by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller
Welcome to our Zero Waste Household Guide – Today’s subject: The Office
These are the solutions we’ve come up with for our own families over the past few years. We’re working our way around a typical house, room-by-room. You can see our list of basic zero waste living first steps here. If you’re just starting the shift towards zero waste living, we recommend picking just one step. Make one change, and make it your own. Once that has become second nature, move on to a second step. Move at a pace that works for you, grant yourself amnesty for the times when you fall short of your own goals, and remember that your own goals are the ones that matter – Leave the judging and competitive eco-sainthood race behind. Make one change that brings you more joy with less waste, and we promise you’ll be motivated to try another, and another…
Without further ado, here are our office tips, good for work spaces at home and away. Please let us know what else you and your co-workers have done to move your office towards zero waste. We’d love to add your suggestions to this list!
- Go paperless whenever possible: Save your printer and your pencil lead for paper that really counts – Important documents, love notes, artwork, that Great American Novel outline you’ve been thinking about – The rest of the time, go digital if you have a computer at your disposal.
- Put your paper to work: Print on both sides, reusing the backsides of paper for kid art and scrap paper. Use shredded paper to cushion delicate items for shipping, as chicken coop bedding, or to line the bottom of pet bird cages. We’ve even pull pages from our mail that are blank on one side and they go in the scrap drawer for future art projects. If you can’t use all the paper you acquire yourself, offer it to your local Freecycle group.
- Press your printer cartridges into extended service: A good number of ink cartridges tell your computer they’re out of ink before they really are; you can verify that you’re truly out of ink with help from this post.
- Find a reputable reuse solution for your empty printer cartridges. Check with the company that produced your printer cartridge; many have programs that allow you to mail empty cartridges back for reuse or recycling. Staples stores across the US accept empty cartridges, and there may be donation drives in your community run by local non-profit groups.
- Write with pencils and refillable pens: Give your words even more power by saying “No” to single-use plastic pens. We’ve got a round-up of zero waste options in this post at Trash Backwards.
- Extend the life of your pencils: Our ode to pencils comes complete with two simple Trash Hacks that will keep your pencil stubs writing for as long as possible.
- Love your whiteboard? Treat it to some crayon lettering: When your pens run out of ink, turn to crayons for zero waste whiteboard work – Turn a clean old sock into an eraser and you’ll be ready for your next meeting, zero waste style. Examples and more information in our Trash Backwards post here.
Crayons Go On And Off Whiteboards With Ease (and the help of a clean old sock), photos by Rebecca Rockefeller
- Get into zero waste shipping: Set aside packaging from shipments you receive and send them back out the door with new goods. Shipping envelopes can be turned inside out and repacked if you can’t fit a new label on the outside. Shredded paper, air-popped popcorn, even plastic bags can be used to cushion items for shipping. Get creative with your packaging, and include a short note on the package to expose the materials you’ve reused and help spread the idea.
- Harvest tape from your groceries: Plastic produce stickers and tape can be saved and used again (and again) as tape for your papers and projects. See our Trash Hacker post for details and photographic proof.
Look into our Trash Backwards app for more great reduce, reuse, recycle ideas for the workplace:
What did we leave out? Please share your zero waste office tips so we can grow this list as a resource for everyone.