Waste Reduction in Office Space
Pollution Prevention (P2) and Sustainability are about making smart choices — both in what products we buy, determine what they are composed of, and in how we use them. They involve looking at the causes of waste, how they may contribute to pollution before and after they are made, and figuring out how to prevent the generation of waste from occurring in the first place.
Believe it or not, you can help prevent pollution by taking simple steps to reduce the amount of waste generated by your workplace. There are many office activities that can be implemented to save energy and water (while saving money at the same time) and eliminate pollution at its source.
Many people do not think of implementing pollution prevention (P2) practices at work. Take a look around you and see if there are ways that the amount of waste produced by your workplace could be reduced through simple changes in behavior.
Here are some simple pointers to get you thinking about reducing waste in your workplace:
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator for short trips in order to save electricity and get exercise;
- Turn off lights and computer equipment at the end of the day to save energy;
- Install a PC monitor “sleep” function;
- Use fluorescent instead of incandescent lighting, to save on replacement costs and energy bills;
- Install Motion-activated, 3-tube lights in office;
- Buy only Energy Star-rated equipment;
- Encourage your office manager to reduce operating costs by replacing old equipment with energy efficient fixtures;
- Purchase efficient Liquid Crystal Display computer monitors
- Ensure that taps are turned off tightly to avoid dripping.
- Report any leaks (from toilet tanks and faucets) to the office manager or the facilities management department;
- Install water-flow-reducing attachments to faucets to reduce water use.
- Encourage your office manager to replace old equipment with water-efficient fixtures.
- Ensure that documents and photocopies are double-sided.
- Use e-mail, when possible, to reduce the amount of paper used.
- Recycle paper waste
- Instead of discarding old or malfunctioning items, have them refurbished or repaired.
- Take your lunch to work in re-usable containers and a re-usable lunch bag.
- If they aren’t collected at work, take recyclable and compostable items home.
- Encourage the implementation of a recycling program.
- Organize an informal recycling program if there is no formal program in place.
- Re-use paper that has only been used on one side (for note paper, draft copies or fax messages).
- Re-use office supplies such as envelopes, paper clips, elastic bands, file folders, binders, etc.
- Before throwing items away, see if your colleagues can use them.
- Instead of using disposable cups, use your own re-usable coffee mug or glass.
- Make computer files, not paper files when appropriate
- Aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, paper, cardboard, batteries
- Create a recycling rate goal for your office’s solid waste
- Donate PCs as they are replaced
- Buy “recycled” toner cartridges, and send your spent toner cartridges to be “recycled”. Commercially, this is referred to as recycling, but it is actually a form of reuse.
- Re-use old supplies and purchase many recycled content new supplies
- Invest in rechargeable batteries and battery chargers for digital cameras, flashlights, and other small devices. If your staff can be trusted to not accidentally throw away or loose the rechargeable batteries, in the long run it would be cheaper and better for the environment.
PROMOTE ENVIRONMENTAL THINKING
- Establish and Environmental Preferable Purchasing policy, which encourages the purchase of environmentally-friendly products such as recycled content paper and other office supplies from environmentally conscious manufacturers. Also, purchase products that will be used immediately. Some things have a short shelf-life and you would only be throwing money away if you don’t use those products immediately.
- Intersperse regular use of strong cleaners and solvents with less toxic and water-based cleaners. Everything from process machinery to toilets needs to be cleaned occasionally, but if you clean regularly, you don’t need to use the strongest chemicals known to humankind each and every time.
- Select products from suppliers and manufactures that use minimal packaging. If you buy paper by the case, by paper that is not packaged in individual reams. If you buy cleaning agents by the case, buy those that do not have cardboard dividers between the bottles. Look for similar waste reduction opportunities in all your purchasing. If you work for company large enough to make a difference, tell the manufactures that your selections are based on the amount of packaging that they use.
- Reuse packing material whenever possible, and look for ways to reduce its use when you send products to customers.
- Utilize less polluting alternatives when commuting (i.e. carpooling, riding a bicycle, or taking public transit).
- Promote the concept of pollution prevention (i.e. through projects, letters, papers).
- Plan environmental education events.
1. Resources for Buying Green – This page provides a list of programs to assist you with purchasing office supplies and to help reduce your office’s environmental footprint.
2. California Integrated Waste Management Board — Waste Prevention and Recycling at the Office – This page provides recommendations for businesses and organizations to initiate a combined recycling and waste prevention program to address recycling, and practices to reduce paper consumption and to reuse office supplies such as paper and toner cartridges.
3. New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services – Waste Reduction in the Office – This resource provides a short list of pollution prevention ideas for the office.
4. INFORM Handbook– a non-profit organization that identifies innovative technologies, practices and products that provide practical solutions to complex environmental and health-related problems. — A handbook explains how businesses (as well as government agencies) can reduce waste while bringing down their disposal, purchasing, and operational costs. It provides specific strategies on preventing waste in the work areas that make up the typical business– offices; food services; shipping and receiving; janitorial services; and building, landscape, and vehicle maintenance.
5. Lean Office FAQ – Lean Office Waste Reduction – A basic summary of how to handle waste, the types of waste, and how to reduce them. This link contains articles on general office lean principles as well.
6. Best Reference: Offices- A bibliography of best references of Office Waste Reduction resources available online.