Author Archives: Matt

Substance Abuse Can Be a Problem in the Workplace

Some people think that substance abuse is a solitary problem. While it can indeed affect lone individuals and not impact those around them, the possibility of this lessens when that individual works with several or more people. The odds of a problem increase even more if their duties involve interacting with members of the public, making the potential risk pool rise considerably.

DriverCheck does medical marijuana testing for a number of different companies that wish to either screen out or help employees who have a substance abuse problem. While some feel that such tests are a violation of personal privacy, it is felt by some organizations that the potential risk supersedes such concerns. This is particularly so if a person’s duties involve the use of machinery that can cause injury or death.

In those cases, it is difficult to minimize the importance of a drug and alcohol test in addition to the marijuana screening. Dangerous use of machinery while impaired can result in injury or death not only for the worker, but for those around them and even members of the public they might come into contact with while performing their regular duties each day.

The results can be tragic and also quite damaging from a legal and reputational standpoint for the company. In order to head off potential problems such as this, some organizations rely on testing as a precondition for employment. Such screenings allow these companies to weed out promising but potentially problematic candidates before they can join the workforce and possibly cause an accident.

It might seem a bit Draconian and or even Big Brother-like to do such things, but the intent is not malevolent in most cases. The aim is merely to prevent potentially disastrous problems from occurring.

Car Hire Cuts Costs and Emissions for UK Public Sector

Recent research from rental firms and government departments has shown that the UK public sector is increasing its use of car hire in order to cut CO2 emissions, administration costs and improve safety levels.

car hire girl

The likes of local council authorities, health trusts and central government departments are all increasingly turning to rental firms to handle the transportation requirements of their staff. The major money saver of this change is that it removes the administrative burden of self-regulated mileage reclaim schemes that have been popular in public sector institutions. While in principle these schemes encouraged employees to drive more economically, in fact the administrative costs often outweigh the benefits.

By turning to car hire firms, public sector employees no longer have to reclaim mileage expenses but they are also finding it easy to cut down on their carbon footprint as they are encouraged to use smaller, more environmentally friendly cars that are readily available. CO2 emissions are being reduced further as employees are asked to consider car sharing and pick the most efficient vehicle for the job.

Geoff Derham, head of waste and fleet services at City of York Council, said: “Car sharing schemes are now providing a much wider range of solutions and these give our employees much greater choice around how they travel for work. In addition to branches in the community, located close to our offices, the opportunity to have car sharing vehicles onsite for hourly use means car hire is available for even very short trips.”

“We’ve found that rental is much safer and more convenient than relying on employees to use their own vehicles – or indeed running our own pool cars, which involved a lot of administration. Car hire has become a default option for a significant portion of travel at City of York Council.”

Rental firms allow public sector workers the mobility and flexibility to carry out their service industry work in the most cost-effective manner possible. As they can choose to hire vehicles by the hour, by the day or for longer periods, they can pick a rental scheme that allows them to get the maximum use from the vehicle without having to utilise their own.

Since there is now a greater range of fuel-efficient cars and larger vehicles available than ever before, public sector organisations are sure to find the right vehicle to suit their needs at the right price. SMEs and larger private companies have been following this trend of utilising rentals as opposed to tying up a lot of resources maintaining large fleets of vehicles.

3 Ways Your Business Can Benefit from Green Energy

For the past generation, it has been socially desirable to show that any business is environmentally sensitive. It can benefit a business in many ways if seen and understood as being green in its approach to everyday activities. There are three specific ways that green energy can benefit a business today.

green energy

 

According to the guys at www.PowerExperts.co.uk, the UK’s specialist electricity and gas comparison website for businesses, the benefits include:

    1. 1. Marketing Value: It takes time and effort for a business to ensure that it is using as much green energy as possible. When it does so, it gains the right to make its customers aware of that fact. A growing number of buyers will patronise businesses that show they are taking steps to protect the environment. It will often take an investment to truly focus on issues such as selecting green energy. The payback on that investment is in attracting the customers who appreciate the effort. Therefore, it is important for a company to appropriately note its commitment to green energy in its marketing message and materials.
    2. 2. Economic Incentives: Purchasing green energy produced from renewable sources often costs more today than that energy produced from fossil fuels. Plus, if a business invests in its own renewable sources, the upfront expense can be significant. There are, however, a number of tax incentives and credits that can be applied to many such investments. The cost of electricity purchased from renewable energy providers is a deduction as a normal operating expense. After tax considerations, the additional costs of going green are often significantly reduced. The actual total additional costs must be weighed against these costs in an after-tax analysis.

An increasingly significant source of savings for businesses that use or create green energy is the market for Renewable Energy Credits. Monthly income is created from the sale of these RECs on the markets and exchanges that exist for that purpose.

  • 3. Environmental Value: Of course, one of the biggest benefits to using green energy is the fact of being a conscientious corporate citizen. Beyond the realities of marketing and promotional value, there is significance in being able to share with employees and shareholders that a company is making a profit in a way that is not in conflict with the environment. Over time, the business will share in the benefits of a situation where a cleaner environment is advantageous to everyone.

 

There is one additional advantage to a business that gains experience in utilising green energy. As the cost and availability of energy produced with fossil fuels continues to rise, companies that gain experience with green energy alternatives will find they are positioned to save on their choices.

There are both current and future advantages to any business that takes the time to make green energy a part of its business strategy.

Planet-Friendly Additions to give Your Kitchen a Healthy Green makeover

Saving the planet essentially starts from home. Instead of worrying about the big picture, sometimes it is best to do whatever little you can to help take the growing green wave forward. As both architects and consumers are becoming more ‘eco-conscious’ with each passing day, the latest homes and hotels coming up are becoming far more energy efficient and planet-friendly. That in no way means that existing home owners cannot tread the same clean path.

Turning your kitchen into a healthy and green abode is the perfect start indeed.

eco friendly kitchen

Saving up energy that is used in the kitchen helps not just cut down on your carbon footprint, but also saves up cash thanks to the reduced power bills. With growing energy bills becoming a huge concern in both UK and across the world, this is an incentive enough to switch to energy-efficient gadgets along with smart LED lighting. Plastic is another vice that you could do without and replacing plastic with organic materials also is a step forward in the right direction.

Most of the modern homes have a small dining space in the kitchen or a dining area that is visually attached to the kitchen. Opt for a dining table set that is organic in nature and certified green. There are plenty of options in this regard as makers like www.oakdiningsets.co.uk offer tables, chairs and shelving units crafted using wood from sustainable forests that are certified as planet-friendly. Always check with your furniture and décor company and ask them for the same.

Create a gray water management system that allows you to recycle and even reuse all the water flowing out of your kitchen sink. Replacing glass and plastic surfaces with organic materials such as wood and bamboo for your kitchen countertop makes sure you are far less prone to bacterial infections. For those who love their home garden, a compost system is a great idea as it provides for natural fertilizer while reducing on waste.

Top all of this off with recycling and reduction of waste and your kitchen is on the fast track to green goodness. At the end of the day, it is essential to remember that going green is much more than a few changes here and there – it is a way of life!

Tips for offices keen to become paperless

With electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones playing an increasing role in both our personal and professional lives, it’s probably not surprising to hear many businesses have embraced the paperless trend in recent months. If this is something that you’re keen to do within your organisation, it’s important to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Here are some of the things you ought to take into consideration.

paper less office

How will information now be stored?

One of the vital issues to be aware of when making the move to a paperless office is that you’ll be doing away with offline storage systems. So, where you once may have had paper copies of important business documents like contracts and invoices kept in filing cabinets, these will now all need to be stored electronically.

These documents may be already stored on an individual computer, but failing to have them backed up elsewhere in a non-paper format will mean that if a PC is damaged, lost or stolen, this information will be lost forever.

Consequently, I think it’s a good idea to invest in a least one backup solution. This could take the shape of having a secondary main hard drive in your office or distributing removable storage devices such as USB sticks among employees, but whichever you choose, you need to have a way to minimise the chances of losing data in the event of a computer failure or theft.

I also advise you to use a cloud storage system. Doing so not only allows employees who are out of the office to access vital documents while working from home or out on a client meeting, but also means precious data will not be lost in the event that a hard drive or server in your office is damaged.

The change will take time

Despite its many benefits, the transition to a paperless working environment can cause significant upheaval in an office, so it is not a change that you should expect to happen overnight. The process of creating electronic versions of documents is likely to take some time, especially if you have to scan pieces of paper to be stored on a computer, and you may still need physical copies of contracts while the move progresses.

As such, it’s a good idea not to destroy any paper files until you are completely sure that you have comprehensive electronic records in place. If you attempt to make the switch too soon, you could accidentally get rid of data that you have no way of getting back.

Communicating the changes you’ve made

Once it is established, a paperless office offers a multitude of benefits to a business. Not only will the absence of paper make a workplace look less cluttered and more professional, but it also provides the opportunity for a company to reduce the environmental impact of their operations and produce less waste.

This, of course, is something to be proud of and it’s a good idea to highlight your changes to both staff and clients. As I mentioned before, USB sticks can play a vital role in creating a paperless office and by distributing branded memory sticks, you can publicise these efforts to recipients as well as encourage them to use less paper.

Flash drives can be customised with your call to action as well as marketing information such as your telephone number and Twitter handle. Each time a recipient goes to use one of your USBs, they’ll be reminded of your company’s environmental credentials and should think of you in a positive light.
Are you creating a paperless office? If so, please share your experiences of doing so by posting a comment below. Don’t be shy, we’d love to hear your views on the subject!

Top 5 ways businesses can become greener

Making your business more eco-friendly can bring some great benefits; as well as helping the environment, you’re also likely to save money. There are lots of ways in which to go green – read on for our top tips.

green businesses1) Go paperless

If you’re getting tired of dealing with huge piles of paper files and making the effort to store them every time you or your staff have finished with them, going paperless is the solution for you. You’ll save a significant amount of space that would otherwise be filled with documents, and you’ll also reduce waste to boot.

Some of the ways in which you can start minimising your reliance on paper include implementing a policy that encourages employees to email files to each other or transfer them via branded USB memory sticks rather than print them out, and electronically store documents in the cloud or on shared server space instead of in filing cabinets.

2) Get energy efficient

Business energy consumption can be alarmingly high – consider the cost of running multiple PCs, having the lights and heating/air conditioning on all day, operating company cars, and offering kitchen facilities for your staff, and you’ll soon realise that you ‘re using more electricity than you should.

Ways to reduce energy usage include installing lights with motion sensors, so they only come on when someone is nearby, as well as asking staff to turn off their PCs and/or monitors at the end of each day, so they don’t keep running overnight or over weekends. It’s also worth turning off the air conditioning or heating altogether when cold or hot air isn’t really needed and, when heating is required, turning down the thermostat if it’s set above 21 degrees C.

3) Reuse and recycle

Reducing waste is a great way to become greener – and it’s also easy if you know how. One popular practice involves placing recycling bins around your office for different types of recyclable rubbish, such as plastic, cardboard and paper, and arranging for your waste handling company to empty them on a regular basis. Ensure your staff know where to go to deposit specific kinds of recyclable waste and consider reducing the number of ‘normal’ bins dotted around the workplace to make employees think twice about where they should go with their rubbish.

You should also establish a policy encouraging employees to reuse whatever they see as waste where possible, rather than throwing it away. As an example, unwanted folders and mostly empty notebooks can easily be given new life simply by sticking new labels over old ones and ripping out used pages, respectively.

The business benefits of going green

If all of this sounds like more hassle than it’s worth, consider the stats relating to the benefits of going green for businesses of all sizes:

• Two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises have either recorded a boost in sales or expect to do so after establishing a system for environmental management, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
• Employees of companies that voluntarily follow international green standards are 16 per cent more productive than staff at firms that do not do this, says the University of California, Los Angeles.
• Large businesses waste £1.6 billion on energy consumption, some of which could easily be saved by putting in place some of the above measures, the Carbon Trust reports

Carrier vs multi-use bags: which is best for your business?

Bags are items that virtually everyone uses on a daily basis. Regardless of what industry you operate in or the size of your organisation, there’s scope to use promotional bags in your business. However, with so many different kinds of bags to choose from, it can be difficult to know exactly what will be right for your company. Two of the most popular options are carrier and multi-use bags – you can find out more about the benefits of each below.

shipping containers for movingCarrier bags

You’re probably most familiar with these products when you are buying items from shops, but it’d be a mistake to think they are only a viable option for retailers. Indeed, they can prove incredibly useful for all manner of organisations, including charities and those in the public sector.

We’ll have all seen people carrying plain unbranded carrier bags when walking down the street but, while you might think these items will be a suitable choice for your business, investing in them means you are missing out on a great promotional opportunity. Indeed, for a little additional expense, it’s possible to turn these bags into moving advertisements for your company by adding your logo, contact details and other marketing information to them.

Doing so means people will become a walking billboard for your brand from the minute they take these bags from you and will subconsciously showcase your company wherever they go. This is a great way to ensure your company resonates firmly in the minds of existing customers, while also giving those who were previously unaware of your company the incentive to find out more.

As a general rule, carrier bags – whether they’re used to carry items bought at a shop or to hold promotional materials – are extremely lightweight and designed to be used a few times. This means they tend to be a cost-effective option for companies that need to give away vast quantities of bags to give to a target audience at one-off events like conferences and tradeshows. If you’re keen to minimise the environmental impact of your business, opt for carrier bags made from recyclable materials such as polypropylene.

Multi-use bags

It should be fairly obvious, but multi-use bags are designed to be used on a repeated basis and, as such, are stronger than their plastic counterparts.

With this in mind in, they are perfect to use by businesses that expect their target audience to visit them frequently.

Retailers are an obvious example of this is and, by offering ‘bags for life’ to customers, companies can provide shoppers with strong bags that can be used time and time again. Doing so means customers will not constantly need a fresh supply of carriers to put purchases in, so these bags are an ideal way to help to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint. You could give them out for free to customers that spend over a certain amount or you could make a small charge as a way to boost your profits.

In the same way as carrier bags, it’s a good idea to ensure your company’s logo and other marketing information are prominently displayed on reusable bags to maximise brand awareness among existing and new customers alike.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the different kinds of carrier bags that are available and how they can help to promote your business, you can do so by clicking here.

How to assess the sustainability of building materials

Building your own home gives you a great deal of choice and flexibility over many aspects of your construction project. From the design of your property to the way in which it’s built, you have full control.

Of course, it is this – and ending up with the home of your dreams – that makes self-building appealing to many people. However, a further benefit is that you can make your house as environmentally-friendly as possible, as long as you’re prepared to do a bit of research.

One of the first places to look if you want to green your self-build scheme is at the materials you’ll be using. Here’s a rough guide to help you decide which the most sustainable construction materials and methods are.

Sourcing

The first thing to consider when it comes to the building materials you want to use is where they come from. Ideally, you’ll be looking for products that are sustainably produced and that don’t need to be transported far.

UK-grown wood and straw bales, for instance, are both great options if you don’t want to increase the carbon footprint of your project, as these materials can usually be sourced locally and therefore won’t have to travel far. They are also green options because, if the crops are managed effectively, they are sustainable, with new trees or plants cultivated as others are harvested.

Are the materials reclaimed?

Another way to reduce your environmental impact when building a home is to make use of reclaimed materials. Typically, this will involve obtaining things like bricks, timber, steel panels and panes of glass from demolition sites.

Currently, very little of the material that could be reclaimed from old buildings is, with much of it being recycled or just going to waste. If you are able to find reclaimed materials from a site close to yours, you can reduce the environmental impact further by cutting the distance they are transported.

Are the materials recycled?

In many cases, products like bricks that cannot be reused following the demolition of a structure are crushed and used as hardcore in other construction projects. These are still important components of a building so, if possible, it is worth using recycled materials where reclaimed ones are not available.

Assess the lifecycle impact

Once you’ve looked at the sustainability of a material from the point of view of its source, you also need to consider how it will perform over its lifecycle – and whether it could help you make your home greener in other respects. For example, using products at the build phase that are also extremely good insulators will mean your home loses less heat in the winter, thereby saving not only energy, but also money on your utility bills!

Look at your construction equipment

If you’ve taken the trouble to source sustainable construction materials, it is worth carrying this ethos over into the rest of your building project. One of the things you should be aware of throughout the construction stages is the machinery you use and its environmental impact. Of course, it is not practical to avoid heavy-duty machinery when you’re working on a scheme of this scale, but there are some steps you can take to ensure the equipment you do use is as eco-friendly as possible.

To give you one example, you can choose to hire an oil-free compressor, rather than a standard model, for the duration of your building project. These machines power a host of pneumatic tools, so it is worth sourcing one that performs well.

The reason why oil-free compressors are more environmentally-friendly than their oil-lubricated counterparts is because they are highly energy efficient, so they use less fuel and are cheaper to run.

Japan Q4 Steel Demand Down 3.6%, Carbon Steel Exports Taking 7.2% Hit

With risk factors like production uncertainty in China most likely starting to affect not just global markets, but also Asian ones, Japan is set to see a 0.2 percent fall in demand for crude steel in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to the same period a year before.

The slight dip in crude steel demand means that there will be a 3.6 percent reduction in demand for the metal in Q4, compared to Q3 of 2012.

But it is not just international markets and world scenario that are affecting Japan as their own internal issues that pertain to the use of both crude and carbon steel are playing an important role in causing this dip.

Global economic slowdown and the current trend of carbon steel prices have been a significant factor in reduction of the metal’s exports as it is projected to come down from a figure of 6.9 million tons in this year’s July-September period to 6.4 million tons in the fourth quarter.

While that is a reduction by 7.2 percent it is still an increase by 9.4 percent when compared to the same period last year, during which flooding in Thailand severely affected the Carbon Steel supply chain.

One of the major factors for the reduction in demand for crude steel in the local markets is the decline in car production after Japanese government took away subsidies from the industry. Japan, which is the second largest producer of crude steel on the planet, is projected to consumer 26.54 million tons of the metal in Q4 of 2012.

As the demand from car industry falls by about 8.9 percent compared to the year before, some expect that the reconstruction orders in response to last year’s earthquake will push the demand the back up in the months to come, even as domestic consumption of Carbon Steel sees pretty stable figures.

Were the 2012 Olympics a corporate parade under the shadow of guns?

The Olympics have come and gone and many claim that they have done little to help give local economies a push. While government official claim that the impetus given by the 2012 games would mean a better and more vibrant economic future for London and the surrounding areas, independent tourism companies and hotels claim that the ‘feel good’ effect has been almost negligible.

Businesses already reeling under the effect of the tough economic times say that the Corporate Olympics have done next to nothing for small local businesses in the short or long term. So the question still lingers if the Olympics really is just a corporate parade and one under the shadow of guns.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that it is and while everyone around the globe has the greatest of respect for the athletes who toil away all their lives to achieve their Olympic dreams, one wonders if they are just small pawns in the bigger plot. They definitely seem to be the ones who are doing all the hard lifting for little gain while the suits and ties in the corporate houses ride on their backs while dangling the carrot of ‘glory’ to fill their own pockets.

People are starting to question the ‘Olympic Spirit’ when its committee is willing to freely promote the likes of BP as ‘sustainability partners’ after the mess their oil spills have caused and Dow Chemicals, responsible for thousands of deaths and tragedies in the Bhopal incident in India.

Where is the Olympic spirit that cherishes humanity and its great ethics when it comes to choosing corporate partners? Obviously money seems to be the biggest magic wand that will get you whatever you want with the Olympic Committee. No one expects the Olympics to take political stands, but people do hope that the games live up to their own billing.

Add to this the fact that this has been the heaviest militarization of London since WWII and one wonders if this is what ‘celebrating humanity’ is all about!!

Fit Legs: World’s Best Treks

Going on a trek and that has both difficult terrain and asubstantial distance is quite understandably not on top of many a traveler’s ‘must-do’ list. Yet, they give you a chance to see the landscape and experience and understand every aspect of the region like nothing else does. It is precisely for this reason that hiking trails are renowned across the globe. Of course you have to be both super fit and enthusiastic to undertake on one of these monumental journeys that will give you a lifetime of great memories.

Inca Trail – Peru

The Inca Trail in Peru is without a doubt one of the most popular trails on the planet and many travelers and gladly embark on this 33km trek, not just for the amazing views that it offers but also because of the grand destination at the end of it all- the Machu Picchu. Winding around lofty mountains and set amidst famous ancient ruins and cloud forests, this lives up to all the hype that surrounds it.

GR20 – France

Linking the Calenzana with Conca the GR20 in France is the ultimate rush for most trekking enthusiasts. The arduous 15-day hike will give you a glimpse of a wide variety of terrain that includes almost everything that you can ask for. From snow-clad peaks to vast beautiful plains and from glacial lakes to valleys and craters, this 168 km trek has everything packed into one as it is both challenging and unforgettable.

Routeburn Track – New Zealand

New Zealand holidays might not normally include a trek that sees you pass through two national parks and get an unparallel view of the country’s Southern Alps. But the Routeburn Track offers you a three-day and 32Km-long journey that allows you to explore both the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks.

Everest Base Camp – Nepal

If you are looking for a trek that will give you a new high and offer you a breathtaking experience, then this is it; quite literally! Ending at an altitude of 5,545m, this three-week trek takes you to the base of the world’s tallest peak and that is surely an achievement in itself. Of course, when you have the Himalayas and Mount Everest for backdrop you are pretty much guaranteed stunning scenery.

Pays Dogon – Mali

If you want to experience the ingenious lifestyle of the people in this region of Africa and enjoy a beautiful trek that will take you through soaring cliffs and back into the heart of humanity’s cradle, then this is it. Old and abandoned cliff dwellings will greet you along the way while traveling through the region can vary anywhere between a few days to a couple of weeks depending on your interest and the time you have on hand.

Going green: energy efficiency tips when heating and cooling your home

The rising cost of utility bills means everyone wants to reduce the amount they spend on heating their home in winter and cooling it in summer. There are several ways to make your property more energy efficient, so here are a few tips to help get you started.

Insulation

Having proper insulation for your loft and walls could save you more than you might think on your heating bills. Where walls are concerned, you’ll need to find out whether your home has solid or cavity walls. With the former, you can choose between internal or external insulation, while with the latter, insulation is fitted in the gap between the two layers of your walls.

Meanwhile, loft insulation can save you a significant sum, as around one-quarter of the heat generated in your house will be lost through this part of the home. As it’s relatively cheap to install – normally between £100 and £350 for the whole property according to the Energy Saving Trust – you could get your money back within two years.

This works the other way too, as in the summer having insulation will help keep cool air inside your home.

Consider your windows

There are some simple changes you can make to your habits that can make your heating and cooling efforts more effective. For instance, in the winter, you should close your curtains or blinds around dusk to prevent heat escaping through your windows. In the summer, keeping curtains drawn during the day can stop the sun’s light from heating a room, helping it stay cooler.

You should also check for draughts around your windows and reseal them if you can feel air getting in anywhere. If you are using air conditioning equipment  in the summer, keep the windows closed, as you want to prevent your cooled, climate-controlled air escaping outside.

Temperature control

Turning your thermostat down by one degree can save around ten per cent on your heating bill, so if you can cope with your house being a little cooler in the winter it is well worth doing. Similarly, setting your air conditioning unit one or two degrees higher in the summer while you are out of the house will stop it using too much energy to cool a home no one is in.

Use a programmable thermostat to help you set the temperature depending on your schedule. That way, you can ensure the heating or air conditioning is only on when people are at home and isn’t using unnecessary energy at times when there is nobody around.

Another tip to save energy and prevent your cooling system working too hard is to reduce the fan setting on your air conditioner. This has the added benefit of removing the humidity from the air, which will make your home more comfortable in hot weather.

Check your vents

If you have an air conditioning system in your home it is important to regularly check the ducts and vents to ensure there is no damage to them. Even small holes or cracks can make a difference to the performance of your unit, so it is worth being certain you don’t have any defects. You also need to replace your filter whenever it looks dirty, as a build-up of dust and grime will mean your system needs to work harder to cool your property.