DHS Home Page
Department of Human Services    Follow DHS on Facebook Follow DHS on Twitter Watch DHS Videos on Vimeo Connect with DHS on LinkedIn

DHS News Header

DHS News Newsletter April 2009

DHS ahead of the curve on being green, still much work to do

April 2009

Even by most conservative estimates, the impact of 6.8 billion people living on our planet—306 million in United States alone—continues to take its toll on the Earth’s ability to self-regulate. Allegheny County recognizes, and an overwhelming majority of experts agree, that we are past the time to act green. We are now at a point where we need to integrate sustainable practices into our lives. We need to live green.

Last September, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato announced the creation of Allegheny Green to promote sustainable practices within County government and through countywide policies and programs. The announcement fit lock and step with many of the Department’s existing practices, which included conserving, shredding and recycling paper and fuel as well as recycling plastics and aluminum cans.

A more subtle green

While recycling and conserving are a couple of the more visible green routines, DHS has been engaged in other practices that are green, but not as easily seen. For example:

  • Multiples of hard-copy contracts for DHS providers were replaced in 2007 by electronic versions;
  • Standardized contract information and forms are posted on the DHS web site; and
  • DHS News is sent to staff and more than 800 external publics via e-mail instead of a printed hard copy.

Green commuting

DHS continues to support staff that opt for a cleaner commute. To encourage the use of mass transit when available, DHS staff can take advantage of a County program to purchase monthly Port Authority Transit passes at “pre-tax” rates. And a bike rack is available at the Human Services Building for those interested in cycling to work.

Sustainable printing and copying

Not only can staff recycle plastic containers in some DHS offices, the Department-wide policy for ink and toner cartridges for printer and copy machines has been to purchase remanufactured ones and recycle used ones, thereby avoiding both processing tons of raw materials and adding non-degradable items to landfills.

Future actions

The Sustainable DHS committee continues to examine other opportunities to align DHS practices with Allegheny Green.

The first line of action will be to standardize current sustainable practices across all of DHS, including making plastic and aluminum recycling common practice in all offices and installing bike racks at all sites.

Other proposals call for the expansion of current practices. For example, in addition to adhering to more stringent paper recycling practices, staff will be urged to use less paper by using documents in their electronic format rather than as hard copies, and using two sides of the paper when printing is required.

The committee is also exploring the use of an automatic prompt when printing to remind staff to think twice about whether printing a document or an email is really necessary, and if it is, if printing double-sided is a better option.

Other ideas include changing the defaults on printers and computers: making two-sided printing the default for all DHS printers and making the “sleep” mode the default when a computer is inactive.

The long-term goal of the Sustainable DHS committee is to educate staff about the benefits of being green and create a culture of consciousness within the Department that influences the decisions staff make in their personal lives as well.

For more information about how you can take an active roll and get “green,” call Daniel Straughn at 412-350-7335.

Read more DHS News Newsletters