Spring cleaning: 10 simple ways to reduce waste and save money

The average person generates more than four pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year. And of all the waste Americans produce, 75 percent of it is recyclable, but only about 30 percent of it is actually recycled.

cleaning up $100 billsThe office is the perfect place to begin decreasing everyday trash output. Paper creates 40 percent of our garbage, and the average office worker exhausts approximately 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. Completely getting rid of office waste is a tall order, but there are several adjustments you can make to reduce the amount of garbage coming out of your work place.

Here are 10 simple ways to make your office a cleaner, greener place.

  1. Repurpose paper. Paper is possibly the largest source of office building waste. To save on printer paper cost and waste, print and copy on both sides of the paper in your office, repurpose paper used on one side for draft and scratch paper and share copies rather than printing one per person.
  2. Sign up for paperless documents. Sign up for online billing and statements rather than getting hard copies. Not only will this cut back on paper waste, it will save space in your mailbox and cut back on time spent filing these often large documents.
  3. Buy in bulk. For office supplies that you use a lot of each month, buying supplies in bulk will eliminate unnecessary packaging material and save money.
  4. Reuse mailing materials. Use reusable boxes and mailbags for shipping to branch offices, stores and warehouses. Print directly on to envelopes to save using labels, too. And reuse packing materials such as foam peanuts, bubble wrap and cardboard boxes.
  5. Reusable coffee cups. Styrofoam does not decompose; it only breaks into small pieces and moves around the environment. Replace disposable coffee cups in the break room with washable mugs or ask employees to bring in their own mugs.
  6. Email memos and drafts. Rather than distributing memos or drafts to be reviewed by hand, circulate them online or via email. Conducting communication and creating corrections online will decrease waste.
  7. Buy recycled supplies. Several big office supply stores and websites offer a variety of office supplies made from recycled materials, including high-quality copier paper, stationery and legal pads, ink and toner cartridges, laptop cases and appointment books.
  8. Create a recycling environment. Create an area or space where employees can store and trade reusable office items. Set up clearly labeled recycling receptacles in the office areas with the highest traffic and accessibility.
  9. Properly recycle electronics. Electronic waste makes up only about 2 percent of the trash in landfills, but the toxic components in e-waste make it a disposal problem disproportionate to this small percentage. Several Missouri recycling centers collect and safely recycle old electronics. For more information see e-cycle Missouri.
  10. Make it fun — with competition! Set office recycling goals and rewards for exceeding these goals. Use a visible reward system, such as letter grades, to let employees display their success and increase competition. Lastly, hold an award ceremony for those individuals or departments that recycled the greatest amount of waste.

For more tips on going green while saving money, see the Missouri Environmental Assistance Center, a one-stop environmental resource for Missouri small businesses.