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10 Solid Steps Towards Zero Waste and a Circular Office

Article June 12, 2019  |  Text by Helena Škrdlíková, Laura Mitroliosová Text by Helena Škrdlíková, Laura Mitroliosová

Want to save both money and the environment? Realign your office and go circular. The circular-economy institute INCIEN has put together these ten solid steps for minimizing office waste production and for utilizing any waste that does arise as well as possible.

The process of making a whole company’s operations circular is complex and time-consuming. After all, the circular economy isn’t just about waste; it’s about changing a company's entire business model, choosing eco-design, and prioritizing renewable resources and other key elements that can be applied within the company’s plans and business model.

The circular office is for everyone there: from the CSR manager who’s trying to include environmental responsibility into the company’s social responsibility, out to employees who want to work in an eco-friendly environment.

1. Ask your employees

Before you get started with introducing a circular setup at your office, analyze its current status. That will help you to customize your further steps, set your goal and priorities, and have something with which to compare the results of your efforts.

  • What waste is produced at your offices, and where does it go?
  • How does your dining work? What wastes are produced?
  • What’s your environmental behavior like?
  • How does the office manager see the office’s processes, and where do they see a potential for improvement?
  • How do employees see the office’s processes, and where do they see a potential for improvement?

Employees will get more actively involved in an office’s transformation towards a circular office if they themselves are living similarly. Czech employees, for example, can take inspiration for a waste-free life from the blog named Czech Zero Waste and from its Bezodpadová výzva (“Waste-free Challenge”) mobile app.

2. Sort your waste

Waste sorting is the absolute foundation here. Have baskets for sorted waste and get rid of free-standing baskets for unsorted waste (wastebasket distance plays a role in waste-sorting willingness). Czechs can pick up good waste-sorting components at meneodpadu.shop. Besides ordinary elements, try to also focus on collecting small electronics, batteries, and textiles (you can organize special events such as swaps and clothing exchanges, or even have these turned into advertising items).

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3. Check the wastebaskets

To get a better idea of what waste types are being produced at your office and in what quantities, and how much they’re being sorted, it’s a good idea to physically analyze the waste. That means emptying the baskets for unsorted waste and sorting that waste by type (paper, glass, plastics, metals, organic waste, etc.) and weighing it. The quantities of still-sortable waste will show you the potentials for setting up sorting to be more efficient, while the weights will show which waste type is produced in the largest quantities (that’s the type to focus on).

4. Avoid disposable items and reduce unneeded waste

  • Drink tap water (if it’s bad-tasting, acquire a water filter).
  • Use towels or hand-driers in the bathrooms rather than paper hand towels. If you do go for paper hand towels, post a sticker informing employees that one is by far enough for wiping their hands.
  • Avoid disposable dishes.
  • Use a staple-free stapler.
  • Use a whiteboard instead of flip charts, and draw on it with refillable markers.
  • Buy high-quality, environmentally-friendly office supplies; use highlighting pencils instead of highlighting markers.

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5. Print efficiently

Optimizing printing increases efficiency and saves money and paper. Use double-sided printing on recycled and certified (FSC) paper. Use environmentally-friendly black-and-white ink. Use refillable toner. In this area you can cooperate with companies that help their clients to optimize their printing environments and analyze printing-device utilization.

What is the FSC paper certification?

6. Eat local, healthy, and waste-free

If you have a restaurant or cafe right in your building, you can look to INCIEN’s circular cafe project for inspiration on how to go circular here. Support the use of normal dishes and local organic foods and reduce the amount of meat on offer.

If food is being brought in by a catering firm, reach an agreement for them to bring it in a food carrier rather than disposable boxes. If your employees head out of the building to eat, recommend nearby restaurants that offer organic and local foods. When employees bring food in boxes, inspire them to choose their own boxes instead of disposable ones (you can have some “community” boxes in the kitchen for people who forget their own at home).

Make coffee from coffee beans, not capsules. If you can, buy packaging-free beans and go for fair trade and organic. Buy loose teas or teas in biodegradable bags (in the Czech Republic, we recommend Sonnentor teas, which are also biodegradable and local). Buy milk in returnable glass bottles or from a fresh-milk-vending machine—or you can also try out powdered vegetable milk (which has the further benefit of being spoilage-free). If employees have snacks available at the office, then offer them fruit (including dried fruit), nuts, and cookies (ideally bought in zero-waste stores such as Prague’s Bez obalu).

7. Make a green clean sweep

No matter whether you use a cleaning firm or you have employees do the cleaning, it’s important that they understand what’s involved in a circular office and clean in accord with your principles. Focus on having them work with sorted waste correctly and use eco-friendly cleaning agents. Include both of these requirements in their contract.

Keep your office healthy, and keep employees healthy too. Regularly exchange the filters in the HVAC system, ventilate the office, and don’t overheat it. Furnish your office with natural materials. Have live plants at the office (water them before the end of the workday).

The company Nano Energies not only generates green energy, but it's workplace is also green.

8. Save water and energy

If you’re constructing a new building or renovating an existing one, set things up for rainwater collection and graywater reuse. Otherwise, you can still save water through some simple changes. Use water-saving aerators for faucets, and water-saving flush systems for toilets.

To save energy, switch to high-efficiency light bulbs, don’t leave electronics on standby, and when buying new electronics, prioritize energy-savers and ideally items that are repairable for up to ten years. Choose energy suppliers who use renewable sources. We recommend Nano Energies.

9. Reduce your transportation carbon footprint

In the city, you can make your transport eco-friendly by supporting public transport, cycling (via showers and safe parking), and walking. If your office is suburban or exurban, with most of your employees driving to work, help them carpool. Prioritize video conferences over personal participation at meetings on the other side of the globe. Offset your carbon footprint — “redeem” it — with green projects.

Cyclists are more than welcomed at Visionary office building.

10. Circular gift and promotional items

Avoid giving out gift or promotional items pointlessly. If you do truly have to use promotional items, choose items that have a practical use and that reclaim waste. Respiro, for example, is a company that breathes new life and stories into companies’ waste—discarded ad banners—which it transforms into backpacks and bags. There’s also Forewear, who turn old textiles into promotional items, and Tierra Verde, who upcycle raw-material bags into consumer goods.

Article originally published on Zajímej.se. Minor adaptations have been made for the English version.