Have you ever considered how much food waste your workplace generates? Nearly every day of the week, millions of Americans eat both breakfast and lunch at work. Consequently, copious amounts of sandwich crusts, apple cores and coffee grounds get tossed out with the office garbage. Though successful workplace recycling programs for paper and plastic abound, there are few offices that can boast about their composting programs.
That’s where you come in.
It’s not hard to make room for a composting program in your company’s standard operating procedures, but it does take a bit of time and planning. It also requires someone willing to spearhead the initiative. If you’re ready to make a meaningful dent in the food waste your office produces, here are a few tips to get you going.
Why Compost Food Waste at Work?
We have a serious food waste problem in the United States. Statistics vary, but it seems that 25 to 40 percent of the food we produce ends up in landfills — where it generates environmentally damaging methane emissions. By composting food waste instead of throwing it away, we can reduce carbon emissions, lessen the risk of groundwater pollution, and put waste to good use by allowing it to return to the food chain as a natural fertilizer.
Implementing a composting program in the workplace has more than just environmental benefits. A composting program will advance your company’s corporate social responsibility policy and reduce trash collection expenses. Plus, it promotes a positive company culture by giving your colleagues a sense of purpose. When employees feel they are making a positive impact on the community, environment or world as a whole, engagement increases.
How to Get Started
Start by getting approval from management to establish an office composting program. Assure them that it will be handled in an educated manner, and that you can start out small and expand only if it’s successful. Once you’ve secured permission, assemble a team of like-minded colleagues who are eager to bring an eco-friendly twist to corporate practices and procedures.
Before you can actually kick off your workplace composting program, you’ll have to do some research. Think through the entire life cycle of the food waste your office produces. Consider the following:
- Where do employees eat and throw out waste from their meals?
- What type of bins will you need and where will they be placed?
- Who empties the trash cans at the end of the day?
- Will you need to coordinate with building management?
- Does your city provide organic waste collection?
- If there are no hauling services, what can be done with the compost your office creates? For instance, are there any community gardens nearby? Are there employees who would like to use the compost in their own gardens? Could the compost be used for office plants or the landscaping around the building?
After you’ve answered these questions, you’ll need to conduct a waste audit. This will help you understand what manner of waste is being generated in your office and how much of it there is. Only then can you identify where to begin composting.
The Nitty Gritty
Your initiative’s parameters — e.g., the number and size of bins needed, how much employee training is required, what type of composting will best serve your company — will largely be defined by the number of employees who work and eat in your office.
If you can’t create a compost pile or bin outdoors, consider vermicomposting indoors. Worms are happy to eat your food scraps in breathable compost bins under the breakroom sink or even in a utility closet. It may seem odd, but it produces great compost and takes only a few minutes a day to maintain.
Provide training at the start of your program to teach your colleagues best practices. You can start small with only one cluster of employees per week and build as you go. Put together a few signs about what can and can’t be composted in your system. Post the signs over the composting bins as a reminder. Ensure the maintenance and custodial staff are briefed on how and where to empty smaller bins into the larger bin.
The most important thing to remember is that a workplace composting program without the support of the employees won’t get far. You can generate engagement (not to mention a little excitement) by setting monthly goals and giving out prizes when the goals are reached. This will keep people enthusiastic and in the know about composting — and really, that’s your ultimate goal.
Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock