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10 Ways of Reducing Waste in the Workplace

Zero Waste Lifestyle

Last Updated on January 26, 2023

These 10 ways of reducing waste in the workplace are a great step toward low waste living. Avoiding waste completely is simply not possible when you work in an office-type setting. However, these tips will ensure that you do your part to help the planet and offer more than simply recycling at work!

Learn how to reduce plastic waste, gas emissions, and more with these easy ways of reducing waste. Low waste living doesn’t have to be super inconvenient! These simple tips provide practical ways to reduce waste that will also save you and your company money! Packing your lunch, bringing in a plant, and carpooling to work are just some of the suggestions you’ll find. Recycling at work is only the beginning!

potted plant and graphic words dictating that this article will detail how to reduce waste in the workplace

ways of reducing waste in the workplace

Do you guys go to work? I work at a print shop and spend roughly a third of my week in an office-type setting. There’s lots of machinery, an office up front with a couple of desks, a bathroom, and a small kitchen area. 

I know that printing is not a completely eco business, but people need things printed. We always push 100% recyclable materials and use recyclable ink. We also push products that can be used over and over again. 

On top of that, I work to find as many ways to control my waste in the workplace. I’m excited to share some of those ideas with you!

why you’ll love recycling at work

  • Easy – these tips are 100% doable and convenient ways of reducing waste
  • Economical – not only will you help the planet, but these tips will also save you money!
  • Low Waste – no one can be entirely in control of the waste their workplace produces, but these tips give you some control over doing your part

bring plant friends:

Not an entirely zero waste tip, but it’s something I find really important. Get a plant friend. I love my plant at work. They freshen the air and brighten the room so much!

A single plant can reduce air pollution by 20% in many rooms.

On that same note, try to take a walk during the day. Take a break from the screen and soak up some vitamin D. 

reduce waste by packing your lunch:

Almost everyone I work with eats takeout for lunch. It involves so much packaging! There’s so much styrofoam, and on top of the waste – it’s expensive. I’m much more content eating homemade goodies.

I wrap sandwiches in cloth napkins, take mason jar salads, and occasionally pack treats in a tiffin (a type of stacking lunch box). I probably eat lunch out 2-3 times a month. When I go out, I bring my own plates

Learn how to pack a zero waste lunch with 10 lunch ideas.

reduce plastic by using the water fountain: 

Some offices keep the fridge stocked with soda and water bottles. Forgo added sugar and head to the water fountain.

I like to keep a 32 oz mason jar on my desk. I drink about 96oz of water or tea a day.

If I used a regular sized glass, I would have to get up 8 times a day. I’m either too busy at my desk, or I’m too lazy. Invest in a larger cup, so you’re still drinking lots of water. 

a reusable tea diffuser is a great way to reduce waste at work

carpool or ride your bike: 

Do you have someone who lives close to you? Can you carpool or ride your bike or walk?

I carpool every morning.

Some larger companies even have ride share programs. Maybe you could even set one up!

how to reduce paper waste: 

You knew this one was coming. If you have to print out lots of paper, and many offices do, try to make as much as you can double sided. 

Simply printing double sided can reduce paper waste by half!

bring real plates:

This. THIS. In our little kitchen area, I have a couple of plates, bowls, and some silverware. I bought the plates to live at work. I picked it all up at the thrift store for next to nothing.

If we have cake, I’m covered. Neighbors having a BBQ, we’re there with plates in hand. Food truck is down the road, BYOP. This avoids so much waste!

When I see people tossing their paper plates, it makes me sad. It only takes 30 seconds to wash a plate. Wash your dishes! 

2 reusable plates and 1 reusable bowl kept at work are ways of reducing waste

coffee & tea: 

Please, please don’t tell me you have a Keurig. I’m so thankful my boss is really conscious about the environment.

Our coffee machine will brew a single cup of coffee without a filter or pod. Plus, we keep a stock of real mugs.

We also have a nice selection of loose leaf tea that I buy in bulk, and a couple of strainers.

hand towels:

I have a hand towel hanging in the bathroom at work, and I have a couple of hand towels in the kitchen. We use them all over the shop for cleaning.

So, I folded a couple and put them in other areas. This way I don’t have to use paper towels to dry my hands or dishes.

Sometimes I dry my hands on my pants – it’s all in the name of zero waste, right!? 

recycle and compost: 

Many people don’t consider composting at work when planning out how to reduce their waste.

Try to get your workplace involved in recycling and composting! If your city offers either, it’s typically inexpensive. We have designated recycle bins all around the workplace, but the city we work in doesn’t have compost.

I save what’s compostable in a small tupperware tub in the freezer. It holds about a month’s worth of compost. (mostly tea leaves)

If it’s something large my backyard compost bin can’t handle, I put it in the freezer and bring it down to Berkeley or Oakland when I’m visiting friends. They have municipal compost. 

desk trash:

Convert your desk trash can into a recycle bin. The only thing that arrives at my desk is paper — lots of paper. I turned my trash can into a recycle bin.

The boys that empty my can know it’s recycling ONLY. They also know not to line my bin.

If you have something at your desk that isn’t recyclable, I’m sure there’s a trash can nearby – maybe in the hall?

If you have to keep getting up to throw something away, it will encourage you to break the habit. 

Desk trash bin repurposed as a recycling bin recycling at work and moving toward low waste living


how much money can you save with low waste living?

Obviously, how much money you save is dependent upon how many of these tips you follow and to what degree you implement them.

However, you can save over $1000 a year just by packing your own lunches, so these changes that reduce waste also add up in your bank account!

why should businesses care about reducing waste?

According to the EPA, businesses benefit from waste reduction policies no matter how big or small they are. In addition to cost reduction, it can also increase workplace safety, improve your image in your community, and reduce your liability.

Plus, depending on the types of waste you’re eliminating, you may even qualify for government grants or avoid costly permits and approvals.

Do you have any tips for reducing waste in your workplace? If you could change anything about your workplace, what would you change? I’d definitely get compost! 

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  1. I am ALWAYS amazed at how many of my coworkers run to the gas station every day to get crappy pizza and chicken strips. Even besides the waste part of it I mean jeeze how expensive and horrible for you- and a waste of gas!

    1. Gas station food cannot be good for you! I was talking with one of my coworkers who has student loans. I was like, "If you packed your lunch four days a week you could pay them all off in a year and a half." It’s crazy how much money they spend on junk!

  2. More offices need to jump on the double-sided printing bandwagon. I think there’s a perception that it will come off as unprofessional, but it makes such a huge impact on cutting down paper. Nice post!

  3. I am very passionate about waste reduction and recycling. I did have a Keurig (shame!) but traded it earlier this year for a conventional coffee pot. I’m interested to hear what kind you have at work though!

    1. We have an espresso machine. I’m not sure the brand but it grinds the beans and will brew an espresso, an Americano, and a full cup. The grounds will come out in a little puck I use to take home to the garden.

  4. This is great! My work doesn’t have any recycling bins and it drives me CRAZY considering it’s almost all recyclable. I love your idea for just bringing a plate and utensils.

  5. I love my plant friends as well! I also love your idea of having a 32 oz. mason jar at work–I have a hard time remembering to get up in the middle of the day and refill it. I also always prefer to walk across the company campus to the filtered water dispenser instead of the water cooler which is in constant contact with plastic. A larger glass would help 🙂

    The bathrooms at my company wouldn’t really "go" with hanging personal washcloths at work. I try and remember to bring my own cloth napkin from my desk but of course 99% of the time I forget or am running from somewhere else. I need to come up with a system to have it on me…

    I can see why a smaller office definitely lends to better sustainable practices! And don’t get me started on Keurigs at work…

  6. I have textile and chemical sensitivities, and the office managers were really easy to work with about it. While it’s a health problem in my case, it may be useful for others too. I keep a soap dish in the ladies room where I bring and keep my own soap (homemade) and we have a few hooks for coats and purses where I hang my hand towels. I change them out once a month so that there is always something seasonal or festive hanging up in the restroom too.

  7. Great tips! In addition to print on both sides of the page I make the margins very narrow so more text fits on a page. I teach in a college so for most essays and reports they have to write I ask them to submit electronically

  8. Good tips! We have water fountains that count how many plastic water bottles it saves. Over the last three years we have past 750,000! There are about 850 people in the building and most fill up like twice a day – its great! I am so proud of however installed them! Also the vending machine doesn’t sell soda anymore!

  9. If I need to have a hard copy of a document and it’s for ‘archival purposes, not only do a print double-sided, but I print N to 1 option. This means I can get 4 pages to 1 (2 pages to each side). I’ve provided this tip to all other staff members, but they either don’t understand or care.

  10. Hi,
    99% of all my print jobs are set to print in PDF to avoid the paper all together. The printed copy is never needed unless I need to fax or use a FedEx label. My workplace has recycling bins, but it seems like people don’t know what goes in what, so I’m working on relabeling the bins. Also, although my workplace encourages compost, we don’t have that option in the office which seems weird to me. I’m working on changing that as well to be a better example of what we preach. Lastly, we use sugar and creamer packages that ultimately are sold in bulk and can be replaced. Any ideas on containers to use? Thanks

  11. Hi Kathryn,
    Hoping you may have some suggestions for me. I’m in charge of buying snacks for my office – for clients not employees. I was wondering if you knew of any companies that sell single serving snacks in semi zero waste packaging. It sucks but my boss is not at all eco-conscious so I think single serving snacks are the only option at this point, unless I could figure out a way to set up a super professional-looking and non perishable snack station. Any thoughts?
    Also, what type of coffee machine did your work have when you wrote this post? We currently have a keurig. 🙁