The average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper each year — and about half of all these documents are thrown away within 24 hours.
But that’s only a fraction of your workers’ waste bins. Annually, people toss away:
It’s not just hurting your bottom line to keep providing products that wind up in the trash. According to research out of the U.K., the average company can spend up to 10% of its annual turnover on waste management — and the projected costs are continuing to rise.
Understanding how to become a zero-waste office is the first step in stemming this unnecessary cash leak. But given today’s global focus on waste reduction, greener businesses are also more profitable.
The right zero-waste strategy for your office can:
- Lower your overhead
- Reduce your carbon footprint, a metric valued by investors and consumers alike
- Promote your brand’s image through social responsibility, innovation, and adaptability
- Unite your employees under a common goal — reports show that 83% think their workplaces don’t do enough to address sustainability
With your staff’s buy-in already primed, it’s easier than ever to implement these zero-waste tips.
Monitor Where Your Waste Comes From
It’s tough to make meaningful changes without knowing where things currently stand.
Performing a waste audit gives you a baseline that helps you:
- Understand where the majority of your office’s waste comes from
- Tackle the easiest, “low-hanging fruit” goals first, which helps to build momentum that lasts
- Set future goals and evaluate your efforts
A DIY audit is a great way to get employees involved and see the value in what your business is working toward. Together, your team will also begin to spot trends like which bin contents aren’t trash at all. Studies show that about 77% of office waste could be recycled or reused.
The key is to develop a monitoring process you can stick with. For example:
- Select an office sustainability committee to help manage the process and keep you accountable.
- Determine waste categories.
- Sort and track waste generated for each of these categories.
- Use your findings to inform what goals you set and plans you launch.
Keep in mind that most sustainability certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) require robust, precise measurement tracking. For some businesses, a professional audit can help streamline this process.
Swap Out Single-Use Products
From plastic bottles to paper products, setting up an in-office recycling system cuts down on a lot of what otherwise winds up in the dumpster — and into the environment.
But recycling doesn’t solve waste problems on its own.
Reduce the need to recycle in the first place by ditching single-use products. Provide reusable alternatives for common items around your office, like:
- Ceramic mugs and water glasses instead of disposable cups
- A water filter or dispenser to cut down on plastic bottles
- Reusable coffee filters and tea bags
Bring In (and Send Out) Less Waste
Don’t undo your sustainability efforts by ushering waste through the front door.
Containers and packaging materials make up a major part of the waste we generate every year — and the volume continues to increase. But we throw away even more food. At an average of 219 pounds per person each year, food waste takes up the most space in U.S. landfills today.
Stop this unsustainable cycle by:
- Choosing suppliers that package shipments with reusable or low-waste options
- Providing reusable containers like bento boxes for employees to grab takeaway lunch or bring it from home
- Composting kitchen waste and materials like cardboard that you can use in an office garden or deliver to a local community partner
If your business ships products, hold yourself accountable to these same standards. Use more sustainable alternatives to pallets and wraps, and adopt packaging design innovations that require fewer materials — meeting your goals while cutting costs.
Design a Printing Policy
Printing is sometimes necessary. But as surveys show that at least 30% of printed pages never get picked up from the machine, much of it isn’t.
Collaborate with your team to build a printing policy that works for everyone’s needs without creating extra waste. Consider adopting guidelines like:
- Printing double-sided
- Installing reusable ink and toner cartridges you can refill
- Using digital forms and e-signatures where possible
- Identifying what areas of your business require hard copies of documents
- Building a cloud-based system to manage the rest
Make Eco-Friendly Purchasing Decisions
Your office’s zero-waste plans are as good as the efforts your business partners make.
Take accountability for all the waste and emissions tied to your operations, choosing:
- To source locally, reducing the waste caused by long-haul shipping
- Sustainable energy options, from efficient appliances to green energy providers
- A web host certified for green data storage
- Zero-waste products, like sustainable office furniture made from recycled, reused, and natural materials
When it comes to everyday items like a printer or heating system, always check to see if it can be refurbished before you opt to replace it. If it’s not an option, ensure this “e-waste” gets sent to a center that can reclaim parts for reuse.
Make Plans to Slash Hidden Waste
The momentum your office builds with these zero-waste efforts sets the stage for increasingly comprehensive goals. The key to sustainable success is biting off small chunks at a time. But to truly claim a zero-waste certification for your business, it goes beyond using less paper.
Think about where you could cut down on less obvious waste in everyday operations. Some of these changes may take time and evolve through small steps. Stick with what’s feasible for your business today, but prioritize your zero-waste goals when planning ahead.
Your future plans could include:
- Installing energy-efficient light bulbs and motion sensors or timers
- Prioritizing sustainable design principles in your next office refurb, like using raw materials, maximizing natural light, and optimizing energy with more efficient windows and insulation
- Cutting down on business travel, holding digital meetings when possible
- Encouraging greener commutes, with an incentive program for carpooling or bicycling to work
Zero-waste living is a process grounded in conscious behavior change — and it doesn’t happen overnight. But once you get started, the possibilities are endless. At Miniwiz, we’ve seen this commitment flourish across every industry.
From sustainable product design to smarter trash upcycling, check out all the ways that businesses today are incorporating this zero-waste mentality not just in their offices — but along all steps in their supply chain and beyond.