The term ‘zero waste’ has become a buzzword among businesses, consumers and organisations. The term may seem unbelievable to some, but many organisations are successfully repurposing their waste and taking a complete “zero waste” stance throughout their operations.
Not only does reducing waste contribute to the sustainability of the natural environment, but it leads to cost saving, higher profits, innovation, and reputable benefits.
Common wastes associated with the operation of businesses include overproduction, transportation pollution, processing waste, and defect products. In order to become a green business and minimise wastage, a number of steps can be implemented.
1. Switch to Solar Power
harnesses the energy of the sun to create electricity. Indeed, it is one of the greenest sources of electricity. In South Africa, sunlight is abundant and with Eskom’s current prices (not to mention outages!), it makes sense to become self-sufficient in managing electricity.
2. Install Water Saving Devices
Water is life. Businesses can save a lot of water and money by installing water saving devices such as redwater diversion valves
or grey water recycling systems. Another option is to invest in a rainwater harvesting system
. Rainwater can be used for irrigation and in production or manufacturing.
3. Carpool or Allocate Staff Transport
Although South African transport systems have improved much throughout the last few years (especially in larger metropolitan areas), many individuals choose to commute to work via their own transport. Organising car-pool groups, or investing in designated transportation for staff members, will reduce the personal transport costs of employees, decrease pollution caused by transportation, and potentially ensure that staff members show up at work on time!
4. Encourage the use of public transport and bicycles
Some business hours accommodate the use of public transport. In this instance, encourage employees to make use of this benefit. Another great option for travelling to and from work is by bicycle
. To encourage employees to cycle to work, ensure that there is a safe area to store bicycles during the day. Living a healthy lifestyles and keeping fit will also benefit the productivity of employees and lower absenteeism.
5. Convert Left over Raw Materials or Defects into Products
In the manufacturing of products, cut-offs or leftover raw materials often go to waste. Instead of disposing of these materials, look for ways to upcycle or make use of the excess. This could lead to additional profits for the company.
is an example of a local business that uses wood cut-offs for the production of their popular sunglasses. Meanwhile, designers Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw have found a new way of using leftover wood shavings to create stunning furniture
6. Use Recycled Furniture
Instead of buying brand new office furniture, look for second hand. Recycled furniture is also an option. For instance, an old door could be converted into a boardroom table. The possibilities are endless and creativity inspires clients.
7. Support Green Initiatives
The most obvious way to become a more green oriented business is to support green initiatives. A great example of an environmentally responsible business is the Mondi-Group who has established a three year partnership
with WWF. The partnership will focus on minimising the impacts of Mondi’s operations on forests, climate and water, and encouraging sustainable practices in the industry. An organisation with particular importance to the African continent is Save The Rhino
. Black Rhinos are a critically endangered species found in Southern African countries. A great way to become involved in the sustainability of the natural environment is through supporting Save The Rhino initiatives.
8. Use Green Products around the Office
Using green and/or Fairtrade products around the office will encourage employees to embrace the principles of sustainable living at home as well. It is also a great way to inspire clients to do the same. Using Fairtrade
products at work is simple - the organisation has launched an exciting programme that encourages local businesses, churches, NGOs and universities to use Fairtrade products
such coffee, tea, wine and food items. Sustainable.co.za is in the process of joining this excellent programme!
9. Dispose of Old Electronics Correctly
Global electronic waste has become a huge problem in the last few decades. The raw materials that are used to create electronics are not biodegradable and often contain harmful chemical substances. It is extremely important to dispose of electronics correctly so that they do no not end up in landfills and damage the environment. The e-Waste Association of South Africa has developed a guide
to recycling electronic waste correctly.
10. Start a Recycling Program
The recycling of paper, plastic, glass, and tins is a crucial factor to becoming a green organisation. In some regions there are collection services that pick up sorted recyclable items from your address. When these services are not available you can dispose of your company’s waste at fixed locations
11. Install Power Saving Heating and Cooling Systems in the Office
If you’re operating in a large office, heating and cooling systems are important. Air conditioning systems and heaters are known to expend a lot of electricity, but luckily modern models are developed to optimize power usage. Upgrade or install power saving HAC systems in your office building.
12. Start an Office Garden
Plants and trees recycle CO2 into oxygen. By creating an office garden, you will assist the air recycling process and brighten up the morale of employees.
It’s important to recognise that anyone or any business can make a difference to the sustainability of the natural environment. Although ‘zero waste’ is the goal, taking simple measures where you can already reduce your carbon footprint may inspire other to do the same.
When moving office, make it a priority to create a new location with a reduced carbon footprint. Through consciously choosing greener options we drive demand for greener buildings in South Africa.