Greening your business: reducing waste

Key Points
  • Waste reduction can help businesses lower operating costs, increase efficiency and productivity.
  • Form a team to conduct a waste assessment, set program goals, and implement and monitor waste reduction activities.
  • See PG&E's Solar and Renewables website for additional information about greening your business.

Not only is reducing waste good for the environment, business owners can save a substantial amount of money by minimizing their waste stream. In addition to lower removal costs, waste reduction helps cut costs on raw materials, office supplies and operating equipment. Also, by cleaning up your operations, you can enhance overall efficiency and productivity, as well as your public image among customers and throughout the community.

Getting started

Like any initiative, a successful waste reduction program requires careful planning and management. The following are five key steps to laying the groundwork for an effective program.

Obtain management support. The support of company management is essential to the long-term success of a waste reduction program. Management should endorse the program at the outset and continue to provide support by approving program goals and implementation, and communicating the importance of waste reduction as part of the company's overall strategic objectives.

Conduct a waste assessment. Examine your purchasing, inventory and waste hauling records to gain insight into your current waste generation patterns. Walk through your facility and talk with key staff members to identify waste-producing activities and equipment, and detect inefficiencies in the waste generation and removal process.

Set goals. While the overall objective of the program is to reduce waste, the waste reduction team must establish specific goals based on how much reduction is possible given the amount of resources the organization can devote to the task. The goals provide the framework for the waste reduction efforts to come and should be flexible to meet changing needs.

Implement and monitor. Using information from your waste assessment, select waste prevention and recycling activities that match the needs of your facility, as well as the goals of your program. Set up a system to monitor and communicate progress to ensure that goals are being met and appropriate modifications are being instituted.

Waste reduction ideas

While every organization is different, the following are a number of strategies that companies have used to successfully reduce waste and lower operating costs:

  • Establish a double-sided printing and copying policy for printing and be sure future printers and copiers have double-sided capability.
  • Use email or a company intranet site to disseminate company memos, reports, newsletters and other documents. If you must use paper, circulate a single copy rather than making multiple copies.
  • Start a recycling program. Set up recycling bins for paper, plastic and other materials that your employees use on a daily basis and encourage them to take part.
  • Recharge fax and printer cartridges or return them to the supplier for re-manufacture.
  • Whenever possible, order supplies in bulk to reduce excess packaging.
  • Purchase supplies with minimal packaging, and work with vendors to reduce the packaging used to protect their products.
  • Reuse supplier containers and pallets for shipping your products.
  • Implement an inventory management system to increase control over supplies and reduce unnecessary purchases.
  • Establish a maintenance routine with the aim of prolonging the life of facility equipment.
  • Sell or give old furniture and equipment to other businesses, local charitable organizations or employees.
  • Compost landscape trimmings or ask your landscape contractor to compost them.
  • Advertise surplus and reusable waste items through a materials exchange.

Looking for additional ways to green your business? See PG&E's Solar and Renewables section on its website for information and resources for installing a renewable energy system.

"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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