It should come as no surprise that the typical modern-day corporate office is full of waste. For example, thousands of pieces of paper are shredded every day in offices across America. Remember the irresistible, albeit most usually burnt, office coffee supply? It is likely full of waste as well, from plastic coffee stirrers to Styrofoam cups to disposable coffee filters. And don't forget the hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of paper sitting in file cabinets nationwide! When presented with all of this information at once, the amount of corporate waste in existence today can seem overwhelming. However, there are a few simple steps that anyone can take to reduce that amount of waste and even move toward a zero-waste office space.
1. Consider digitizing files.
Going digital with one's files has many benefits. Of course, the most prominent of these is reducing paper waste. However, digitizing files also have a myriad of other benefits, such as increasing cooperation between colleagues and saving space in the workplace. Digitizing files encourages cooperation between colleagues because if documents are accessible digitally, it is much more convenient for an individual to send such documents to a colleague for review electronically. Additionally, digitizing files saves space in the office due to the removal of large file cabinets. In some workplaces, files contain sensitive information and must be kept under lock and key. There are even ways to accomplish this online, using encryption software, making going digitally accessible to every workplace.
2. When using paper is necessary, make it count!
Undoubtedly, there are still some situations in the workplace in which paper must be used. However, there are still many relatively small things that an individual can do to reduce the amount of paper used. For example, print on both sides of the paper whenever possible. You can also save old one-sided documents and print them on the other side in the future. Once paper documents have been used, and staff are finished with them, provide recycling bins to place unwanted paper. Put these recycling bins in convenient locations, such as next to the copier, to encourage use. An individual in the office should then be appointed to collect the materials from the recycling bin each week, to ensure that they are not accidentally sent to a landfill.
3. Clean up the coffee cart.
Many offices have coffee accessible throughout the day to employees who may need an extra boost of energy. These coffee stations are often home to a large amount of paper and plastic waste. To reduce that waste, consider providing reusable coffee mugs or cups for employees' use. Use wooden coffee stirrers instead of plastic, as they can be recycled and are often biodegradable. Finally, provide employees with large cream and sugar containers instead of using individual packets. The coffee cart may not seem like a prominent source of waste in the corporate world, but trash produced by disposable coffee products can add up fast!
Using these three simple techniques can help make the mountain-sized task of reducing corporate waste feel more like a molehill. Remember that reducing waste is a process, and you don't have to accomplish it all at once — every little step toward sustainability matters in the grand scheme of conserving our planet's resources.