Waste management is quickly moving up the business agenda. According to statistics, the average commercial building wastes over 30% of the energy it consumes.
You may not be paying much attention to the amount or types of waste your organisation is producing, but, as energy costs continue to rise, and regulations become stricter, having a good grasp of waste management processes in your organization is key.
The fact is that reducing waste reduces cost, so reusing and recycling resources will reduce consumption and waste, help to reduce energy costs and minimize disposal expenses.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce energy costs and waste:
1. Reuse and recycle
Implementing a recycling programme is a good place to start if you’re aiming to reduce energy costs associated with waste. There are other advantages too, including reducing disposal costs, saving space, reducing clutter, and helping to protect the environment.
Your organization is likely producing the following waste:
- Printer paper;
- Mixed paper, such as envelopes, newspapers, magazines;
- Organic waste, such as food, tea bags, coffee grounds;
An actionable strategy for dealing with recyclable materials is to invest in designated bins for specific types of waste. To make it incredibly easy for staff to work out what goes where, bins should be color-coded and clearly labelled. You should have bins for paper, plastic, glass, and organic waste. It is also a good idea to create guidelines for recycling electrical components.
That said, for a recycling scheme to be successful, staff need to be behind it. Recycling feels good, but staff are most likely to be receptive to a programme that is convenient and easy to apply. Implementing employee recycling training will encourage participation and help staff to understand what needs to be recycled and where it should go.
Once you’ve established a recycling program, and designated recycling bins for specific items, consider removing personal trash bins from offices. Doing so will encourage employees to use the centrally located waste and recycling system, thus enforcing staff participation.
It’s also a good idea to designate a space for collecting materials that can be easily reused. Packing envelopes, parcels, and boxes, for example, can be put aside and reused when needed, reducing both the cost of disposal and expenditure on new postage materials.
Another simple tactic to reduce waste is switching to refillable ink and toner cartridges. This is a cost-effective and environmentally conscious choice. It’s estimated that only 30% of print cartridges are recycled in the UK annually, meaning 45.5 million cartridges end up in the landfill every year. The average recycled print cartridge has a carbon footprint that’s 46% less than that of a new cartridge!
As well as reusing and recycling materials, another way to reduce energy costs is to reduce the amount of waste your organization produces in the first place!
2. Reducing waste
Costs arising from wasted paper can have a major impact on your business’ yearly expenses. Between invoices, documents, reports, and so on, the average office worker uses over 250 kilos or 10,000 sheets of paper a year.
There are, however, a number of ways to minimize both the financial and environmental impact of your wasted paper and reduce energy costs in the process. Consider the following tips:
- Store staff manuals and policies online;
- Encourage electronic communication instead of paper memos;
- Reduce your margins in Microsoft Word beyond the default settings so you can print more on each page and thus use less paper in total;
- Utilize 2-sided printing
Paper itself may not seem expensive to purchase but, along with the associated costs – including storing, filing, copying, printing and maintaining files – the costs add up. It’s estimated that companies spend as much as 3% of their revenue on paper and its associated costs.
Another major source of waste for organizations is packaging. One-third of all waste in developed countries comes from packaging alone. Most of this waste ends up in landfills or the ocean, causing pollution. What’s more, many of the materials used in packaging are not biodegradable, with some plastics used in bottles requiring 450 years to degrade.
To minimize the amount of packaging waste produced by your business, begin with a close evaluation of your current packaging practices. Can you use shredded documents for packing in place of polystyrene packing chips? You should also aim to eliminate single-use containers. A simple switch from corrugated cardboard to reusable plastic shipping containers saved Pepsi-Cola $44 million.
Dealing with physical waste more effectively can go a long way to saving your company money – but what about wasted energy? Can you maintain operational functionality and comfort and reduce energy costs at the same time? Absolutely.
3. Reducing consumption
Researchers at MIT estimate that as much as 30% of the energy used by commercial buildings in the US is wasted. However, a lot of this energy can be saved. If you want to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs, consider doing the following:
- Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer.
- Create after-hours and weekend thermostat settings – use a setting that conserves more energy during the hours when you know your employees aren’t going to be in the building.
- Utilize motion-activated light switches – these ensure power only goes to lights that are needed.
- Switch to LED lightbulbs – these will do the same job as regular lightbulbs, use less energy and last a lot longer.
- Utilize low flow water fixtures – including toilets, faucets, sinks, urinals, and other fixtures, to both conserve water and save on utility costs.
- Shut down and unplug computers when they’re not in use.
- Reduce the time before a computer enters sleep mode.
Utilizing the above tips and practices to combat energy wasters will greatly benefit your commercial building. Installing and maintaining resource-saving equipment will conserve resources and reduce energy costs in the long term.
That said, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Tracking your energy management activities in one platform and using a standard set of metrics is essential and makes it incredibly easy to share and report information with stakeholders.
Remember: a successful waste reduction campaign requires ongoing communication and collaboration between employees, management, and stakeholders.
Use a central energy management solution to streamline measurement, reporting and information-sharing. Make the results of your energy saving initiatives tangible and challenge everyone to play their part in reducing waste.
Crucially, reducing energy costs and consumption doesn’t mean immediately overhauling all your processes. Read our eBook, You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure: 5 Techniques to Combat Energy Wasters, to learn how to identify and tackle a few key energy wasters in your commercial building to improve your overall energy performance.