If you want to be a green champion, follow some easy tips to get management interested and staff on side. Forming a 'green team' in your organisation is a great idea, with weekly or monthly meetings to keep initiatives progressing.
A staff survey is a great place to start to understand people's attitudes to waste and their habits, and to get their ideas for improvement. When people feel they've been consulted, they're more likely to get involved.
The next steps can be taken with the help of management, a staff environmental committee or an individual green champion working with management approval.
This involves examining waste. It can range from a desk audit, to seeing what you purchase and how much goes out as waste, or a waste assessment where you examine the contents of your bins.
Audit step 1: record your purchases
Review your current buying practices and costs and your waste disposal costs and practices (so you can count the savings later). See how and where waste is generated.
Audit step 2: record your waste management costs
Now that you know what your company is bringing in as consumables, account for what is going out as waste including details of waste management contractors, volumes and costs.
Audit step 3: carry out a waste audit
A formal waste audit is a structured process to find out how much, and what sort of, waste is being generated. It is possible to do an audit yourself, being mindful of workplace health and safety issues (waste is never handled with bare hands). Alternatively, consultants can be brought in to plan, supervise and audit. Don't tell staff the date for the audit so staff won't change their habits in advance.
Before undertaking a formal audit, you can start with a self assessment questionnaire to evaluate what your business is doing and to find out how it can improve.
Remember occupational health and safety when you start rummaging through bins. Record your waste stream during your audit, using template forms for general waste and recyclables.
Audit step 4 – summarise your results
Once you've done your waste audit, results can be summarised to act as a benchmark for future assessments. This allows you to review progress and measure success.
This involves looking at how resources enter and pass through your business and how they leave as waste. Look at procedures for receiving, storing and using materials and how waste is produced, stored, handled and removed.
This step will help identify points at which changes can be made to minimise waste, improve office efficiency and reduce costs.
A site analysis to examine where bins could be placed and how to make your work environment more conducive to waste reduction is another good idea. Simply placing bins in better positions can produce great results.
Armed with data on resources purchased, the waste your business generates and the waste flow through your business, you can identify ways to rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle.
Start with buying green. You can examine our tips for initial ideas that may work in your business (simple office paper reduction tips work in most offices).
For each opportunity, identify associated costs and savings as well as special requirements (e.g. equipment and signage).
Some changes are quick, easy and cheap whilst others take more effort and expense.
Determine the time frame, cost, benefits and practicality of each opportunity identified and prioritise them based on:
- environmental benefit
- net cost
High priority options then become the basis for an action plan, remembering that it can be worthwhile implementing some 'quick wins' to build momentum. Also consider that more expensive options can be offset by cost savings achieved through other initiatives.
Once management has endorsed the plan, progress needs to be monitored and regular reports made to management and staff.
Good communication is the key to success and a range of practical tools, like posters and signage, can remind people to do the right thing. Environmental messages on office computer screens are another way to provide a daily reminder when staff log on each day.
Monitoring your progress will not only show when things aren't working as planned, but will also produce results to support continued waste reduction and keep people motivated.
Rewards and recognition can be linked to good results to keep the waste reduction momentum going. Consider competitions encouraging staff to find new ideas and put some of the cost savings from waste reduction efforts into staff or charitable initiatives.
Use tools in the waste reduction toolkit to help implement the plan.
Keep staff motivated by letting them know what they are achieving through their efforts and use the results to act as a benchmark for future assessments. This allows you to review progress and measure success. Develop a progress report template to track your results.
Use this wastewise calculator to find out how your waste-wise efforts will reduce landfill and energy consumption.