Countdown to Zero Waste

Is zero waste possible in the office?

“Zero waste” has become the latest buzzword in sustainability, thanks to popular bloggers like Lauren Singer — famous for reducing four years’ worth of personal waste to fill a mason jar on her website, Trash is for Tossers. But is this goal feasible for a commercial property, like an office? The communal demands of the workplace can create obstacles for this noble goal. Yet with a few tip, in collaboration with your cleaning provider, your property can make major strides for waste reduction.

Consider a Waste Audit
Major changes require a first step. An audit of your property’s waste can help point your program in the right direction, by identifying what’s being thrown away, and how that waste is made in the first place. Are you printing in excess? Is there a lot of food waste? Is most of your waste non-biodegradable?  This process can prove beneficial for the bottom line, as this  also highlights administrative inefficiencies.

Play it Simple
Reducing waste often boils down to simple changes in your disposal system. To discourage individual waste, replace those big trash bins at each desk with either nearby recycling stations, or with mini desktop bins and a convenient paper recycling tray. Come lunchtime, provide reusable cups and utensils, or their biodegradable alternatives. For larger items like old furniture and equipment, consider donating to local charities.

Most important of all, work with your cleaning provider to streamline your recycling process. Install recycling stations throughout your facility. Also clearly labeled bins separating items for compost, mixed recycling, and landfill disposal. Changing all these disposal options will help your staff become fully engaged in your facility’s zero waste goals.

Aim for a Target
In the march towards zero waste, it also helps to know how far you have come. With this in mind, consider setting targets for reducing waste. For example, a small office could aim to cut its weekly trash in half, while increasing its recycling by a third. Appoint team leaders to monitor and promote progress. When you do hit your goal markers, don’t hesitate to share with your clients. Organizing a dedicated effort to reducing waste demonstrates that your company commitment to corporate responsibility.

The most important point to remember when revamping your office’s waste management is that zero represents a cultural shift for your facility, rather than a specific number. Your team may not be able to reduce its waste to the contents of a mason jar, but the sheer effort can make all the difference.