Old computers, unwanted mail: Get rid of them without harming the environment

Everyone knows that reduce, reuse, recycle are the watchwords for the green movement, but transferring those goals into a busy office environment may seem daunting.

It doesn't have to be that way. One big problem for many CPA firms is getting rid of old computers. They're an environmental hazard because of the lead and mercury inside, and the data on the hard drives represents a security risk. What to do?

Here are a few options, as suggested by Network World. Companies can get a small tax write-off by donating old computers to a nonprofit organization, such as the United Way. You can try to resell them, but you probably won't get much for them. In fact, it may cost you money to have someone come and haul them away, but alleviating the environmental and security concerns is well worth it.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard offer "asset recovery services." They will pay for old equipment if it has any resale value. If not, they'll recycle it, wiping proprietary data from the hard drives first. Austin-based TechTurn can handle huge volumes, processing 15,000 units daily. They will pick up old equipment, wipe data at the office and conduct a forensic inspection to ensure no data is recoverable. They will refurbish the equipment and sell it.

"The company that recycles its equipment through TechTurn gets lots of documentation in return to satisfy the corporate auditors," Network World reports." The customer receives serialized reporting on all the assets listing the remarketing value. He knows and can prove that the data has been sanitized and the equipment isn't going to a landfill."

Smaller companies are also providing these services, taking advantage of the huge demand: more than 60 million computers will be retired this year alone. Go to myGreenElectronics to find out about recycling programs for computers (Dell, Apple, Gateway, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, and HP services are listed) cell phones, ink cartridges, batteries, and computers.

Another way to improve your firm's environmental track record is by reducing unwanted paper, catalogs, and direct mail. This one is simple. To get rid of unwanted catalogs go to CatalogChoice.org. Or remove your company's name from direct mailing lists at the Direct Marketing Association Web site.

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