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Simple Ways to Reduce Waste

In a previous post, I highlighted sustainability’s “3 R’s” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – with a focus on the first one.  Here are examples of some easy ways to reduce the amount of waste that your business produces. Most of them involve simple changes in procedures and work habits.

Writing and Printing Paper:

  • Set all office printers to double-sided.
  • Remove printers from individual offices.
  • Reuse paper printed on one side only. Make scratch pads from used paper.  Leave a stack by the fax machine (faxes only need one side!)
  • Reuse interoffice envelopes.
  • Encourage and promote the use of electronic versions of files and documents.
  • Replace printed forms (used for purchasing, inspections, etc.) with digital versions.
  • Circulate documents and reports intended for all staff, rather than printing individual copies.
  • Proofread documents on the computer screen before printing them
  • Reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. Write to the Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008 and ask that your business be removed from mailing lists.

Packaging and Shipping

  • Order merchandise with minimal packaging or in bulk.
  • Ask suppliers minimize package packaging (about ⅓ of all waste in landfills is packaging waste!)
  • Request that materials you order be shipped in returnable containers.
  • Find new uses for foam packaging pellets and cardboard boxes. Otherwise, set up a system for returning them to distributors for reuse.
  • Return, reuse, and repair wooden pallets.
  • Replace cardboard boxes with durable, reusable boxes for shipments to your branch offices, stores, and warehouses.


  • Consider leasing equipment, rather than purchasing.
  • If you do purchase, consider remanufactured equipment.
  • Invest in equipment that helps reduce waste, such as copiers that make two-sided copies.
  • Identify equipment manufacturers and retailers who have “take-back” programs, such as:
    • Manufacturers:
      • Apple
      • Dell (will donate used equipment to Goodwill)
      • HP
      • Verizon’s HopeLine program will take old mobile phones for scrubbing and donation to domestic abuse support programs
    • Retailers:
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Recharge fax and printer cartridges.
  • Install reusable furnace and air conditioner filters.

There are lots of other strategies you can use to reduce the amount of waste you generate. Check out the suggestions from reduce.org

When we prioritize the initial strategies of reducing and reusing materials, we will naturally have much less waste to dispose of.  And  if we’ve been smart in our purchasing, practically all of that waste can then be recycled.

For information on how to implement and manage these and more good ideas for reducing consumption and waste at your office, check out Sustrana’s great new tool, the Project Selector, with lots of suggestions and how-to’s. Sign up for a free demo to see how many ways you can keep greening your office!