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15 Zero Waste Office Tips & Supplies For Maximizing Productivity (Not Plastic)

The SJ Team


The corporate world is full of problem solvers—so implementing a plan on how to create a zero waste office should be a straightforward deliverable. 

But average office workers produce about 4.5 pounds of waste per day which adds up quickly, especially in large companies. 

As they say, a less cluttered space means a less cluttered mind, which means a more productive workforce. 

And nothing quite gets the corporate world’s attention more than a productivity hack.  

Personally or professionally, transitioning to zero waste is an ongoing process that is never complete so the question isn’t so much, “How do you go zero waste in the office?” but rather, “How do you start a zero waste office?”

Fortunately, any size business—from a one-man Etsy shop to a blue chip tech firm with thousands of employees—can start their eco-friendly journey with a few simple zero waste office tips and tricks.

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Zero Waste Tips For Waste Management

1. Recycling, Trash, & Compost Dividers

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Images by Julia M Cameron via Pexels on Canva Pro and Janine Lamontagne via Getty Images Signature on Canva Pro

As goes with learning anything new, whether it be an instrument or how to drive a car, learning how to implement zero waste office tricks starts with the absolute basics.

Making a conscious effort to correctly separate materials into trash bins, indoor compost bins (or at least collector bins if you plan to actually compost elsewhere), and recycling bins makes a huge impact on minimizing office waste and carbon emissions. 

Did you know nearly 40% (or 100 billion pounds) of all food goes to landfill in the U.S. each year? 

Not only is this devastating from a social perspective, but environmentally, this food waste generates toxic methane gasses by sitting in landfills.

By doing something as simple as making sure to properly divide waste, recycling, and compostable goods to create a low waste office, we can help divert materials to their appropriate places.


2. Recycled Toilet Paper & Refillable Cleaning Products

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Images by Who Gives a Crap and etee

Looking for some plastic-free office ideas when it comes to keeping your kitchens and bathrooms (and bums) clean? 

Start by switching to eco-friendly toilet paper. Companies like Who Gives a Crap supply a plastic-free, recycled solution while also building toilets for communities in need with the profits. 

Then don’t forget refillable cleaning products (which are a thing!), like the zero waste hand soap to wash up afterward—without the plastic bottles and nasty chemicals.

While employees might not be keen on sharing a bar of soap, etee and Plaine Products offer easy, refillable options.


3. Use Compostable Or Reusable Products At Events

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Images by innadodor via Canva Pro and Luca Paul Dross from Studio Germany via Canva Pro

Ever seen that overflowing bin at the end of a company lunch, plastic cutlery, plates, and red cups? 

Even if you bought “recyclable” plates and disposable utensils, know these rarely get recycled, nor can they be if stained with grease and food—and can actually hinder recycling efforts by contaminating other recyclables.

Making the effort to swap to compostable and reusable alternatives is a conscious step towards creating a zero waste office.


Zero Waste Tips For Energy & Electronics

4. Switch To Sustainable Lighting

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Images by Arthon meekodong via Canva Pro and jotily via Getty Images on Canva Pro

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all design the green office building of our dreams, complete with a rooftop garden and living walls?

While most of us aren’t so lucky, sustainable interior design can be achieved through little swaps, too.

There are few things worse than sitting under a fluorescent, flickering light for nine hours in an office—especially considering 20 watts of CFL is equivalent to a 16.5-watt LED bulk. 

We might as well go back to the Dark Ages. 

One of the best zero waste office tips is to utilize energy-efficient LED sustainable light bulbs to reduce waste we cannot see: energy waste. 

Energy consumption aside, they also last 25,000-35,000 hours, compared to a CFL’s 8,000 hours.

If your office has the space and design to accommodate more decorative sustainable lighting, consider upcycled options to illuminate your business’s bright ideas.

Oh and if your office doesn’t have automated lights which use sensors to detect movement, having a ‘last person turns the lights off’ policy can end up reducing a substantial amount of office related emissions.


5. Install Solar Panels

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Images by mrganso from Pixabay and William Mead via Pexels on Canva Pro

As more companies are striving to hit 2030 carbon reductions goals, solar panels on commercial buildings are becoming commonplace. 

From reducing environmental impact with renewable energy to saving money on electricity consumption, solar panels are the smartest and quickest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


6. Buy Ethical Electronics & Recycled Old Ones

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Electronics accounted for 54 million metric tons of e-waste in 2019 and it’s projected to hit 74 million metric tons by 2030. 

Valuable, natural resources are pulled from the earth only to be tossed back, unusable. 

If you’re looking for quick and smart solutions to a zero waste office, considering how to dispose of electronics in a more responsible manner is an e-Excellent place to start.

If they can’t be repaired or resold, recycle them. Local libraries, electronics stores, and sometimes grocery stores have designated bins to make sure those precious metals don’t litter our precious Earth.

When it comes time to replace them, do so with more sustainable options. While the ethical electronics market is still burgeoning, it’s growing (like everything in the tech sector) at 5G speeds.


7. Use Electric Hand Dryers

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Images by EunikaSopotnicka via Getty Images on Canva Pro and magraphics via Canva Pro

Buying paper towels created with new raw materials rather than recycled materials does not add to a waste-free office

Reusable paper towels are fine if you work from home, but they’re not as feasible (or hygienic) for offices with multiple employees.

While they still use energy, looking into a hand dryer could save you an extra 30 seconds (time=productivity, right?) as well as reduce the burden on the environment (as compared to single-use paper towels).

The Dyson Airblade is the most energy-efficient, low-impact hand dryer out there, which uses high-pressure cold air to dry your hands.


Zero Waste Office Supplies

8. Desks & Chairs

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Images by What WE Make

What could be more fun (and sustainable) than decking out your office space with some sustainable furniture

Or at the very least, an eco-friendly desk.

What WE Make offers American-made reclaimed hardwood desks and tables for the home office and boardroom alike. Their non-VOC finishes mean the only thing hurting your brain while working is the work itself.

When you want a chair that’s good for more than just spinning around, keep an eye out for options with Greenguard Certification to ensure no harmful chemicals.


9. Refillable Or Recyclable Pens & Markers

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Images by Lamy and AusPen

Now fill your new desk with reusable office supplies.

With 9 billion plastic pens globally being tossed annually, it’s time we make a (ball)point of refillable eco-friendly pens

Lamy offers modern and minimalist refillable pens or you can channel the writers of old by using a vintage fountain pen.

For presentations, Auspen supplies aluminum whiteboard markers and offers replacement ink as well as fresh nib tips that can go fuzzy and flat eventually. 

How’s that for putting the “tip” in tips for a zero waste office?!


10. Recycled Paper

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Images by Worthwhile Paper

We know how detrimental deforestation is to the environment at the expense of paper usage, but in our new digital world, we just don’t need to print off as much as we used to. 

But for those few odd bits and bobs that require physical signatures (or that recipe you can’t print at home) recycled paper is one of those essential zero waste office products

Last year, the U.S. recycled 68% of all cardboard and paper which saves trees and energy. 

There are several eco-friendly stationery brands making use of all that recycled material—like Printworks’ recycled printer paper or Worthwhile Paper’s notebook, planners, and paper tapes. 

Don’t forget to print double-sided to reduce paper use and use the “draft” setting to save money on ink.

Better yet, go digital!


11. Eco-Friendly Printers

15 Zero Waste Office Tips & Supplies For Maximizing Productivity (Not Plastic) Images by Epson #zerowasteoffice #zerowasteofficetips #zerowasteofficeideas #zerowasteofficesupplies #zerowasteofficeproducts #howtocreateazerowasteoffice
Images by Epson

Now you need something to print with, so why not make the sustainable swap to an eco-friendly printer? 

This is another one of those electronics that too often break and end up in landfill instead of being recycled. 

With Epson’s EcoTank line, the printers are made with fewer components meaning they’re less likely to break. They also come with refillable ink cartridges and use 83% less electricity.


Conscious Break Room

12. Compostable Tea Bags & Refillable Coffee

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Images by ROK and The Tea Spot

Whether you wake up to a gentle green tea or need that quick caffeine hit from coffee, you can promote a food waste-free office by switching to zero waste coffee and tea

Did you know that a single tea bag made with plastic releases 11.6 billion microplastics into your cup? 

We would never suggest giving up your daily mug go joe, but we encourage offices to stock zero waste tea that comes in compostable bags or loose leaf options (in which case don’t forget the tea steepers).

The Tea Spot offers all three.

If you’re on the coffee train and you aren’t keen to drink the stereotypical pot of coffee that’s been sitting on the burner for hours (or worse, single-use coffee pods that result in SO MUCH packaging waste), hopefully the office provides a machine for personal brewing. 

There are plenty of plastic-free coffee makers out there like a Coletti french press or ROK manual espresso machine.

At the very least, equip the Keurig with reusable pods and the coffee machine with a CoffeeSock or two. Just empty the grinds into one of your new compost bins and rewash the filter. 

Since we need water for tea and coffee, a water filtration system to purify water can drastically reduce waste in the form of plastic water bottles.

If you still prefer Starbucks on the way in, always bring your own reusable coffee mug to avoid contributing to the 600 billion paper and plastic cups thrown away each year.


13. Reusable Containers, Dishware, & Cutlery

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Images by Stasher

A zero waste lifestyle is easier to implement in your own home, where you have more control. 

There’s nothing simpler than saying no to single-use and yes to reusable. 

Break rooms are a major area where waste reduction strategies come into view, and making sure there are adequate utensils, plates, bowls, and water glasses means no one will be reaching for those styrofoam cups in the back of the cupboard. 

If your office doesn’t supply them, make a habit of bringing your own eco-friendly cutlery.

Carrying a reusable water bottle also saves plastic water bottles and the need to do dishes. 

Packing your own lunch in plastic-free food storage containers—like upcycled jars or Stasher silicone sandwich bags— reduces waste and plastic takeaway containers.


14. Local & Sustainable Lunches

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Images by OzHarvest

Who doesn’t love a free lunch on the company?!

On the flip side, catered lunches often come with a parade of single-use packaging waste. 

Two zero waste office ideas for minimizing catering waste are to 1) supply your own utensils and dishware, or 2) ask the catering company to provide plastic-free, compostable options.

In terms of sustainability, consider opting for a fully plant-based catered event or at least source local and in-season dishes that are part of a more sustainable food system

Reduce food waste by taking a headcount and ordering a predetermined amount (though always order those few extra sweets). 

If there are extras, companies like OZHarvest collect leftovers to serve those in need. If you don’t have services like his near you, compost food scraps or encourage employees to take home leftovers.


Zero Waste Tips For Transportation

15. Carpool, Bike, Or Public Transport

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Images by JillWellington via Pixabay on Canva Pro and slobo via Getty Images Signature on Canva Pro

Sustainable practices to reduce waste in the workplace can begin before you’ve even stepped in the office for the day.

It’s no secret that cars cause a good amount of pollution, and more so if you’re just driving for short distances (as many office workers do) as a cold engine needs to burn more fuel. 

Bosses can encourage employees to do this by providing free transportation passes or subsidizing a public transportation budget.

If you live close to work, opt for walking or biking as a zero waste transportation alternative. 

If you’re further away, but live in a town or city that has decent public transportation, hop on a train for your daily commute and pop on a podcast for the ride in—the Sustainable Jungle Podcast, perhaps? 

Or do you know someone from work who lives nearby and you get into work at the same time? 

Create a carpool schedule in which everyone trades-off driving or pitches in for gas money (in which everyone will save money, too).


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Final Thoughts On How To Create A Zero Waste Office

The average American produces about 2,000 pounds of trash per year.

By incorporating the 5 Rs of zero waste—refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot—you’ll minimize your consumption of resources (at home and in the office) and be a part of a circular corporate economy.

Reducing your office’s waste can be as small as remembering your reusable coffee mug when doing the coffee run to completely banning all plastic. It’s a spectrum.

And unlike the work piling up on your desk, there’s no deadline for you to “get it done”. 

Whether you’re a brand new employee or the CEO, sustainability and creating a zero waste workplace (at least in your own cubicle) is within your control. Small changes, every day. 

If your office or coworkers could benefit from these zero waste office hacks, share this article with the green team before the end of their lunch break! 

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