There's a lot of online chatter about sustainability, but how do you know what's legitimate and what's "greenwashing?" Join the conversation here and share your expertise.
One of the latest and ultimate ideals for sustainable and environmental concepts, “zero waste” is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource lifecycles so that all products are reused, and trash is diverted from landfills. There are zero waste programs and experiments running the full spectrum from the home to citywide scale.
Even large corporate retailers are declaring their intentions to reach zero-waste goals. Walmart has reduced waste in its U.S. operations by more than 80 percent due to supply chain alterations and an emphasis on recycling, repurposing and reusing materials. You can read more about the company’s efforts here.
While achieving zero waste can seem daunting, there are small steps you can take at your office to incrementally reach zero waste goals.
To begin, conduct an audit of what is coming in and what’s getting tossed out. Based on the results of your audit, seek the necessary approvals to establish a green purchasing policy. Be sure to communicate the objectives of zero waste efforts and highlight the expected positive effects (cost savings, environmental impact, convenience, etc.)
Buy planet-friendly office supplies – such as those with recycled content (like paper), biodegradable ingredients, reduced chemical content, or those that are compostable or refillable (like ink cartridges and pens).
And if your audit shows that it may not be possible at this time for your office to completely reach its zero waste goals, there are incremental goals you can set to help monitor your progress and provide exciting results that will encourage others.
Here are some tips from around the Web to help with your planning both at the office and at home.
- Compost. Separate food and kitchen waste that’s compostable into a separate container. Here’s a guide to getting started.
- Donate. Consider donating old electronics (in usable condition), home or office furniture and decorations to local charities.
- Reuse by buying second hand, swapping disposable items for reusable items and shopping using reusable packaging.
- Buy in bulk. Bring the reusable packaging and containers to local co-ops or other stores that allow you to shop in bulk. Fill them with easy bulk items like snacks, hand or dish soap, detergent or other products.
- Recycle. If you’ve successfully completed the items above, your waste stream should have decreased quite a bit already. Sort what’s left into the recycle bin and be amazed at how little is left over!
Where you can’t eliminate, get smarter. By utilizing the above options and doing a little research into issues that persist, an office can get pretty close to zero waste goals. While you may not get there right away, it’s likely your officemates or family will be impressed at the significant changes you’ve worked to make together.
If you’re interested in a zero waste program or have other sustainability goals in mind, Boise partners with iReuse to help customers plan, track and achieve measured sustainability results.
Think you’ll try it? Or, have you already set zero waste goals? Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and tips.
This week, the news was buzzing about a federal report released by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department on the demise of the honeybee population. A combination of genetics, poor nutrition, parasites, pesticides and disease has wiped out between 40-50 percent of the honeybee hives required to pollinate one-third of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. The report’s findings will be the basis for a revised federal plan to combat the decline in honey bees.
GreenBiz.com released the first in a three-part series on Microsoft’s “city of the future.” The Redmond Operations Center (ROC) is Microsoft’s corporate campus headquarters, encompassing 125 buildings and 41,644 employees. Sensors throughout the buildings were built by Microsoft’s Director of Facilities and Energy and track everything from heaters and air conditioners to lights and fans, harvesting billions of data points per week and giving the facilities management team clear insights and deep diagnostics to save millions in maintenance and utility costs.
Schools across the U.S. competed in the Green Cup Challenge, a program created by the non-profit organization Green Schools Alliance. Schools could choose to compete in either a recycling or energy challenge, but the organization’s most stunning results came from the 350 participating schools in the energy challenge. By aggregating the results from the schools, 2.5 million pounds of CO2 were kept out of the atmosphere in just one month.
Cities cover 2 percent of the world’s surface, but increasing urban populations and consumption means urban waste has continued to grow, and now cities generate 70 percent of the world’s waste. According to GreenBiz.com, researchers have used a new tool to determine that San Francisco is closer to achieving “zero waste” than other leading cities like Stockholm and Adelaide due to its emphasis on reusing waste. The tool used to measure the waste management performance is described in the study “The zero waste index: a performance measurement tool for waste management systems and a ‘zero waste city.’”
Each Friday, we round up the best paper and sustainability tweets of the week. Enjoy!
— PwC LLP (@PwC_LLP) May 2, 2013
How To Make Sustainability Relavant Again [PSFK SEATTLE] bit.ly/ZTFwto
— PSFK (@PSFK) April 30, 2013
5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle bit.ly/10hq7Po
— TerraCycle (@TerraCycle) April 28, 2013
Architecture Proposal Creates Recycling Infrastructure From The Ground-Up [My Ideal City] bit.ly/12rcfUg
— PSFK (@PSFK) May 2, 2013
With May suddenly appearing on our calendars today, we’re looking forward to another season of wedding celebrations. As we think about important moments of paper in our lives, surely the signing of a marriage license is high on the list for many people. And, as we RSVP for all the upcoming weddings over the coming summer months, we also remember our favorite couples whose nuptials we attended last year around this time.
The first anniversary is traditionally designated for the giving of paper gifts. When you think about all the paper required for preparation and planning for the wedding, it’s a perfect first anniversary theme. From “Save the Date” announcements to the invitations, ceremony programs, guest books, thank you cards and even the license itself – paper is as closely tied to weddings as the ribbons on the paper-wrapped gifts.
So this year at CHOICES, we’ve created a list of charming and sustainable paper gift options for you to express support and congratulations for your favorite couples’ (or your) first anniversaries.
Personalized Letter Maps
We’re always happy to see the interesting and innovative ways paper can be reused. The Letteroom creates handmade letters from old maps. Consider getting one for each of the couple’s first names for displaying on a bookshelf or side table. You could even try requesting the map for a location that’s important to them.
Paint Swatch Wall Art
Helped the happy couple paint their new home? Instead of throwing out those old paint swatches from the hardware store, ask if you can take them for a “reuse” project and create a modern first anniversary piece of art. See the tutorial here, and personalize it with the addition of the couples’ names or an inspirational message.
Note cards are extremely useful gifts, and you can have fun with your design using customizable colors and prints. Consider having note cards or thank you cards custom printed with the couples’ names as well as using companies that create their products from recycled paper!
Scrapbook or Journal
Help the happy couple keep a journal for travels together, milestones or even just messages and notes for each other. Be sure to check for eco-friendly versions, like these from Ecojot. Or, create a scrapbook out of paper memories and photos for a keepsake. You can even get it started for them if you still have the invite or program from their special day.
Congratulations from CHOICES to all the first anniversaries this year. And remember, as you attend each and every wedding this summer season, keep in mind some great paper celebration options to send them all this ti
Last week, New York City announced plans to expand its recycling program to include hard plastics, the biggest expansion the recycling program has seen in 25 years. This includes all rigid plastics, shampoo bottles, yogurt containers and clothes hangers as well as countless toys and other household objects. The move is intended to simplify the plastic-recycling system, hoping to encourage more New Yorkers to recycle all kinds of waste. The city is anticipating the expansion to divert 50,000 tons of waste a year from landfills, as well as saving $850,000 a year in disposal fees, making it an aspirational advance for all recycling programs.
Using simple strips of paper, artist Hadieh Shafie builds magnificent geometric sculptures filled with intriguing patterns of color. She binds the strips of paper into scrolls that come together in her pieces and create interesting and unexpected combinations. While beautiful from afar, viewers can move closer to discover smaller details revealed upon examination, including hundreds of individual paper layers as well as the repetition of a single, hand-painted Farsi word “eshghe” which means “love” in English. Her work is scheduled for exhibition at the Kashya Hildebrand gallery in Zurich at the end of this year.
A recycled paper mill that claims to be the most advanced in Europe has officially opened in the UK. Michael Fallon, the country’s minister of state for business and energy, unveiled the £300 million facility. Known as PM-11, it’s the first recycled containerboard paper mill to be built in the UK for decades. The facility is expected to produce 450,000 tons per year of 100 percent recycled containerboard from UK recovered papers.
As part of the open-ended discussion on the definition of sustainability (remember the not-so-simple question we reported on here?), GreenBiz.com is working to describe a gold standard for truly sustainable enterprises. Looking at the big picture context to find a clear definition of a truly sustainable enterprise, they find that businesses are a critical component of the larger socio-ecological system, to create economic and social value. They need to balance this need with a responsibility towards the environment. So, how do you measure attention to this responsibility? The key performance indicators for truly sustainable organizations must be founded on scientifically based principles that provide the boundary conditions within which society and companies can operate indefinitely. The conditions are still up for debate; what do you think the gold standard is for a truly sustainable business?