Your Office Can Be Zero Waste Too, and Here’s How
An average American wastes around 4.9 pounds of trash a day, according to the latest data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). What’s more, the majority of this trash ends up in landfills, where it stays for generations and pollutes our precious resources. Unless we want our planet to become a giant trash bin, we must do better.
For starters, we must educate ourselves on what is zero waste and how to actually achieve it in real life. While we might not be able to avoid it completely yet, we as individuals can make our best efforts to reduce our waste on the individual level.
And if you’re a business owner, you have the power in your hands to make a noticeable change and influence a great number of people. In light of that, here are a few things you can do to achieve sustainability in your office:
1. Monitor Your Wasting Habits
We typically don’t give our trash a second thought. We simply throw it out, convinced it’s somebody else’s responsibility now. However, it’s not. We must be aware of each item we throw out, as it matters.
Monitoring your waste habits is a good place to start your journey toward a greener future.
Aside from motivating you to change your habits, a trash audit will show you which areas are the most problematic, so you can work on those first. And who knows, maybe recycling could end up being less costly than simply throwing everything away?
2. Add Recycling Bins and Compost Stations
One of the most important things you need to do is set up recycling bins around the office, preferably compost stations, as well. You must make sure every category has its own bin to avoid cross-contamination. In addition, they should have distinctive labels with pictures that clearly indicate what belongs and doesn’t belong inside.
Talk to the janitorial staff and see if you can get them involved in the process. They could overlook the recycling process and ensure that everything’s separated, as per the plan. If there’s a need for it, you can also hold presentations for your employees to ensure they’re familiar with the guidelines and answer any questions they might have. It’s crucial that everybody understands exactly why you’re doing this and why it’s so important to have these new “rules”.
3. Watch Your Paper Consumption
According to some estimates, we throw away about a billion trees worth of paper each year. In fact, a single household wastes about 13,000 pieces of paper annually. If you think this figure is scary, just try imagining what it would be like for offices, which are notorious for their overuse of paper.
Furthermore, this fact seems even more absurd considering that we have all this technology. We no longer have the same need for physical documents, notes, and notebooks. Consider limiting your use of paper in the office by switching to digital (as much as possible) and buying recyclable paper. Also, for instance, instead of paper towels, you could install electrical hand dryers. Even just printing double-sided will reduce your paper waste by half, which is a great start.
4. Rethink the Cafeteria/Kitchen
Typically, the cafeteria/dining area will produce the most trash, as people tend to eat and drink out of disposable kitchenware at work. Think about it — if you get coffee-to-go every workday of the year, that amounts to around 250 cups, all of which end up somewhere in a landfill.
All in all, the cafeteria/kitchen is probably one of the first places you should start reforming. For one, you can equip it with reusable kitchenware, as well as packaging-free food and drinks (such as fruit). Aside from reducing the trash, doing so might also encourage your employees to eat healthier. And if you don’t have a cafeteria of any kind, you could advise your employees to bring their own meals in reusable containers.
5. Acquire Eco-Friendly Office Supplies
As we mentioned already, you could substitute the standard paper with recycled paper. However, that’s just the beginning. Thanks to the versatility of today’s market, you can find a green counterpart for pretty much any office supply out there, from pens and paper clips to mouse pads and tape.
6. Find a Commuting Solution
Transportation vehicles are major pollutants, especially older cars and trucks. Given that they emit greenhouse gases, they significantly contribute to global warming. Obviously, you can’t convince each employee to walk, cycle, or use public transport to get to work, which is also impossible if they live far away.
However, you can encourage employees who live nearby to try doing so. You should also provide the appropriate bike storage setup. In addition, employees that live close to one another could try carpooling.
Ideally, you can rent/buy a van or bus to drive your employees, preferably an electrical one. Still, any kind of change is good, as long as the number of cars is lower than before.
7. Don’t Give up if You Don’t Succeed Right Away
Given that we’ve had these thrash-throwing habits for a long time, it’s understandable that breaking them is difficult and can’t be done overnight. It requires immense effort and patience. Therefore, if your actions seem like they’re of no earthly use at the moment, don’t quit. Such a change takes a while to show any results. Besides that, even though it might seem hopeless now, the end result is definitely worth fighting for, and that’s an understatement.