Waste statistics are often alarming and with good reason. But what makes them alarming isn’t the millions of tons of trash that we produce. In fact, the problem of too much waste is best observed when you put it into perspective. Let’s take, for example, the average American office. More than 10,000 sheets of paper and 500 disposable cups end up in landfills each year, and all of that waste is made by a single office worker! And since there were more than 860,000 office workers in the US in 2020, you can do the simple math and see just how many office supplies ended up in the trash heap in that year alone.
With all of that in mind, you might want to consider going zero-waste. By focusing on reducing the waste in your office, you will create a safe, dynamic working environment that will benefit everyone. In addition, you can save thousands of dollars by simply reusing old supplies properly. This article will serve as your basic how-to guide on all things zero-waste, no matter what kind of office environment you might be working in.
Reducing the Waste
Nearly every ‘what is zero-waste’ guide will cover the three basic methods of handling waste: reduction, reuse, and recycling.
Reduction is the first crucial step. As an office worker, you will need to limit the creation of new refuse as much as possible. You can do that with a few simple changes in office policy that all of your co-workers will stick to.
We can’t avoid using paper in an office environment, but there are ways in which we can reduce the amount of paper waste overall. For example, you can make it company policy to only use electronics when taking notes during meetings. In other words, instead of using pen and paper, your co-workers will have their smartphones and tablets with them and take notes digitally. That will also help you reduce the number of sticky notes around the office. After all, you can input all important dates in a smart device’s calendar and it will even notify you at the appropriate time.
The Less Plastic, the Better
A huge percentage of office refuse comes in the form of one-off plastic containers. They can either be plastic water bottles or food packaging. Whatever the case might be, they tend to end up in the trash cans and clutter the landfills.
Reducing the amount of plastic from each workplace will also require some company policy changes. For instance, you can provide your workers with reusable water bottles and install water coolers in the building. In fact, you can even go the extra mile and opt for a point-of-use water cooler, which filters the water on the spot. This will eliminate the need for one-off plastic bottles among your employees. In addition, you can also provide each worker with their own eating utensils and dishes. That way, they don’t have to eat with plastic spoons and forks or take one-off plastic lunch packages with them.
Reusing the Waste
More often than not, employees will throw away an item they can properly reuse. As an employer or even a regular worker, you can find new ways to reuse old material before simply tossing it into the trash. It will save you a lot of money on new supplies and materials, plus it will keep your environment safe and clean.
Old Folders and Used Paper
Old folders and binders might look bent, scribbled on, or in poor shape. However, don’t simply buy a new set of folders. Instead, try folding the used ones inside-out. Alternatively, if the folder is already written on, simply place a blank sticker over the old text and write new information on top of it.
Regarding used paper, make sure to place every single one-side printed sheet in a pile. Your coworkers can use the blank side of these papers for additional printing, or even taking notes. This practice can effectively cut both your blank paper and your sticky note expenses in half.
An Upcycling Section
Offices will have piles of old electronics, stationery, and other items that will be old or faulty. However, instead of just throwing them away, set up an upcycling station in the workplace. Make sure that every subsection of this space holds a different item type. For example, you can have all of the staplers in one spot, old pens in another, old calculators in the third, etc. So, when your workplace needs some new supplies, your workers can first look into the upcycling station and reuse anything from there. This practice, like the ones before it, will help you reduce spending and produce unnecessary waste.
Recycling the Waste
Setting up composting bins and collecting recyclable materials is always a great first step to creating a zero-waste working environment. However, in order to make sure that all of your coworkers do it properly, you need to centralize the practice further. In other words, you will need to take away all individual bins. Instead, provide recycling bins with all the proper labels in strategic locations across the workplace. That way, each employee will get used to the idea of sorting their refuse. Soon enough they will do it almost automatically. That’s when you can introduce personalized recycling bins for each individual desk.
Encourage Ethical Zero-Waste Methods
As an employer, you can encourage office workers to recycle by providing them with various company incentives. For example, you can make it into a competition of sorts. Employees who recycle the most can get certain budgetary or performance benefits in return.
Competition is a powerful motivator in an office environment. In fact, if you do it right, you can even set company goals for zero-waste policies on both monthly and yearly levels.
Zero-waste practices can be a great contributor to a company’s success. Not only will they save you lots of money in office supply expenses, but they will also help create a healthy working environment, which will, in turn, promote high-quality output from each employee. Hopefully, this article has given you a decent idea of where to start applying zero-waste practices in your office.