20 Ways to Reduce Waste at Your Workplace

Waste not, want not is a phrase that we’ve all heard at some point – usually by our grannies when we don’t eat our veggies. Considering the harm that waste does to the environment, it’s no surprise that businesses are starting to focus on reducing their carbon footprint.

plastic waste

There are many ways that companies and employees can reduce their level of waste, so here’s a list of actionable, easy things you can do starting today to cut your carbon footprint.

1. Use Reusable Drinking Containers

Single-use containers are often tossed into the trash rather than into the recycling bin. Of course, if it goes into the trash, it goes to the local landfill/dump and just adds to the environmental damage. So, how do we get around this?

Well, we use reusable drinking containers (i.e. coffee mugs, water bottles, etc.) and cut down on those pesky single-use containers.

Reusable Bottles Unhealthy?

This will actually save you a dime since it’ll form other habits, such as making your own coffee at home instead of buying it.

And if you still want to buy coffee to go on your way to work, do ask the cashier to pour it into your reusable cup – they won’t mind!

2. Get a Water Cooler

Water coolers cut down on the amount of water that’s wasted in a day by providing fresh water in manageable quantities. They’re also portable, and require no plumbing; you just plug it into the wall and voila: You have fresh water!

3. Using Reusable Lunch Containers

Bringing your own lunch to work in reusable containers helps reduce wasted food. Reusable containers make it less likely that you’ll have to throw away a container. Instead, you just wash the container and put a new meal in it.

This will also mean you’ll have to cook instead of order in at lunchtime, so keep that in mind.

man holding an iphone

4. Take Paperless Notes

Personally, I tend to carry a notebook and pen with me pretty much everywhere I go. I know it’s not really necessary – after all, this is the age of laptops and tablets – but I can’t pull my laptop/tablet out while walking to the local mall.

With that said, if you’re taking notes while in a business meeting then doing it with a laptop or tablet makes sense. Paper notes are often thrown out and / or converted to digital notes. So why waste time converting a note from paper to digital if you don’t have to?

5. Put Together a Waste Prevention Team

You have team-building exercises, right? Well, this is kind of the same idea. You put together a group of people who brainstorm ideas on how to reduce the company’s waste output.

6. Set up a Sharing Point for Carrier Bags

Sharing is caring, we’ve seen a substantial rise in the use of reusable carrier bags to cut down on the use of those flimsy supermarket plastic bags. Setting up a place with reusable carrier bags for everyone to use reduces the number of people who come back with food in a plastic bag.

This is a great way to give your plastic or even paper bags  a new life before you throw them into the dumpster.

I Tried To Make Zero Waste Lunches For My Daughter For A Week

7. The Zero-Waste Lunch Challenge

This is one that’s just too good to ignore. The idea is that you put a challenge to your staff – to bring in a lunch that will leave absolutely no waste. If you need to reduce food waste in the workplace this is a good way to do it.

8. Reuse Incoming Packaging

If you’ve ever worked in a grocery store – either in receiving or in the storeroom – you’ll know that a lot of boxes come in every week.

So many of those boxes end up torn open/cut up and thrown away that it’s just not funny! Old boxes and envelopes can still be used so use them!

9. No More Mailing Lists!

Ah, the mailing list…the bane of any company’s existence. Seriously, why are these still a thing? A mailing list is a sure-fire way to clutter up your workplace with junk mail.

Keep your business off the local mailing lists – both physical and digital. Getting off of physical mailing lists prevents junk mail from piling up in your offices for absolutely no good reason.

10. Keep a Recycling Bin Handy

Putting a few recycling bins in the workplace serves as a friendly reminder for people to recycle the stuff that’s reusable instead of throwing it away.

11. Recycle for Charity

Recycling for charity is a great way to help both the environment and your local community. Gather up any old electronics (i.e. cell phones), printer cartridges, lightbulbs, and whatever else you can think of to recycle and raise money for charity.

12. Get Rid of Excess Stationery

Pens and pencils can be crucial to your daily work routine BUT too many of them can get a bit ridiculous. Do put together a drop-off point for excess stationery where colleagues and employees can just drop off whatever they don’t need. This excess stationery can be donated to charities to reduce the clutter in the workplace.

13. Buying in Bulk

Buying in bulk reduces the cost per unit and the amount of packaging that you end up throwing away each month.

14. Limit Printing

Limit the amount of printing you do by printing on both sides of the page and reducing the amount of paper wasted over the course of a working day.

"Start a recycling centre" with Dave Hakkens' Precious Plastic factory

15. Start a Recycling Center

Recycling has been mentioned a few times now, starting a recycling center works to encourage your employees to recycle bottles and other recyclable items, and possibly make a bit of extra cash.

16. Use Rechargeable Batteries

If you use a ton of battery-operated equipment, then rechargeable batteries are a good way to reduce the number of times you need to buy new batteries. I can tell you from experience that’s a huge benefit.

Not many people know this about me, but I do make some YouTube content as a hobby. Now, while my setup is very basic; it works for what I do.

Unfortunately, batteries don’t last forever and they’re getting ridiculously expensive, so I switched to rechargeable batteries. This cuts down the number of times that I have to buy new batteries, and recycle / throw away the old ones that are unusable.

17. Use Refillable Printer Cartridges

Like batteries, printer cartridges are getting ridiculously expensive. To avoid having to constantly buy new cartridges, why not use refillable ones? You save money and reduce the clutter of empty cartridges lying around the workplace.

18. Use Real Dishes and Cutlery

Disposable paper plates and plastic cutlery can leave a serious mess, and clutter up your workplace. To get around that problem, use real plates and cutlery and make sure that everyone cleans up after themselves. Less wasted food, and less kitchen clutter.

Even better, install a (portable) dishwasher in the kitchen to save water, as opposed to having every person wash their own cutlery by hand. This will save time as well.

The Closed-Loop Community Compost Program!

19. Start a Composting Program

If your company does a lot of recycling, then starting a composting program for all your biodegradable stuff. The compost can be used in company gardens or sent off to local farmers. You reduce your workplace waste and help your local community, that sounds good to me.

20. Use Recycled Products

Using a lot of recycled products / items can cut down on waste and the use of natural resources – thereby reducing your company’s impact on the environment.

Waste not, Want Not

Reducing waste is becoming a more serious issue as time goes on and the more we can do to reduce our company wastage – or even waste in general – the better.

These are just a small handful of ways in which you can reduce the amount of waste in your workplace. It’ll make your life so much easier and the environment so much happier.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you for the next one. Take care, and remember: waste not, want not.

plastic bottles and straws pin

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