May—02

Reducing waste in the workplace

How we Reduced Waste at Method HQ

If your company cares about recycling, you’ve probably considered going zero waste. It can feel overwhelming to get your workplace to zero waste, but it is achievable. Here at Method, we have worked for years to get to zero waste, and it's by no means easy, but it is worth it. Learn how we have achieved and have maintained a zero waste office.

What Does Zero Waste Mean?

There are different definitions of zero waste, from general philosophies of wasting as little as possible to more concrete definitions such as 90% or more diverted from landfills. This is the definition we, at Method HQ, strive to achieve.

Since November 2019, we have maintained and often surpassed our goal of over 90% diversion from landfill.

We believe having a precise definition, as opposed to embracing the general philosophy of no waste, is best because it's measurable and specific, which will make it easier to stick to in the long run. Additionally, while 90% isn’t strictly no waste, there are always variables outside of our control. To further help mitigate the small amount of waste we do produce, we participate in beach and park clean-ups.

The Benefits of Going Zero Waste

The reasons for a workplace to aim for zero waste can differ depending on the organisation's goals, the size of the company, and the location. For Method, we found that going zero waste was part of the natural transition we were making toward a more sustainable future.

We value the notion of a circular economy, and by going zero waste we signalled to our team, our stakeholders, and the public that we were serious about our goals. More and more, customers are looking for brands that put sustainability at the forefront of their business. So whether you are a B2B or a B2C, it's something that can help set you apart from the competition.

It also helped us achieve our B Corp certification, as waste management is one factor that is considered. While it didn't make or break our certification, it did help us achieve a higher score than average.

However, there are additional benefits you may also find. By decreasing your waste output, you may be able to save money on waste management costs and avoid fines for recycling contamination, which are becoming more common across the world.

For us, going zero waste didn't happen overnight, but through targeted efforts and changing things one by one.

So How Did We Get to Zero Waste?

There were a lot of factors that we considered when going zero waste. At Method, we focused on a few key areas that led to early gains and kept motivation strong. Once we had the central systems in place, we could find solutions for more minor things that were contributing overall to our waste.

Cleaning Up Our Procurement Practices

One area of waste we have a lot of control over is what supplies we bring into our workspace. From office stationery to kitchen supplies, we know what comes in must come out. That’s why, when we were looking at ways to reduce waste in the office, this was a key area.

So we did some research and found suppliers that used refillable containers and recycled materials. For instance, we found a local milk supplier that delivers milk to us in reusable glass bottles. The company brings them in once a week and picks up the empty bottles from the previous week. While glass milk bottle exchanges may feel like a relic from the past, they are becoming more common as more and more people look for sustainable alternatives.

While we couldn’t currently find a similar service for our oat milk, we did find a supplier that has a collection scheme for the Tetra Paks, as these aren’t commonly recycled in New Zealand.

Another simple swap we made was with whiteboard markers. While it wasn’t a huge portion of waste, switching to refillable whiteboard markers went along with our philosophy that every little change matters.

IMG 0023 Our awesome refillable milk service coutesy of Eketahuna.

Adding Additional Waste Streams

We are big advocates of recycling, as you might imagine. Not only do we work with other businesses to find recycling solutions for them, but we also work hard to practice what we preach. When we first decided to go zero waste at our office, the first thing we did was consider our waste streams. By introducing more streams, we could divert more waste from landfills.

As you can see, we have a lot of streams. We have the most common streams – landfill, paper, plastic and cans, and glass. We also have organics, which is a stream that is often overlooked but accounts for 30-40% of office waste. In addition, we have some uncommon recycling streams – small metal lids that we deliver to the Sustainability Trust, oat milk Tetra Paks we send to SaveBOARD for recycling, and soft plastics we drop off at the local collection point. We also collect E-waste and printer cartridges for local recycling, which aren’t pictured above.

Because we are a smaller business it's easy for us to drop these off, but larger businesses likely can afford collections or courier uncommon recyclables. This is a great way to make further gains in your waste diversion after the easy wins.

IMG 0017 All of our waste streams at Method HQ

Partnering with Other Local Businesses that Support our Mission

Like many offices, our employees love a good cup of coffee to get them going in the morning. However, our coffee and milk containers were a significant source of waste within the office.

Beyond the milk swap we mentioned above, we looked for other ways to reduce our kitchen waste. When we were looking to change our coffee provider, we simply asked them if they would be open to refilling containers for us. While this wasn’t a standard service they provided, they were happy to help us out, and this saved several bags a week. Also, by having these conversations with other businesses, we’re signalling to them that these are values customers care about and are more inclined to introduce them into their offerings to others.

If you have local suppliers of kitchen goods or other goods around the office, are there companies you could approach for a sustainable partnership?

IMG 0010 We partnered with L'affare Coffee to reduce our waste.

Promoting a Culture of Sustainability

While being passionate about sustainability isn't a prerequisite for being hired at Method, new employees often become quickly wrapped up in it. That's because we work hard to cultivate a culture of sustainability within the office.

When employees are new to Method and eager to please, we have them participate in onboarding sessions that address our values, sustainable initiatives, and workplace recycling. These sessions introduce them to the various streams we have, tools they can use to reduce their own waste, and our overall culture of sustainability.

When new employees first start, we also gift them a zero-waste kit filled with items to help them be more sustainable and waste less. It comes with items like a reusable coffee cup, cloth produce bags, recycled pens, a metal container for lunches, or a drink bottle. We also incorporate items from other local B Corps including Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter, Ethique Shampoo bars, and People’s coffee. It's a fun welcome gift and a way to introduce them to what it means to be a B Corp.

The work doesn't stop with the onboarding process, though. We discuss sustainability in our personal and professional lives in our weekly team catch-ups. At our global meetings, each team takes turns presenting a session on how sustainability affects their roles. This has included sessions like how to reduce our digital carbon footprint or reducing waste through shipping. We also share tips and have ongoing education about various aspects of sustainability by sharing industry information and news articles.

These all add up to a culture that promotes and celebrates sustainability in a positive and respectful way. It keeps our team engaged and our goal on track.

Image from i OS 31 Our zero-waste kits for all new Method employees.

Reporting on Waste and Zero Waste Goals

When working toward a zero-waste office goal, we always encourage people to share their goals within the team and publicly. This helps to hold you accountable to your employees, stakeholders, and customers. With more companies announcing zero waste goals, now is a great time to get on board.

Since waste is a significant aspect of this, reporting waste diversion data helps us know where we are at, what we are doing well, and where we are falling short. We do weekly waste reporting on our streams and include our progress in the internal company newsletter.

Barriers to Becoming Zero Waste

We have to be honest, going zero waste for us was easier than for most companies, but it’s not without its rewards. However, there are some common barriers that tend to throw companies off, so we’ve addressed these below.

Education

First, education and engagement are crucial. Recycling is complex, and even well-intentioned employees can sometimes slip up. Because of this, contamination can ruin a whole recycling bag, and we needed to find solutions. Introducing better signage and adding challenging materials to our onboarding process helped mitigate this contamination.

Cleaners

A pain point we experienced was with the cleaning staff who weren't aware of our efforts and inadvertently contaminated some of our streams. Our solution to this was communicating with our provider, letting them know of our goals and setting clear expectations. Ensuring external providers are meeting their service level agreements is crucial. Otherwise, they can undo all of your hard work.

For internal cleaning teams, it's all about education, communication, and ensuring they have the time and resources to do their job correctly. Since cleaners are an important part of keeping our businesses running, we have to ensure they are included in the discussions.

Time as a resource

Zero waste is a long-term commitment and requires the resources to get it right. For us, that meant researching recycling providers for hard to recycle materials, changing some of our suppliers, and measuring and tracking waste. For us, though, this is worth it and helps us achieve our diversion goals, promote a circular economy, and act as a sustainable company.

Going zero-waste at Method has been a rewarding experience that we have learned and grown from. It's not an easy journey, but even taking steps in the right direction can make a huge difference in your sustainability journey. It won't be without its barriers, which can impede progress, but eventually, wasting less will become second nature and something your workplace can wear as a badge of honour, as Method does.

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