Early this year, I took on my first role as an office administrator. For the past year or so I have been making a concentrated effort to reduce the waste my partner, doggie and I produce at home. But suddenly I became responsible for making decisions about supplies, waste and sustainability on behalf of an office full of people.
Although it was a challenge, I knew changing many of our established ordering habits would lead to significantly less waste and had to give it my all. Check out my top 6 tips for reducing waste in your office!
1. Choose a Bulk Food Snack Supplier
One of the best and most visible ways to make a difference is to consciously decide not to buy food that produces plastic waste.
I switched our office over to the healthy and tasty snacks sold at The Source bulk food shop in Brunswick. They have all the staples; crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruit and chocolates.
Everything is sold completely naked, no packaging! If you don't bring a jar or bag, they have recycled paper bags to carry your snacks to work inside. Bulk food stores are popping up everywhere in response to ethical consumerism, and many of them deliver if you are too far away to make the trip yourself.
2. Bring a Fabric Bag Fruit Shopping or Choose an Ethical Supplier
I know its a cliche, but one of the easiest and best ways to reduce waste is to take a fabric bag with you to the green grocer.
Lots of offices (including ours!) buy fruit on a weekly basis, and without even thinking about it, use hundreds of plastic bags every year.
If you currently get fruit delivered, take a close look at the ethics of your supplier. Does your order come wrapped in unnecessary plastic? If so, cancel immediately! There are lots of companies that deliver fruit with no plastic. I signed AREA3 up with Office Fruit Group and they have been bringing us lovely fruit every week in a cardboard box.
3. Look into Sustainable Options for Cleaning Supplies
One of the sinister ways that our offices produce waste is through cleaning supplies. When I arrived at my current office, they were using disposable wipes to clean down benches and buying dishwasher tablets in mountains of plastic. I immediately set about coming up with a new plan to reduce this waste.
However, this was a bit more complicated than the changes I'd made so far. Supermarkets haven't yet begun to stock packaging free dish washing detergent or hand soap. But here again the bulk food shop saved me! Many of these stores sell cleaning soaps, dish liquid and even shampoo by the millilitre.
I bought us a reusable bottle of hand soap, dish soap, and cleaning spray. We're still working though a backlog of paper towel but its next on the chopping block.
4. Consider a Coffee Cup Recycle Station
Though we might wish that everyone would walk around with a KeepCup glued to their hand, disposable coffee cups are still a fixture of office culture.
Aside from grumbling to your coworkers about this waste, the best thing to do is look into installing a paper cup recycle unit.
We picked up a discreet little tube from #simplycups. It sits in the corner of your tea room slowly filling up till the #simplycups team comes to collect it. From your office, those disposable cups are recycled into bench seats, kerbing and car stops. (#simplycups are the same team that organises 7/11's cup recycling!)
5. Whenever Possible, Go Paperless!
The modern world is a wonderful thing. There are now so many tools we have to do our work online, that most offices are becoming paperless naturally. However, it is an important area to think about if your workplace isn't quite embracing the transition.
If the problem is older colleagues resisting new technology, the best way is to teach them how to use relevant programs and show their value. Paperless is not only more environmentally friendly, its also often faster, a better space economy and easier to share amongst teams.
If the transition can't be made, recycled paper is better than new and looks exactly the same.
6. Have Open, Friendly Conversations with Your Team About Sustainability
Making small changes when you can is an excellent way to open up conversations with your coworkers about sustainability. The most important thing is to bring a non-confrontational attitude to these discussions, and always be respectful when approaching the topic.
If your team is curious, help them find online resources to learn more about living low-waste, and reducing their carbon footprint. Ultimately, moving your office to carbon neutral energy like that supplied by Powershop would be a great goal.
Also take the opportunity to note days of interest and send out information to the team. For example the 5th of June is World Environment Day and I'm going to email everyone in the office about the importance of reducing waste and their carbon footprints to curbing global warming.
In the end, all we can do is our best. But, if every office makes small changes, it adds up to a big difference for our world. Perhaps it will be the office administrators and managers who change the world by degrees.
By Meg Hadley, Melbourne Office Administrator