
But being green isn’t just about recycling – Milton Keynes has a low carbon vision. In 2002 the UK’s most successful car-share scheme was launched in the city with the real benefit being a steady reduction of traffic into the city centre. A continued focus is also being placed on cycling and improving the existing 225km inter-estate red-ways around the city.
It is important, therefore, that businesses follow suit. Business Environment encourages employees to cycle to work where possible and is a supporter of National Bike Week which takes place every June. This year we set up cycling courses for employees with a range of cycling abilities, from beginners to experienced riders who need to be refreshed or reassured about their road skills. Employees were also advised on planning the best routes to work and how to incorporate these routes into lessons. In backing initiatives like this, businesses are helping to reduce their carbon footprint.
For me, it’s essential that business owners lend their support in helping to create a green place to live and work. Only this kind of support will enable Milton Keynes to remain a front runner as a low energy city.