How to Waste Less, Divert More, and Lessen Your Environmental Impact

Published July 24, 2022

Categories: Thought Leadership, Facilities Management, Sustainability, Climate Change

Extreme heat has gripped the Northern Hemisphere this summer, setting new high-temperature records and causing concern for the general population and climate experts alike. Just this Tuesday, Britain recorded its hottest day ever, with the temperature exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

The climate crisis has created new challenges for facilities and put added pressure on businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

In fact, a 2018 Nielsen survey revealed that 81 percent of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.

Here are some tips for becoming more environmentally responsible, taken from the article “Waste Solutions for Green Goals” – first published in IFMA’s Facility Management Journal (FMJ).

Waste Less

  • Reduce single-use materials: In offices and breakrooms, disposable cups, plates and utensils create a lot of waste. Swap these out for reusable alternatives to be more sustainable. Coffee even tastes better out of a ceramic or steel mug.
  • Go big: Single-use water bottles and coffee pods are convenient, but they are not environmentally friendly. Provide a water cooler or coffee pot and encourage employees to use it to fill reusable bottles or mugs.
  • Reuse packaging: In the warehouse, instead of tossing structurally sound cardboard boxes, reuse them for storage or shipping. Some companies offer customers the option of having goods shipped to them in a recycled box
  • Be energy efficient: It is also important to evaluate how a facility is using resources such as energy and water. Becoming energy efficient reduces carbon footprints and can help shrink a facility's energy bill. Simple solutions include moving to LED lighting, automating lights with sensors so they shut off when no one is in the room, and using smart thermostats to warm or cool a room only when needed.

Divert More

  • Know what to throw: The first step is knowing which materials are recyclable. Cardboard, paper, aluminum, tin and many plastics are widely recyclable. Glass may also be accepted, check with local providers.
  • Empty, clean, dry: Before placing materials in the recycling bin, be sure they are free of residue. Leftover food or liquid can contaminate otherwise good recyclables and cause them to be sent to the landfill - which is what recycling is trying to avoid in the first place.
  • Don't bag it: Recyclables should never be bagged. Place them loose in the recycling bin. Plastic bags can tangle and jam the equipment at a recycling facility, causing delays or even damage.

There are specialized forms of recycling that do not use the regular recycling bin but can help a facility be even more environmentally responsible. These include:

  • E-waste recycling: As businesses modernize and grow, they may have a need to recycle old electronics. Electronics recycling requires special handling separate from regular trash and recycling collection. Proper electronics recycling prevents potentially hazardous materials from polluting the environment and can recover precious metals including gold, silver and copper. There are energy savings, too. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 U.S. homes for a year, according to the EPA.
  • Bulb and battery recycling: Like e-waste, bulbs and batteries contain harmful materials that require special handling and should not be thrown in trash or recycling bins. Through recycling, 99 percent of the mercury in fluorescent bulbs can be recovered. And more than 95 percent of an LED light bulb can be recycled. Mail-back programs for bulbs and batteries provide a solution that helps facilities comply with environmental regulations.
  • Organics recycling: Another way to divert waste from landfills is by recycling food and green waste. In a landfill, this organic material breaks down into methane, a greenhouse gas. But by diverting food and green waste to an organics recycling program, it can be recycled into nutrient rich compost for the garden or converted into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion. All those lunch leftovers could eventually help power a facility.

Lessen the Impact

  • Get a waste assessment: Waste assessments can calculate a customer's carbon footprint and help determine the right mix of recycling and waste solutions for a facility. This may include regular trash and recycling collection, custom compactors to help reduce waste volume, and roll-off dumpster rentals for short-term projects or long-term use.
  • Think local: Transportation plays a significant role in a company's carbon footprint. Partnering with domestic or local suppliers reduces miles traveled, which in turn, results in fewer emissions. Becoming a more sustainable facility includes evaluating the companies organizations do business with.
  • Offset carbon: Facilities that have made changes to reduce their footprint may find there is still a portion they are unable to neutralize. To reach net zero emissions, a facility may choose to purchase carbon off sets, which compensate for emissions by funding an equivalent reduction project elsewhere. Such projects may include forest conservation, creation of windfarms or reuse of landfill gas for energy.

Here are four more tips for promoting sustainable facilities management.

At Flagship Facility Services, we actively try to be part of the climate change solution.

Most recently, we achieved the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) Green Building with Honors certification from ISSA, demonstrating our commitment to sustainability and green cleaning.

Read our advice for creating a successful sustainability program here.

For assistance creating a sustainability program at your organization, email one of our experts.