There’s quite a bit of advice and encouragement that exists to make our home lives more sustainable and capable of producing zero waste–but what about at the office?
Keeping up these habits in an office environment can be challenging amid a lack of resources, but there are plenty of zero-waste tips available to make this transition smooth and efficient.
Small tips and lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on the environment and sustainability as a whole. Encourage coworkers to share your zero-waste mindset to make this impact even more effective.
Employers can create the largest change by implementing new norms and standards of operation. Once in place, their business will benefit both monetarily and in overall productivity.
Let’s take a look at why you should go zero-waste in the office:
Why You Should Go Zero-Waste in the Workplace
Regardless of who you work for (even if it’s for yourself) waste ends up in a landfill. Oftentimes it ends up sitting there for hundreds of years, affecting our planet’s natural systems.
It’s a discouraging fact but it’s extremely hard to reverse this inevitability.
Since offices and workplaces contribute so heavily to landfill waste, it’s a great idea to effect changes-even if it’s only the beginning of many more changes that need to happen.
This TEDx Talks video of the iconic talk by Lauren Singer gives you great insight into why we should all go zero-waste or low-waste:
Sustainable practices at work won’t just help the planet, they will also save you money. Make the effort to forgo take-out and trips to Starbucks to reduce your overall waste and keep more money in your wallet.
If it’s too much to ask every day – why not start with one day a week to kick things off as a manageable practice?
You’ll also save on office supplies when purchasing items you can reuse, and/or just use longer.
Additionally, committing to a zero-waste lifestyle at work can create an impact on your whole floor and hopefully your building.
Does the phrase “lead by example” sound familiar? Just by simple observation and human curiosity, people will see your efforts and hopefully move them one step closer to practicing sustainability.
Be encouraged by this! Every action makes a difference, no matter how small, whether you’re an employee or an employer.
To get you started, here are some simple zero-waste tips to help you start reducing waste at work, and on the go:
9 Zero-Waste Tips For Employees
1. Reduce food waste
Reducing food waste doesn’t end when you leave the house. Start a company compost container that you volunteer to empty out. Let the entire office know there’s a basket for unused food that you’re willing to take to a shelter on a nightly basis.
Look for ways you can continue to reduce the food waste you’re contributing to as an office or workplace and be the pioneer to set the standard.
Proposing and executing an idea that benefits your community, city and ultimately, the entire world doesn’t have to come from head office. As long as you’re willing to give the time and effort your ideas should run unopposed.
2. Reusable Water Bottles
This first zero-waste tip is an easily implemented way to cut out plastic and paper in the form of water cooler cups. Getting into the habit of carrying a reusable water bottle will benefit you beyond the workplace.
Keep one by your side at home, in the car, or at the gym-you may even end up drinking more if you like the design!
3. Reusable Cutlery, Plates, and Napkins
Replacing take-out with a meal from home only gets better with reusable containers and cutlery. Pieces of cloth or old tea towels function beautifully as napkins, keeping bleached paper napkins out of landfills and waterways.
And if you don’t fancy carrying around clunky metal cutlery, opt for reusable, sleek bamboo pieces. There are many safe, sanitary products available to help you implement this.
Take a look at this video by Lynette Alegria for some great zero-waste tips and ideas:
4. Recycle Consciously
Knowing what’s okay to toss into a recycling bin will greatly assist your workplace’s garbage collection services. For example, a plastic cup or food container should be rinsed before it gets tossed.
This will streamline recycling efforts and speed up the process with fewer sorting mishaps, leading to greater efficiency. Take a moment and familiarize yourself with what can and can’t be recycled, and then choose the options that can be going forwards.
5. Swap Paper Notes for E-Notes
In this age, nearly every piece of technology has some form of writing app built-in or available to download. Leverage this feature on your computer, phone, or iPad and see how much paper you can keep out of the trash. It’ll likely be more than you think!
Additionally, many work and social platforms have note-taking capabilities designed to be close at hand. If you do need to manually write something down, use something that would otherwise be thrown away, like a brochure.
6. Use Eco-Friendly Office Supplies
There are many easy eco-swaps for common plastic office supplies, like a colored pencil for a plastic-bound highlighter.
Switch metal staples for reusable paper clips or pins. A bucket of cheap pens can be replaced with a single refillable fountain pen or a box of wooden pencils. For tape, switch from plastic cellophane tape to paper tapes with dissolvable materials.
7. Print Sparingly
Thanks to modern technology, we now have very little need for printers at work. There’s little that can’t be emailed or otherwise shared electronically. Consider this next time you want to print–more often than not, an email will suffice.
If it does not, be sure to use a smaller font, and print double-sided to cut your paper needs in half. The number of paper copies made per individual sits at a daunting 10,000, but this is easy to reduce. And with everyone in the office on board, the savings and environmental impact will be huge.
8. Consider Your Commute
Car emissions don’t fare well in the atmosphere, leading to a myriad of health and environmental concerns. Carpooling is a great way to cut these fuel emissions by keeping more cars off the road.
And, if you’re able, walking or biking is the best alternative to any type of vehicular transportation.
9. Switch Off Electronics
Making a habit of turning off your lights, devices and desktop computer will save plenty of electricity over time. And if your whole office joins in, the savings and benefits will only grow. Make sure to also unplug devices like printers, as these use energy even when not in use.
9 Zero-Waste Tips For Employers
1. Establish Visible Recycling/Composting Bins
Place a clearly-marked bin in break rooms, near bathrooms, or anywhere with high traffic. Composting bins are great to place in break rooms, offering employees the chance to discard food waste in a beneficial way.
Be sure to attach a list of what can and cannot be recycled, as this will again help your garbage collection service with sorting and disposal.
2. Encourage Employee Ideas & Opinions On Sustainability
Collective brainstorming is one of the best ways to create zero-waste tips and solutions that last. Ask your employees how they think zero-waste practices could be incorporated – the effectiveness may surprise you.
Encouraging participation in the process will also instill a genuine desire for success on an individual level.
3. Encourage Customers to Make Meaningful Changes
Many companies are in a position to influence their customer’s lifestyles because of the role they play in their lives. Making a stand for the future of our environment can be something your company does that complements the product or service that’s being offered.
Garbage collection companies like WM, Budget Dumpster, and Frontier Waste Solutions publish articles on their blogs that educate readers on sustainability, zero-waste tips, reducing food waste, and the correct way to dispose of items that negatively impact the environment.
Create awareness of the issues and what can be done about them in a way that blends these beliefs into your corporate culture.
4. Educate Employees On Waste Reduction
Not every person will know how to recycle and reduce waste correctly. Taking the time to properly educate on zero-waste initiatives and programs will make the overall effort more effective.
Set aside a group to inform and educate using encouraging language and tactics. Otherwise, a simple list dictating what goes into recycling and what doesn’t will do a world of good.
5. Create Lasting Initiatives
Spurring a zero-waste movement with quality, enjoyable initiatives is a great way to get the movement running. Keep it going all year round by creating competitions, offering prizes, and with regular sustainability brainstorming.
Really take time to ensure each person is invested and interested in the cause. Lighthearted challenges are a fun way to incorporate this – like seeing who can be the last to fill their trash bin.
6. Set Up Zero-Waste Programs
This zero-waste tip helps keep what you’ve already implemented going. Assigning a person or group to lead a zero-waste program will strengthen the movement and make it much more pleasurable within the office community.
These programs can offer advice, encouragement, and alternative eco-friendly options for common items around the office. This group may also help sustain the movement long after work as they lead by example and provide inspiring advice.
7. Use Recycled Plastics
Many companies have started selling zero-waste, eco-friendly substitutes for everyday office items. Recycled paper is a simple, impactful item that’s easy to source. Take it up a notch by furnishing the workplace with furniture made from recycled plastic. Did you know that currently only 10% of plastic is recycled?
You can make it a point to purchase chairs, stools, standing desks, tables, and benches for both inside and outside the building. The benefits of eco-friendly furniture include reducing the amount of plastic in landfills, owning long-lasting durable furniture, and saving money on inexpensive furniture.
When you buy eco-friendly furniture such as recycled plastic you’re buying a product that’s produced with little to no volatile organic compound emissions.
Reducing the number of noxious fumes released during production is another huge benefit. Any support towards eco-friendly businesses and companies trying to reverse environmental damage will benefit and support environmental change.
8. Donate or Sell Old Electronics Only if they’re Unfixable
There’s a very real temptation to toss electronics once an updated version hits the market. This only leads to unnecessary electronic waste, waste that is very difficult to properly dispose of.
Using electronics until they completely wear out is a simple way to mitigate this issue. If you really need to get them off your hands, consider donating or even reselling them online.
9. Post Reminders And Encouragement
Sometimes our efforts only last as long as our memory – solve this with a weekly ‘zero-waste tips’ email or a flier posted to your news bulletin.
Encouraging eco-friendly behaviors and habits will also enforce repeated actions, likely even better than a reminder. If you notice zero-waste protocols not being followed, be sure to react appropriately. Understandably, judgment or berating will only turn people away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can small zero-waste changes really make a noticeable impact?
Yes, more so than most of us would think. Consider just the amount of paper one office employee goes through (10,000 pieces!) and how much solid waste could be kept out of landfills by lowering paper use alone. Combined with other zero-waste tips, the impact is impressive. Read the full article for more zero-waste tips for the workplace.
How can I convince my boss to go zero-waste in the workplace?
With the amount of money saved by cutting waste and energy, business leaders would be foolish to refuse your ideas. Incorporating the cost benefits along with the environmental benefits should win over any boss. Read the full article for more reasons to go zero-waste at work and present your case to your boss.
How do I convince others to share my zero-waste goals?
It is best to lead by example. Flaunt your reusable cup, plates, and utensils whenever possible. People are sure to ask questions, and from there, you can highlight the benefits and impact of your eco-friendly habits. Reads the full article for more on why people should go zero-waste.
References And Useful Resources
Zero Waste: How to Engage Employees in Zero-Waste Programs
Going Zero Waste: Tips for Staying Zero-Waste at Work
Earth 911: Tips for a Waste-free Workplace
EcoMastery Project: Zero Waste Office Ideas