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Dealing With Paper Waste As an Eco-Friendly B Corp
Tips to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle All That Paper at the Workplace
Did you know that in 2014, the state of California disposed of 225,000 tons of recyclable office paper? Or that, on average, 3% of a company’s revenue is spent on paper and related expenses? The good news is that by properly managing your paper use and minimizing waste, you can solve both problems.
If you are reading this, then it’s likely you are interested in becoming a Certified B Corporation or you already have the certification. In either case, your business has an interest in its impact on the environment and other stakeholders. You can add effective paper use to your list by considering improvements to your everyday processes — and making a difference is easier than you may think.
Reduce Packaging Waste
If your B Corp works with shipping or warehousing components, there is a good chance that you are wasting money and paper with your packaging materials. In fact, it has been reported that every American household throws out 13,000 pieces of paper each year, and a good portion of that is packaging. Once consumers get their packages, they can do their part by putting paper and cardboard in their recycling bins and reusing tissue paper for holiday gifts. Still, in many cases, consumers don’t need to receive this quantity of paper packaging materials to begin with.
Is your business looking for ideas on making a positive environmental impact? Check this free online report from B Lab that compiles articles and resources to help your business become a climate leader. Whether you work at a large company or an agency, get inspired to do more today.
The first step companies can take is to reduce the use of packaging materials or opt for sustainable alternatives like corn-based packing peanuts, air packs, or tree-free paper. These materials can be used repeatedly, and consumers can recycle them at home. Use leftover boxes for storage in your warehouse instead of throwing them out.
Another way to reduce the use of paper packaging is by modifying your boxes. Make the shipping containers smaller or form fit them to items so customers get their product securely but without as much waste. Changing box sizes may seem like a big change at first, but you can save on shipping and fuel costs while also helping the planet.
You May Be Recycling Wrong
As a B Corp, it’s likely that your business encourages employees to recycle paper, but you may not be doing it as effectively as possible. The first step is shredding your paper, but there is a right and a wrong way to shred. If you simply shred your paper and throw it in the recycling bin, it could still end up in the landfill. As a side note, before you even think about sending away that shredded paper, consider reusing it as packaging material for your boxes.
If you shred your paperwork and dispose of it with the rest of the recycling, those shreds go on an adventure that may or may not end at the recycling plant. One of the reasons is that not all recycling facilities will accept paper shreds. Even if they do, when these small scraps of paper are thrown on the conveyor belt, they can fall into other non-recyclable bins. Other recycling facilities use large screens to filter what they receive, and shredded paper can fall through and simply be thrown away. To ensure that your paper is properly cared for, you’ll want to consult a professional shredding service.
No matter how big or small your business may be, a shredding company can assist in your paper conservation needs. Many of these businesses have mobile shredding vehicles that can come to your location and take the paper off your hands. The largest corporations might consider investing in an industrial shredder, which can shred paper and other materials including plastic and metal. It will package processed items correctly so the recycling center can handle them properly.
Turn to Technology
One of the easiest ways to reduce paper waste is not to use paper in the first place! Instead of faxing paper documents and cramming filing cabinets full of records, store everything in the cloud and go paperless. For those new to the idea, the cloud is any one of many online storage solutions where you can keep all important business information without keeping it on your hard drive.
Not only can you use the cloud for storage, but cloud-friendly apps could make physical files and paper faxing a thing of the past; instead, all you’ll have to do is use your phone. Applications such as Files Anywhere and CamScanner allow you to fax and scan documents no matter where you are in the office. Once they are in the system, you can access them at will. These applications are inexpensive and help reduce your carbon footprint.
Going paperless will not happen overnight, but there are other ways that you can get there faster, including adjusting the settings on your printer to double-sided printing or creating automatic electronic PDFs. If you deal with a lot of signatures, you could transition to accept digital signatures, which avoids waste and is still legally binding. You also can go paperless for your meetings by avoiding the paper handouts and using a slideshow on a large TV in the middle of the room or emailing the presentation so attendees can view it on their laptop or smartphone.
Your B Corp certification shows that you are dedicated to sustainability. However, there are always more ways to prevent waste. Try some of these paper-saving techniques and continue to do right by the world.
B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.