With the increased demand for different goods and services, the demand for offices to deal with them has increased and taken form in home offices, high-rise office blocks, and shared workspaces. No matter where your office is, chances are that you will produce some form of waste each day with all the paperwork and of course, all the loose paper clips lying around. However, this increases the pressure in landfills and also releases toxins into the atmosphere. Waste-busting is one of the most useful solutions to these issues since there are many zero waste workspace ideas available. To save the planet, we could take an easy step by converting ordinary offices into zero waste offices.
Generally, a zero waste area implies a more decluttered space as you only live with the essentials. This is especially beneficial in an office area since a clean space resembles a clean mind, which will increase productivity efficiently. The cleaner space also makes the workspace more hygienic, reducing the chances of fellow workers falling sick. In a bigger picture, zero waste strategies often work best when they’re community-based. So building a zero waste office is more likely to create a sense of community amongst colleagues with ambiance in the air. Many well-established companies, such as Ford and Google have already embarked on a journey to a zero-waste office. Their actions have not only benefited their own company but also influenced other ones and the wider community. Therefore, a small step of the company can mean a big step in the industry or even the world!
Here are some office waste statistics from the Waste and Resources Action Programme, a charity from the UK, around 60% to 80% of office waste created daily is paper, which isn’t the worst news as paper can be widely recycled throughout the world. However, the rest of the waste generated still accounts for nearly one-third of the total waste, and the majority of it cannot be recycled or composted. Those include plastic, metal, food waste and other mixed ones, such as ink cartridges. But worry not, as we’ll provide some helpful out-of-waste ideas for offices on how to reduce paper and plastic waste, and where to find some quirky zero waste office supplies. Stay tuned until the end, as we’ve got some helpful guidelines for an office waste management plan!
With the level of technological advancement nowadays, the necessity of paper has reduced greatly. Most of the paper-based jobs and communications can be replaced by electronic ones, such as replacing letters with emails and using online cloud storage for important documents instead of a ringbinder. As authentic as paper files are, it is undeniable that technology works much faster and you can easily modify the content on technology than modifying that on paper. Often, the paper waste generated comes from the discarded paper files where an error was made. Therefore, going paperless is one of the most efficient and direct methods.
When printing is unavoidable, change the printer settings so that it prints on both sides of the paper. This can effectively reduce paper consumption by at least 50%. This is easy to do but people often ignore this option as it’s easier to read when it’s printed on one-side only. Why not do your part by taking the first, easy step?
It would be difficult to completely eradicate paper use in a workspace since official documents are often kept in paper files for authenticity and legal matters. Bearing in mind that paper is the most widely recycled material, always recycle paper when you have to dispose of them. Start putting recycling bins in printer rooms and in different areas of the workspace to make it more convenient for office workers to engage in this zero waste office movement. Not only will it help the environment, but it will also help the company save money as less waste goes to the landfill!
Water coolers are a sustainable way to ensure the health of office workers, and also to discourage them from buying bottled water. By installing a water cooler, you can fill up your reusable water bottles or mug easily. It’s definitely more convenient, but also more cost-saving in the long-term since the elimination of bottled water eliminates the costs of them too.
People tend to take action when there is an incentive – the same concept applies to encourage the use of reusable water bottles and utensils in a zero waste workspace. To create incentives, carry out competitions in plastic reduction and distribute leaflets about zero waste workspace to educate and motivate office staff. By this way, you can always learn and have fun at the same time whilst doing good to the environment!
The ultimate way to reduce plastic waste is to reduce the amount of packaging in office supplies, as they tend to be relatively unnecessary. Discuss whether they have plastic alternatives or whether they can reduce or replace plastic packaging during deliveries. Apart from office supplies, you can discuss with food suppliers for the office about the same aspects too. Not only will this improve the ethics of the company, but it may also influence other companies to do so too.
Office supplies are highly accessible everywhere as they are essentials for almost everyone. Even when you step into a convenience store, you can see rows of pens and pencils and other stationery items. However, they tend to be overly packaged with plastics and paper, and are often discarded directly after. Don’t worry, as we’ve got your back – we’ve got some zero waste office essentials here that you can consider to replace your one-off stationeries with those. You can find most of the products from well-established e-commerce websites, such as Amazon and Taobao for wherever you are. You can also find them in most stationery retailers, printing shops, but it never hurts to start looking from the stationeries that you own at home.
Pens are probably the most frequently used stationery in a workplace, which is why an eco-friendly pen should be invested. Often, pens are discarded directly after the ink runs dry. Even with pens that provide with refills will always inevitably come with plastic. To avoid this, opt for pens that come with dumping-free refills instead. Chances are, you will grow to treasure this pen as a companion as time goes on as your zero waste office partner!
Similar to eco-roller pens, fountain pens are an amazing alternative to disposable pens. They are often provided with refills that come in bulk, glass containers, which make them recyclable or reusable. It’s definitely a worthy personal investment too, as they can last for years if the proper care is taken! Why not embark on a zero waste lifestyle with this chic product?
Pencils are wonderful when used for drafting as you can always erase the errors and rewrite again. However, pencils are often difficult to recycle so people simply dispose of them after their use or leave them in a forgotten corner in their kitchen drawers. Mechanical pencils, on the other hand, come with lead refills that allow you to extend its longevity and this is the zero waste way to go.
Highlighters are a staple in every office since it makes reading key points so much easier. But the amount of toxic plastic waste they generate is surprisingly high. A useful substitute to highlighter pens is eco-friendly highlighter pencils. They come in sharp colors that are as bright as highlighter pens, but they also won’t bleed or dry out as the plastic ones would. Although it’s not completely zero waste, they can still be recycled after their use.
Although the rate of achieving a zero waste office is growing rapidly, some waste is still unavoidable as all offices will create some form of paper or plastic waste inevitably. But we can do our best to minimize the impact by engaging in recycling. Here are some simple and useful tips to follow for recycling in a zero waste workplace.
This is one of the most effective but also fun ways to establish a recycling habit in an office. Before the competition, find the waste audit of the office to establish a threshold or baseline. Then lay out the guidelines, rewards and perhaps even forfeits – otherwise, it wouldn’t be a competition, right? Most importantly, always celebrate success and let the office know about the benefits they’re bringing to the planet by recycling and reducing waste to boost the community’s morals.
Personal recycling bins and trays can be placed in each staff member’s working area so it will be more convenient for each person to recycle. It’s vital, however, to empty those recycling bins into the main recycling area as they can become unhygienic and smelly over time. Encouraging them to bring their own reusable bottles, mugs, and utensils would help reduce waste too.
Printer rooms are one of the places that create the most paper waste, and the cafeteria or pantry creates the most plastic and food waste. To make recycling more accessible in a zero waste workplace, be sure to put recycling bins in those hotspots, such as the entrance, the printer room, and the pantry, as mentioned.
Office supplies tend to be made out of a mix of plastic and metal, which makes them difficult to recycle – reusing them is the alternative. To keep things practical, you can always bring items, such as binders and rubber bands home for your personal use to keep things organized. On the other hand, you can be creative and craft with them! For example, you can make paper clip animals with loose ones and braid rubber bands together to make office supply jewellery, it’s all up to you! As the last resort, you can always donate the office supplies or swap them with the others.
To make an impactful change, people must be educated and informed about first. Send out recycling information and benefits via emails, write them down on office whiteboards (instead of putting up posters – go paperless!), hold short meetings during break time for bitesize recycling guidance… There are so many ways to inform and influence an office to engage in the zero waste movement as a community!
An office waste management plan is a scheme that guides the office members on how to deal with and minimize different types of waste and is planned for a certain time length (e.g. over a day, a week or a month). The plan is vital for a zero waste office as it standardizes the waste management procedures more efficiently.
To begin, conduct a waste audit of the office to find out the baseline so that the company can work from there. Then set out the goals – they should be achievable and sustainable! For example, instead of completely eliminating waste by week 1, try reducing waste by a certain portion and encourage reusing personal utensils and recycling paper waste. Otherwise, it may lead to unfavorable and adverse effects in the long term. State the guidelines clearly to avoid confusion in the workplace. Most importantly, hold weekly or monthly meetings to update the office about the progress, and celebrate the united efforts when appropriate. After all, zero waste strategies work best in a community-based area!
Here are some extra tips for a zero waste lifestyle that aren’t limited to the office only.
1 Zero waste eating out
When eating out, try to order what you can eat instead of over-ordering to reduce food waste. Refuse plastic straws as most restaurants will be happy to do so. When there are leftovers, bring your own container and pack them up for later use. We’ve also got some amazing zero waste kitchen tips that you can check out here.
2 Zero waste transit
For most transport systems, there will likely be reloadable cards or e-tickets available. Instead of purchasing individual paper or plastic tickets each day, get the reloadable cards or e-tickets. Chances are, they will have daily, weekly or monthly travel card plans, which will save you more money in the long term!
Going paperless and waste-free isn’t a dream in an office anymore. As long as the office is willing to put in the effort together, nothing is impossible! In the long run, this sustainable lifestyle will benefit the world we live in, but also strengthen the sense of community within the workplace. Being ethically-aware also boosts the morals and improves the reputation of the company. By taking this step, you may be the one influencing the others and the wider community, so don’t hesitate!
If the tips for a zero waste workplace helped you, or if you’re interested in a sustainable office renovation, click here to check out more interior design portfolios of one person design firms partnered with archiparti, feel free to get in touch for a quotation and more project advice.