As a participant in the Green Workplace Challenge, GBA has been working for months to perform green actions to decrease our impact on the environment, save energy, improve our health, and, obviously, to win!
Our Platinum LEED-certified offices helped us start out on the right foot, but we of all people know that green workplaces are about both the building and ongoing behaviors of building occupants! Here at GBA we have a long-standing culture of sustainability, but since our ultimate goal is to be a zero-waste office, we still have room to improve. So, we decided to have a week-long zero-waste competition as a fun way to engage staff and visitors, as well as reduce the amount of waste we send to the landfill!
As organizer of this competition, I divided our staff into two teams and gave each its own dedicated trash can. During a staff meeting, we talked about our current waste management practices, what types of materials we collect for recycling, and what the competition would look like throughout the week. With that (and a little bit of “trash talk”), the competition was on!
Over the course of the week, staff members made an extra effort to use durable containers and cloth napkins and to learn more about recycling and composting guidelines. By Friday, though, both teams’ trash cans were full of food wrappers, tissues, and other waste. A few staff members have individual desk trash containers, so their trash was combined with their respective team’s trash for the weigh-in. It turned out that Team 2 blew the competition out of the water! Leslie, Sean, Jenna, Andrew, Bev, Michael, Anna, Alexis, and I were the proud winners! (Needless to say, we ALL win when there’s less trash…) Our team produced around a quarter pound of trash during the week, while Team 1 produced just under one pound.
Even though our zero-waste competition is now over, we’re not done! The number of questions that arose during the week regarding unusual items and their ability to be recycled confirmed our need to learn more about our particular waste-handling facilities. A quick glance over the contents of our trash revealed areas for improvement. GBA has grown dramatically in recent months and so has our production of organic waste and difficulty dealing with it. Team 1’s trash did contain some compostable materials, put there when the compost bin was full. GBA is considering various options to better manage our increased volume of compost, but if any of you reading this want to start a program for small-scale compost collection, we’d probably be your first customer! Our trash also contained several disposable containers, such as coffee cups and styrofoam takeout boxes. We hope that as we continue to encourage area businesses to use durable or recyclable containers this type of waste can be completely eliminated!
GBA’s zero-waste competition was both a fun and informative exercise for the organization. We all tend to forget about trash once we’ve thrown it away, but I want to challenge you: how much do you know about YOUR waste stream? It’s definitely rewarding to find out! Speaking of rewards, in case you’re wondering what the prize was for winning this competition, Team 1 will be bringing in lunch for the office—all zero-waste, of course!