It’s amazing what happens when you take away trash cans. While it might seem obvious, removing the ability to send materials to landfills really helps you stop and consider all the other disposal options you really have. I think that was the biggest takeaway from our Zero Waste Day, and it came shortly after breakfast.
We wanted to make it as easy as possible to each limit our own use of packaging (like takeout containers) and other things that might be hard to recycle or repurpose, so we started the day with a communal breakfast — fresh fruit, muffins and even an omelet-making station (using a microwave, which is actually more energy-efficient than frying in a pan, in this case). While one of our team members ate her breakfast, she suddenly froze and shouted to the group that she’d accidentally used a napkin. To her surprise (and relief), we let her know that it didn’t need to go in the trash — she could simply add it to our compost pile.
Composting probably wound up being the part of the day that had the most people really excited. Beyond fruit and veggie scraps, we were able to compost coffee filters, coffee grounds, disposable serveware made out of compostable materials, and eggshells. Our CEO Javier noted how amazing it was to see how much waste you can really divert when you introduce composting as an option. Toward the end of the day, a lot of us agreed that we should make composting part of our everyday lives in the office — and starting today, we have a sign-up sheet for people to volunteer to drop off our compost at the local farmer’s market a few days every week.
For me personally, our Zero Waste Day was really transformative. I usually pack my lunch and grab coffee at the office with a reusable mug, but the opportunity to make bread out of spent grain from the last time I brewed inspired me to try out new foods and recipes. Because I had so much spent-grain flour leftover after making the bread dough, I quickly found a recipe for blueberry muffins and whipped those up too. I’m not much of a baker (and never claimed to be), but since both came out surprisingly well, I’m going to continue perfecting my zero-waste brewing experiment. (Shout out to the whole Recyclebank crew for being my guinea pigs — thanks guys!)
If Zero Waste Day inspired you, too, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Take away the trash cans: Making it harder to throw stuff in the trash is a great way to remind yourself that you have other disposal options.
- Designate a container for compost: You can keep it in the fridge or the freezer depending on how long you’ll need before dropping it off. If you’ve got a big enough yard, you can always start a pile of your own.
- Ditch the paper towels: Whether you’re at home or work, switching to a reusable cloth or towel gets the job done without the need to throw away or compost anything.
- Turn off the lights: When the sun’s shining brightly, you can’t top it. Throw back the curtains, pop open a window and save some energy in the process.
- Plan ahead and pack: We’re all super busy these days, but taking a little bit of time to get the ingredients and containers we need is worth it to avoid grabbing take out for the millionth time.
- Get a team: Try to go zero-waste with someone else; it helps to have someone else learning with you along the way, and encouraging no waste of any kind. Throughout the day, many of us reminded each other how important it is to step away from our desks every once in a while — after all, recharging your mental and emotional battery is never a waste!