It can be difficult to become zero waste officer in the workplace especially if your job is wasteful. 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. The office can be a cluttered, single-use plastic, paper filled black hole. Stacked up piles of admin in plastic trays, printed emails and presentations, single-use free pens from countless conferences, plastic wallets to hold paper documents we read once two years ago. The list goes on and on.
In this article I’ll give you some ideas to suggest to your boss, or implement if you are the boss, for creating a low waste or zero waste office.
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Develop A Printer Policy For Zero Waste Office
Of course, paper is a major issue for a lot of offices when it comes to waste. Do you really need to print anything? Probably not. It’s important to cut down on the unnecessary printing or copying jobs that are just going to end up in the trash. Presentations can be shared virtually, and even via Google Meet or Adobe. If you want to become a zero waste officer, then you should think about stopping printing documents out altogether, or if that’s truly not an option in your sector, then consider printing on recycled paper, and printing on both sides.
Reduce your page margins, and print in black and white draft mode, unless it is an important document. Purchase refillable ink cartridges and you can sell your empties back to certain companies too, to be recycled. If you scan a document, save it as a file instead of printing it out.
Wonderful idea for a zero waste office! Plants not only look attractive, but they can help purify the air – removing bacteria, dust particles and mould. Even a cactus or succulent will produce tiny amounts of oxygen to help balance your office. Share with friends and family to spread your newfound eco enthusiasm.
Buy Reusable And Compostable Stationery
We are talking about recycled notebooks that are not wrapped in plastic, or pencils without rubbers. Or what about the seed-embedded paper – that you can write on and then plant outside when you are finished. You can even get highlighter pencils instead of plastic highlighter pens. This ensures that it is sourced from sustainable and legal forests. Or try bamboo products – bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet and highly sustainable.
Hundreds of different types of trees can go into making just one single piece of paper. Use these existing items to the end of their life, then recycle, but replace with sustainable and reusable items. Try stainless steel pens and lead pencil holders. You can also find eco-binders which are made from recycled paper and steel. Or what about pencils made from recycled cars!
Avoid Paper Sticky Notes
Paper sticky notes can’t be recycled due to the sticky patch, so they are best avoided altogether. Instead, if zero waste office is your target, there is an app on Windows called Sticky Notes which adds notes to your computer screen in a very similar style. If you really must continue to use paper sticky notes, then use a pencil and keep rubbing your notes out.
Stock Up On Hankerchiefs
Stop buying the single use soft as a baby’s bottom tissue papers with the wondrous healing balm. These disposable options are a challenge to recycle or degrade because of their coatings (and should never be flushed!) A handkerchief is reusable, washable and doesn’t cost the earth plus you can have your name embroidered for extra personalisation points!.
It’s no secret commuting takes a toll on the environment – especially if you drive. Instead, why not commute greener by carpooling to work or taking public transportation? If you’re close enough to your workplace, consider walking or biking!
This makes getting around town super easy and saves on emissions. This is also a great task for the green team to tackle – set up a carpool program or those who are going to become a zero waste officer. Pass along sheets to see where people live and who can conveniently pick up who on the way to work and them organize days of the week people can come into work together to reduce overall emissions.
Add Mini Desk-top Bins Or Paper Recycling Tray
For a zero waste office, recycle paper! Recycling can help you cut down on a ton of waste, from paper and cardboard to glass and plastic items. If the thought of having no bins seems like a step too far pop in some mini desktop rubbish bins and an A4 size paper reuse-recycling tray.
The trick to having a rubbish bin on your desk is to make it small so having too much waste becomes a little bit of an inconvenience. This bin is desktop furniture though so make it cute or it won’t last a day. You will hit a couple of people that hate this new system. So be fair – people with allergies, staff who unwrap large volumes of mail and those at reception might need something else.
Pack A Trash-Free Luch
Most offices produce an abundance of food waste. What can you do to reduce food waste and create a zero waste office? If you want to save some money and packaging waste, pack your lunch in Reusable Lunch Boxes like glassware, metal tiffins or stasher bags. Instead of brown-bagging it, invest in a reusable lunch box or bags.
If you don’t have an office kitchen with real cups and cutlery on hand, don’t forget to include those with your lunch sack. As for your actual meal, try and opt for something plant-based. It’s even better if you include in-season and locally grown foods too.
Encourage your employees or colleagues by sending emails around, reminding them about recycling and zero waste office. You could also encourage employees/colleagues to bring their lunch in from home in reusable containers, banishing the dreaded single-use foil and cling film.
And, as always, being zero waste officer at work and authentically living your values pique other’s curiosity and start conversations about eco-friendly living.
Leading by example can inspire change quicker than you think!