The standard office used to be an environmental nightmare in many cases. Whether it was filing cabinets filled to the brim with outdated, dusty printouts, printers cranking out thousands of sheets of paper per day or the cheap paper coffee cups that filled the trashcan to the brim, it’d make most people cringe these days. Statistically speaking, we waste a lot when we’re at work. The average office worker contributes some two pounds’ worth of mixed paper products and uses about 10,000 sheets of paper each year. And that’s just talking paper products! We’re not even talking about water, food or electrical waste. An average person can throw out some 23 pounds of food per month and it was estimated that Americans produced an odd 33 million tons of plastic. It leaves a lot to be desired, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, that was the office of yesteryear. The year is 2018 and more employers and employees have begun to brainstorm on ways to reduce waste in the office. While some offices might still be stuck in the archaic paper tomb of the past, yours doesn’t have to be! Whether you’re the manager, the CEO, the secretary, the IT tech or the intern, there are lots of ways you can help reduce waste in your daily office life. Let’s dig in and see how we can be kinder to Mother Nature–and ourselves–in 2018.
Ways to Reduce Office Waste:
- Bring in a Water Cooler and Reusable Cups—Sure, a water cooler isn’t exactly the most modern or trendy appliance to have in the office. It’s still something of a classic, though, and discussing your Netflix binge elsewhere just wouldn’t be the same. Water coolers used with reusable cups or ones brought from home will save you a ton. You won’t have to worry about the sink running constantly or needing as much maintenance or repairs with a water cooler around. Plus, people tend to like fresh, cool water a lot better than sink water anyway. Some water coolers also come with an option for hot water, which will save you from needing as much from the sink or microwave for people who want to brew tea. Reusable cups will also help cut down on waste from people wanting water, tea, coffee and other beverages. You can buy some for the office and wash them daily or encourage your employees to bring their own from home–or both! Employees will feel a lot better if they are hydrated and have environmentally friendly options available.
If you or your employees are still reliant on the sink or the office refrigerator for some of your water needs, investing in a faucet water filter can also go a long way in helping reduce overall waste while promoting more incentive for your employees to choose a glass of water over their third soda for the morning.
- Reducing Paper Waste Goes a Long Way—Ah, paper. It just wouldn’t be an office without a million memos, printouts, flyers, forms and documents, would it? Still, those 10,000 sheets of paper that your average office worker produces could use some significant reduction, no? Statistically speaking, 30 percent of print jobs are never retrieved from the printer and 45 percent of printed material just ends up in the trash by the end of the day. Ouch.
So, how does one go about reducing paper waste?
One of the first steps is to start storing and communicating files digitally. Email is no longer a strange, scary beast to most of us in 2018, right? And sure, the software your manager decided on might stink, but it surely beats printing off all those documents and having to fill them in by hand before filing them, right? There are tons of ways that files, documents, memos, records and anything else that used to be needed in printed form can now be stored and transmitted digitally without causing a fuss.
Of course, if you absolutely have to print some documents, there are still steps you can take. Use small print, single-spaced sentences, use both sides of the paper, use lighter weight papers and use smaller paper sizes for things like memos.
Another big step you can take is to recycle your scrap paper. If you don’t need those documents after they’ve been used and they don’t contain any critical material (you might want to invest in a paper shredder in this case), then just recycle them. It’ll save you lots of trouble and reduce waste in the long run.
- Reduce Your Food Waste—We’ve all done it. We waited to eat until lunch time and now feel like we can eat an entire large pizza all by ourselves, with a side of wings. We get halfway through the pizza, shove it in the fridge then end up having to throw it out a few days later. That 23 pounds of food a month statistic is creeping up on us.
Reducing food waste is actually pretty simple. You can order smaller meals or bring lunch from home in a reusable container and with your own silverware so there is no need to rely on plastic silverware or paper plates.
You can also get a food scrap compost going at the office. It might sound like a strange idea, but your plants will love it and it will cut down on your food waste tremendously. There are compost removal services in most areas. You can also get your own compost bin if you’d like to get the entire office involved and make it something of a community project.
These are just a few steps you can take towards reducing office waste in 2018. Whether it is cutting down on your printing queue, bringing in that water cooler or trying to be more responsible with your food waste, we’ve only really scratched the surface. The most important thing you can do, no matter your role at the office, is to take the initiative to reduce waste and to encourage your team to do the same. After all, we spend a lot of time at the office and with our team members. Reducing waste is as much a community effort as it is an individual one. Whatever steps you do take, make them count.