Don’t Create It In The First Place: How to Reduce and Reuse

Tired of emptying your recycling bins? Don’t create waste in the first place. It’s one surefire way to turbocharge your recycling efforts. This preventative step not only curbs what you must throw away, but it can save on waste management expenses. Here are some easy ways your small business can reduce or reuse materials so you create less waste.

Become paper-wise.

Paper is often the biggest source of waste for a business. Whether it’s at the printer or filed away in a drawer, paper consumes a lot of energy to create, store and dispose of. The good news is there are small things you can do now to use your paper resources wisely. Here are a few ideas:

  • Set your computer or printer to double-sided printing. Doing so reduces anyone's print job to use half the amount of paper.
  • Print draft documents on the back of previously used one-sided paper. Drafts are meant to be temporary documents so don’t use your highest-grade paper to review them. Some people use the “print preview” feature to review documents onscreen.
  • Use digital space on your hard drive or in the cloud to store documents. They’ll be easier to retrieve and you can ditch the file cabinets and use the space more productively.
  • Consider swapping digital for hard copies of magazines you receive. There’s no paper to dispose of. The same goes for emails—think before printing it. Instead electronically file it away for future reference, if needed.
  • Switch to electronic bills (from others and the ones you generate). It’s a faster and more efficient way to deliver the information. And you avoid postage expenses.
  • Cancel your junk mail before it ever arrives in your mail. Unsubscribe using the dmachoice.org or catalogchoice.org websites.
  • Buy “friendly” paper. If you have to print something, do so on recycled paper or paper manufactured without harmful bleaches.

Create green break rooms.

Break areas represent another opportunity to reduce and reuse. With a few simple changes, you can make a significant difference. Check out these ideas:

  • Eliminate bottled water. It costs 2,000 times more than tap water and can lose its taste over time. Instead give reusable water bottles to your staff. Put your logo on them and they also make great gifts to your most valued customers. Some businesses also install a faucet filter or subscribe to a water cooler service.
  • Don’t buy single-use cups, plates and plastic utensils. Instead encourage staff to bring reusable containers for their lunch. If there’s a sink available, provide washable eating utensils.
  • Use refillable containers rather than single-use packets for condiments like ketchup and mustard. This same bulk idea can be used for snack items, look for the ones that come in recyclable containers.
  • Consider using a traditional coffee maker rather than single-use coffee pods and encourage the use of reusable mugs. Some businesses provide flat, dry noodles instead of plastic stir sticks. They’re cheaper and biodegrade.

Get supplier savvy.

A good way to reverse the expression “garbage in, garbage out” is to reduce what comes into your business so you don’t have to dispose of it later. Your suppliers can be an important ally in achieving that goal.

For example, talk with your supplier about inventory delivery. How does new inventory come into your business? Is it packaged with plastic wrap, packaging peanuts or cardboard that you need to dispose of later? Is it stacked on pallets that accumulate in your storeroom? Your supplier may have alternatives that don’t create that waste. Perhaps they can haul away their own waste upon delivery.

Simplify your recycling efforts by reducing or eliminating the waste your business generates. Look to these ideas to see what makes sense for your business.