Sustainable waste management: 5 tips to promote an eco-friendly office

By Switch Automation • May 10, 2018

Following Earth Week 2018, we were inspired to investigate America’s waste management practices in the office. Here, we share the shocking statistics along with five ways to promote sustainable waste management in your workplace.

With more offices going paperless than ever, you’d think that businesses were never more effective at sustainable waste management. The reality is that worldwide paper consumption has risen by 400% in the last 40 years, with the U.S. alone using 68 million trees each year to produce paper and paper products.

Room for improvement

The average office worker generates a pound and a half of waste paper every day, with each American consuming more than 700 pounds per year. This equates to a staggering 90 million short tons of paper and paperboard nationwide. What’s worse, the pulp and paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy, accounting for an entire 4% of the world’s energy use. However, today’s employees are eager to lessen their environmental impact.

It’s not all bad news; approximately half of all recycled material in the U.S. is paper, with much of it sourced from commercial business recycling programs. The recycling process saves about 3.5 gallons of water per pound of paper, and papermaking fibers can typically be recycled 5 – 7 times before they become too short to be used again, with many pieces of paper containing a combination of new and recycled fibers.

Promote sustainable waste management in your office

On the heels of Earth Week 2018, we identified five impactful ways to promote sustainable waste management and take your office’s eco-friendliness to the next level. Follow these steps to drive sustainable business practices and cut overhead costs:

  1. Rethink your document formatting: Make simple changes like decreasing the margins on your documents and printing on both sides. You’ll maximize the value of your paper and reduce the number of pages used over time.
  2. Change the way you use ink: Adjust your settings to print in ‘Draft Mode’; this should lighten your documents and drastically cut your ink consumption. Additionally, because color printing tends to use both a greater volume and wider spectrum of ink, stick to black and white printing when possible.
  3. Reuse your paper products: Reuse the reverse side of old documents to print or make rough notes. When you receive mail or shipments, take advantage of opportunities to repurpose the packaging.
  4. Stick to Digital PDFs: Store manuals, policy documents and other publications in common areas online. Avoid printing out lengthy employee handbooks; instead allow employees to access these documents and others at their leisure. Another benefit of this approach is that documents can’t be misplaced or accidentally disposed of if stored online.
  5. Avoid using paper products around the office: Use longer lasting kitchen utensils instead of plastic cutlery and replace paper cups and plates with reusable dishware at lunchtime. Additionally, take advantage of hand dryers in the bathroom instead of paper towels.

The future is paperless

With connected technologies now more powerful and affordable than ever, there has never been an easier time for offices to improve their sustainable waste management and go paperless. The drivers of change are powerful; minimizing or eliminating the use of paper in the office benefits everyone from an environmental perspective, presents a great PR opportunity and cuts costs of both the purchase and disposal of office resources.

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