Reducing Waste in the Workplace
More than half of the waste in Canadian landfills comes from non-residential sources. Our workplaces are full of opportunities to reduce waste.
As with any effort to reduce your waste, the first step is to figure out what is being thrown away. (For info on doing a waste audit check out this blog.) Each workplace will be different, but I’ll go over a few options that might be common.
- Print with less paper: Default to print on both sides. You can also print on paper with one side blank for drafts or internal files.
- Reformat documents to reduce pages by adjusting the margins or font size. You could even remove photos if they don’t add value to the document.
- Reduce printing: Sit down with your team and analyze what documents you print, is there a way to reduce the amount of printing altogether? Maybe you can even find a way to digitize some payments and avoid physical cheques.
- Junk mail: If a lot of your mail ends up straight in the recycling, consider unsubscribing from mailing lists or switching to electronic statements.
- Recycling bin: Salvage paper from the recycling bin. You can print on full sized paper with one side blank as mentioned and you can also use any blank section of paper for notes.
- Recycled paper: When buying paper, choose the option with the highest percentage of recycled content.
- Reuse Folders: Reuse folders by placing a label sticker overtop of the old label.
- Composting in a breakroom can be difficult with so many different people. Have clear signage of what can and cannot be put into the compost, and maybe even have a lunch and learn about the benefits of compost and how to use yours most effectively.
- The type of compost you have will depend what’s available in your city. You might have a compost pick up service or you could try vermicomposting. If you don't have too many food scraps, a colleagure might be willing to take them home to their backyard compost.
- Try to find an alternative to coffee pods.
- Provide reusable mugs for coffee and either ask colleagues to wash their mugs or invest in a dishwasher.
- Buy sugar in bulk and store in a container to avoid individual sugar packs.
- Avoid plastic stir sticks by providing reusable spoons or something that can be composted like wooden sticks or dry pastai. (Remember that compostable items don’t compost in a landfill so this option is only an improvement if you have access to a compost)
- If your bathroom uses paper towel, remember that you can compost that! You can have two bins, clearly labelled, one for paper towel and one for everything else.
- You could also have reusable towels to dry your hands. You can either have one shared towel that is replaced a few times throughout the day, or a basket of many small towels and each person can grab a new one each time try dry their hands. This does require someone to bring home the towels for laundering if you don’t have a washing machine at the office.
- Consider buying second hand when upgrading or replacing your electronics, furniture or other office supplies. You can try thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, or HYON. Sell, donate or recycle discarded items. Find options in the Waste Reduction Hub.
Some changes need approval from others at your workplace, some can be made on the individual level. Find a few you can do and suggest some to your colleagues!