A buzzword amongst the environmental community, ‘Zero Waste’ has been a trendy word that businesses, and individuals alike, have begun to strive for in their everyday lives. Although it is a buzzword, zero waste is an actual goal/achievement that businesses can set for themselves, and reach, with the right parameters in place. We have discussed zero waste before in previous blog posts, but I wanted to provide you with some details as to why you and your business should strive for this goal and how to go about doing so.
What is Zero Waste?
Although used often, I think the trendiness of the phase zero waste often misleads the actual real life applicability that the term offers. Zero waste, in the simplest of definitions, is not sending any waste into the landfill. In addition to not contributing to landfills, zero waste emphasises the importance of the three Rs (yes, the ones you learnt in grade school!) – reduce, reuse, and recycle. The goal is to reuse as much as possible, recycle as little as necessary (and make sure it is in fact recyclable waste), and compost or divert the remaining waste, as required. Although this may seem difficult to accomplish all at once, the way to success is through initiative driven, small steps. Try to start with reusing items that you would not normally reuse. Do some research on the most recyclable items so you know what you can purchase and what to avoid. And of course, get a compost program so that all that cannot be reused or recycled, gets diverted.
Why Go Zero Waste?
Sometimes getting on board with these environmental trends is difficult for the average business but often is beneficial not only for your customers/clients, but for your employees as well. Many business owners think that the only incentive to go zero waste is to help the environment. Although that is the most obvious reason, there are also underlying reasons that can help with increasing bottom line profitability. Here are the top 3 reasons why you should consider going zero waste at your business:
- Environmental Benefits
Let’s start with the most expected and obvious answer, because I know it is the first thing that comes to mind – environmental benefits. Going zero waste will help to reduce your businesses impact on the earth, by not adding to your local landfill, reducing pollution and therefore reducing your greenhouse gas outputs (which ultimately assists in reducing climate change). Going zero waste accrues little to no costs (often there are cost savings – as per below), and is beneficial to the environment. With a lot of discussions about what we, as individuals, consumers and businesses, can do to help the environment, going zero waste is a great starting point. Reducing your impact on the earth is naturally beneficial to you, your employees and of course, the environment.
2. Employee Retention/Engagement
As millennials and genZs continue and start entering the workforce, being an environmentally minded company can actually incentivize possible qualified employees to consider your workplace. Many employees want to work for a company that has environmentally minded values, as environmentalism is much more instilled into the younger generations then any other generation before them. Having strong environmental goals or established programs adds to employee engagement and makes employees feel like they are contributing to something greater than just going to work everyday. Having more qualified candidates available to you as a business owner is beneficial for the longevity of your business. Additionally, if these qualified candidates chose to stay at your establishment for longer periods of time because you are environmentally minded, you can reduce costs for retraining and rehiring – which is important for your bottom line.
3. Reduce Costs/Increase Cost Savings
As we discuss more thoroughly below, there are initiatives that you can implement that will actually save you and your company money. Business owners do not realize that by implementing initiatives that save the environment oftentimes saves costs that would otherwise be incurred (think electricity by shutting off lights, gas savings by going electric etc).
How To Become Zero Waste
So now that you know why you should go zero waste, I wanted to share some ways to implement that goal. Although there are lots of different initiatives that you can take on as a business that can assist in going zero waste, there are a few (at varying commitment levels) that I think are the most impactful.
- Getting a Organics Program
Naturally, given the business we are in, this had to be our number one initiative. Although we are a bit biased, this truly is one of the most impactful ways that you as a business can go zero waste. By offering an organics service to your employees (and customers/clients if applicable), you are able to divert all of your food waste (and more – like paper straws, take out containers, etc), and reduce the amount of landfill garbage or recycling generated. The best part of this initiative for any business owner is that it can actually save you money. By reducing your recycling and waste to landfill, you are reducing your commercial dumping fees from your dumpster. Contact us today to set up a custom organics diversion program!
2. Switching to Compostable Items
Pens, papers, straws, stir sticks, gloves, etc – whatever you may use now that would be considered a single use plastic, try and source sustainable, compostable alternatives. This could be anything that is specific to your business that you use daily that you perhaps see getting thrown out more than other items. There are so many compostable alternatives now to single use plastics or landfill waste that attempting to source these materials to replace their unsustainable counterparts should not be too tedious. There is an environmentally sustainable replacement for almost anything nowadays.
3. Water Refill Station
Encourage your employees to bring reusable water bottles and offer a water refill station. This can be as simple as a water cooler in the corner or as elaborate as a filtered water station that counts water bottles saved from the landfill/recycling. Either option works and does what is important, which is keeping water bottles out of the landfill/recycling. If you can provide this for your employees, the less likely they will bring disposable water bottles to work, saving you fees on disposal costs and reducing your/their environmental impact.
4. Offer Coffee (From the Pot)
Encourage your employees to either bring coffee from home, or offer coffee to your staff so that they do not feel compelled to stop at the local coffee shop and get take out coffee. Although take out coffee cups are compostable in our organics system, not having them wasted/used in the first place is always better for the environment. By offering coffee, employees can bring a reusable mug from home (or have mugs available), which will reduce the amount of disposable coffee cups brought into the workplace. However, ensure that you are offering coffee made by the pot and not just offering pods – as that would be somewhat counter-intuitive.
5. Encourage ‘GOOS’ Paper Use
This is a funny acronym, but handy! GOOS paper is short form for “Good On One Side” paper. This means that if you or one of your employees accidentally printed something or had a scrap piece of paper, but one side still was blank and usable, use it before discarding it. Allowing this will reduce paper costs in your workplace (less sticky notes, etc) and reduce the amount of recycling your office/workplace sees daily.
6. Encourage ‘Litter-less’ Lunches
Encourage your employees to bring litterless lunches with limited packaging and disposable material. Implementing a rewards system to motivate team members is a great way to get participation and make a difference. Even further, if you offer a dishwasher for utensils and lunch packaged items, employees may be more willing to bring litterless lunches.
It is evident that making a business zero waste takes time, effort and employee/upper management engagement and therefore cannot just happen overnight (like most environmental initiatives). Deciding to be a zero waste business is a great start, and implementing a few initiatives over the course of a year or two, will help to drive more engagement, which will benefit the success of the overall endeavor. By educating staff, engaging stakeholders/clients/customers and encouraging participation, becoming a zero waste business is achievable. Eventually, implementing all kinds of zero waste initiatives will become routine and easy for you and your business, but it takes time to get there.
What are some zero waste initiatives that we have not listed that you do in your workplace?