Sustainability is a priority for many people as we see the impacts of excess waste on our planet. Consumers and businesses alike are searching for ways to reduce their waste, especially plastic waste — and the office is a great place to get started.
A zero waste office is one where all waste is either recycled or composted. It may seem like a daunting goal to reach, but with a little bit of effort, it’s doable. Here are some tips to get you started.
- 6 Zero-Waste Office Ideas
- Zero-Waste Offices: Conclusion
- Read More About Sustainable Living
6 Zero-Waste Office Ideas
When you find ways to extend the zero waste movement into the office, you’ll not only be making strides toward a greener, cleaner planet but also boosting your company image, engaging sustainably-minded employees, and lowering office costs to improve your bottom line.
Follow these steps to create your very own zero waste office:
1 // Point Out the Problems and Brainstorm Solutions
The first step is to identify where your office generates the most waste. Do you have full baskets of paper waste? Plastic waste? Food waste? Figure out where the majority of your office’s waste comes from and brainstorm solutions to reduce or eliminate that waste.
If you have significant paper waste, switch to digital files and use recycled paper. If you have pounds of plastic waste, find alternatives to single-use plastics, like reusable water bottles and silverware. And if you have considerable food waste, start a composting program.
Finding these ways that solve your unique problems is a better approach than attempting a one-size-fits-all program.
2 // Create a Company-Wide Initiative
Creating a zero-waste office isn’t only about what changes individual employees make but also about systemic changes your company makes. To reduce waste in the office for the long term, you need to create a zero-waste initiative that everyone can follow and support.
Educate employees on the importance of going zero waste, set goals for the office, and provide resources and support to help employees make sustainable choices. If you can, try to incentivize the process. Hosting pizza Fridays for anyone who brings in a reusable coffee mug each week is just one idea.
3 // Repurpose as Much as Possible
When you’re trying to reduce waste in the office, think about what you already have and how you can use it in other (possibly unique) ways.
This works even for refurbished electronics and gadgets, which, if you can get the bosses to approve, would be ideal.
When people try to become more sustainable, they often fall into the trap of thinking that they need to buy new, better, more sustainable products to make it happen. In reality, the most sustainable thing you can do is use what you already have.
4 // Replace Single-Use Products
When a single-use product has come to the end of its lifetime and there’s no way to reuse it, dispose of it in the most eco-friendly way possible and then replace it with something long-lasting. That might mean investing in a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water or using rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
Even if your single-use products are recyclable, that’s not going to solve the entire issue of waste. Sadly, less than 10% of plastic added to recycling bins ends up recycled.
Since the cost to recycle is also rising, it’s far cheaper to create new plastic products than use recycled plastic to create them, so fewer companies are seeking out recycled material.
The best route is to avoid the need to recycle in the first place by embracing reusable products office-wide. You could ask employees to bring cups from home or provide a set of mugs and water glasses they can clean and reuse often.
Other ideas include reusable straws, coffee filters, and loose-leaf tea along with tea steepers instead of disposable tea bags.
5 // If It’s Not Reusable, Aim for Recyclable or Compostable
If you can’t replace a single-use item with a reusable one, make sure it’s recyclable or compostable before you add it to your office waste stream.
Does your team currently use paper towels in the office kitchen? Switch to recycled paper towels they can compost. Or, instead of using plastic cutlery, switch to compostable or recyclable options. However, even experts disagree about the effectiveness of compostable cutlery. When possible, opt for reusable products.
You may also need to do a little extra work to ensure your recyclables are getting recycled. If your city doesn’t have curbside pick-up for recyclables, research local drop-off centers.
If you’re unsure about what can and can’t be recycled, look it up or ask someone in your office who might know. It’s worth it to ask the hard questions so you can be confident that your waste won’t go wasted.
6 // Go Green With Packaging
Shipping and packaging products are notorious for containing significant plastic and other non-recyclable materials. If you receive products in your office regularly, take a close look at the packaging and see what changes you can make to reduce waste.
One easy way to do this task is by refusing unnecessary packaging altogether. For example, if you order snacks for the office from an online retailer, see if you can have them shipped without packaging or in recyclable packaging.
If that’s not an option, see if you can find a local retailer who sells the same product without all the waste.
The less you can buy in person rather than have it shipped, the less waste you’ll consume.
Another way to reduce waste from packaging is by reusing it yourself. If you receive products in cardboard boxes, break them down and store them for the next time your office needs to ship something out.
Zero-Waste Offices: Conclusion
It’s not always easy to go zero-waste, but it’s worth the effort. Implementing a few of these tips can make a big difference in reducing the amount of waste your office produces daily.
And remember, going zero waste is a gradual effort for your whole team. There will be times when you produce excess, but don’t get discouraged. Just keep focusing on your sustainability goals. Every little bit helps!
Read More About Sustainable Living
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