The average office worker generates about 2 pounds of waste just from paper products each day. Then there are the disposable coffee cups, plastic food containers and boxes from online orders. When you add it all up, offices produce a ton of waste.
But sustainability is important to a lot of consumers and employees. If you want to increase engagement around your business and reduce your costs and carbon footprint at the same time, you might consider going zero waste.
Going Zero Waste
Here are some tips to help you cut down significantly on the waste you produce and eventually getting to that coveted “zero waste” landmark.
Read Up on the Requirements
Any office can strive to produce less waste. But if you want to publicly claim the title of “zero waste office,” you need to actually certify your business. There are a variety of steps you can take, with different options for different types of facilities.
All businesses that go for this title need to prove that they divert at least 90 percent of their solid waste from landfills, either through recycling, composting, reusing or other methods. But there are other steps you can take like employee training and education as well.
Monitor Your Current Waste
To figure out what steps you need to take to become zero waste, you need to determine where the majority of your waste comes from. Does your team print a ton of unnecessary documents? Do people bring in plastic packaging for food items? Are you constantly ordering supplies online that come in a ton of plastic wrapping and cardboard? If you know what’s coming in, you should be able to figure out how to best approach the problem.
Be Careful What You Purchase
Sometimes, cutting down on waste simply means purchasing less. Maybe you can buy less paper or bring in reusable food containers so you don’t need to buy disposable products. When you do need to buy something that will likely be disposed of, like paper, look for products that are made sustainably or options that have or can be recycled.
Heather Paulsen, a B corp and zero waste consultant for businesses said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “One way to eliminate waste is to cut down on the amount of virgin products being produced. So in the case of office paper, you should look at whether or not what you’re buying includes post consumer recycled content.”
Develop a Printer Policy
Of course, paper is a major issue for a lot of offices when it comes to waste. Sometimes, printing items may be necessary. But it’s important to cut down on the unnecessary printing or copying jobs that are just going to end up in the trash. To address this issue, make clear to your team what types of items are to be printed and what types of situations call for digital files instead.
Set Up Recycling Bins
Recycling can help you cut down on a ton of waste, from paper and cardboard to glass and plastic items in your kitchen. Try to set up bins for each individual material used in your office and be diligent about using them. In fact, you might have them set up in every area where you have trash containers.
Offer Composting in the Kitchen
You can also cut down on food waste by composting. To do this, you should set up a collection area in your office kitchen and have everyone throw out their food, minus the packaging, in that bin. Then you can reuse that waste in your office garden or outdoor space.
Train Employees on Proper Procedures
Of course, none of these steps will work if your team is not on board. If you’re going to start a recycling program or change your printing procedures, you need to be very clear with them so they know what’s expected and why. You should also focus on making these processes easy for them so their work day isn’t interrupted and they can actually appreciate what you’re trying to do.
Paulsen says, “Figure out ways to make it easy for employees. Think about what kind of collection containers you have around the office. Ideally, you should have separate spots for food products that can be composted and recycle bins for each type of material you use. But you want to make it as easy as possible for people to sort their items.”
Ask for Team Input
Additionally, your team might have some great ideas for steps you can take to reduce or eliminate waste even further. So call a meeting or set up a process for them to bring ideas or potential changes to your attention.
Paulsen adds, “Employees are often the best source for ideas on how to reduce waste. They know how they work and they know how your business operates. So go to them and get their input on what processes are going to actually make a difference.”
Get Help from an Expert on Going Zero Waste
If you’re going after an actual zero waste qualification, it can help to have help from an expert like Paulsen. There are tons of TRUE advisors around the country who can work one-on-one with your business and help you create a personalized plan to cut down on waste and become more sustainable overall.
Seems to me like the hoops you have to jump through for certification are pretty extensive. Seems like most of the tactical stuff could be implemented in any office fairly easily if you’re committed to doing it.
You need to be initially proactive and get your employees along the path of zero waste. This applies to paper as well. It is better to go paperless.