zero waste: the office

by babhoyersh on June 6, 2011

The Zero Waste Office

My desk area in my office

Imagine going through 365 days without throwing any trash away. Pre-industrial times, this was pretty much the status quo. What you made, grew, raised – you used it until you couldn’t use it anymore, with stuff being recycled into other stuff along the way. Fast forward to today, and that same philosophy has been put into practice in the Zero Waste Home by following the 4 R’s – refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The Zero Waste Office

A future workspace for my husband

Inspired by the Zero Waste Home, I’m starting a Zero Waste challenge in my home with a few clarifications. My plan is not to have Zero Waste. I’m sure on a scale of 1 to 10, we’re probably around a 4 when it comes to waste, despite our frugality and thrift. There is so much packaging in products these days like the plastic loops that hold 2 bottles of ketchup together or the cardboard that holds 2 room deodorizers together, not to mention all the plastic and cardboard that comes along with the books that I order online.

My goal is to move my family from 4 up to 7 by being more mindful of waste, especially plastic waste, in our lives.  I also want to make sure we reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as we can. Of course, if we start with the first R – refusing stuff, we’ll save ourselves the effort of the other R’s.

I decided to tackle each area on the tip list from Zero Waste Home each week and focus on 3 changes. I am also going to use the challenge as an opportunity to declutter. Despite my best efforts, stuff does creep in, and our needs as a family of 7 change, too. Summer is a great time for me to re-organize my home with 5 helpers available to assist with cleaning and moving stuff. We also don’t have the distraction of the school schedule, school work or sports schedules.

The Zero Waste Office

File cabinets and bookshelves full of paper

First Area – Office
My office is one of the most wasteful areas in my home. I freely admit it! I do my best to limit the waste, however, I will admit to my love for organizing stuff. I set myself the following goals for starting the project:

  1. Reduce paper clutter and notebooks
  2. Declutter supplies
  3. Create a workspace for my husband

As time goes on, I am going to work through the list at Zero Waste Home. I know I could get rid of a few paper bills and switch to electronic ones. I already reuse school notices and other paper by giving it to my kids for art projects. I recycle my ink cartridges at Staples and only print in b/w if I need to print anything. I save the color for the few photos I’ve needed for school projects. I am also going to set up a bin to collect paper for our school which uses the Paper Retriever collection bins as a fundraiser.

One area where I don’t think I will ever go paperless is my planning. As a visual person, I work best with pen and paper for writing lists and jotting down ideas. I do a lot of my blog writing with the help of Evernote, but the rest of my life is paper-based. I did find spiral-bound notebooks at Staples that use sugarcane-based paper. At 9.5 x 6, they are the perfect size for my desk.

After looking at the list at Zero Waste Home, what changes would work in your office?

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