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4 Tips for Getting Closer to Zero Waste

The SSC Team February 9, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

Zero waste is a lofty goal, but it generally pays off because most of the time less is actually more in sustainability planning. Here are a few helpful hints about waste and recycling to push your waste strategy to zero.

1. Choose “single stream.” By allowing employees to sort recyclable material into a single receptacle, you can expect to see an increase in recycling of up to 50%. Make it easy for employees, and they’re more likely to participate!

2. When crafting a zero-landfill strategy, don’t just focus on recycling. Be sure to include options like: closed loop solutions (reuse), composting, and supply chain management.  Remaining materials that can’t be recycled or reused can be converted to energy through conversion technologies: waste to energy, plasma gasification, and anaerobic digestion.

3. Think about waste conveyance design during new construction. Make sure you consider the following:

  • Internal areas for collection, storage, and separation of materials
  • External space for multiple container sizes and service areas
  • Design for ease of use

4. Cover all of the bases when reviewing recycling, sorting, composting or other waste stream management programs

  • Signage
  • Bin size
  • Bin type
  • Tenant education, key component to gain buy-in maybe have a kick-off meeting and continuous reminders with metrics and goals
  • Space constraints
  • Service area

If your organization wants to get a better handle on its waste, a great first step is conducting a waste audit. We’ve developed a toolkit (webinar, guidance, and templates) all around How to Conduct a Waste Audit. If you find that your team doesn’t have the gumption to sort through all that trash, contact us to arrange a waste audit done by sustainability professionals!

 

White Paper Profile: Shifting the Focus from End-of-Life Recycling to Continuous Product Lifecycles

The SSC Team June 21, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Just because a product is recyclable, doesn't mean it is going to be recycled by the end user, nor does it mean that the organization can write off any responsibility of the management of products at their end-of-life. 

End-of-life issues present an important challenge to organizations, from facilitation of recycling and measuring effectiveness of recycling programs, to shifting to continuous use models. 

"Recycling should not be looked at in a vacuum but as part of a larger system where costs and the release of greenhouse gases and toxics, among others, inhabit."

Learn more about the challenges of product lifecycle management at product end-of-life in this white paper by Call2Recycle.

Life cycle assessments are an important way to view the full impact of your product's sourcing, production, distribution, and disposal, often leading to the discovery of hidden opportunities to reduce waste or mitigate risk as a result the process. Contact us to get started on your LCA. 

 

White Paper Profile: Shifting the Focus from End-of-Life Recycling to Continuous Product Lifecycles

The SSC Team June 21, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Just because a product is recyclable, doesn't mean it is going to be recycled by the end user, nor does it mean that the organization can write off any responsibility of the management of products at their end-of-life. 

End-of-life issues present an important challenge to organizations, from facilitation of recycling and measuring effectiveness of recycling programs, to shifting to continuous use models. 

"Recycling should not be looked at in a vacuum but as part of a larger system where costs and the release of greenhouse gases and toxics, among others, inhabit."

Learn more about the challenges of product lifecycle management at product end-of-life in this white paper by Call2Recycle.

Life cycle assessments are an important way to view the full impact of your product's sourcing, production, distribution, and disposal, often leading to the discovery of hidden opportunities to reduce waste or mitigate risk as a result the process. Contact us to get started on your LCA. 

 

Reducing Waste Doesn’t Always Equate to Sustainability: Start Calculating the Impact of Tradeoffs in Sustainability Strategies

The SSC Team March 29, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

For years, organizations have been buying into the “waste less to be green” strategy. Sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – i.e. save some stuff for future generations.

So, it is natural to assume that by using fewer resources today, we are saving them up for our children’s children’s children. Sometimes this pans out, sometimes not.

Many industries would like the definition of sustainability to end here, because it means they can focus entirely on innovating production around using fewer resources, yet still producing profitable goods and services.

Win for the planet. Win for the pocketbook.

However, not all industries can use even come close to really being sustainable, just by virtue of existing at all (ahem, coal). We all know about these industries, and scientists and engineers everywhere are working to reduce our dependence on them.

But what about other industries? Does using less waste always correlate to an environmental “win?”

Research by Jason Jay, a senior lecturer at MIT, and his colleagues are suggesting that it is time to place some serious focus on the temporal tradeoffs in sustainability.

Let’s just say you have a product that is two pounds of plastic, but you innovate and reduce that amount to one pound – and customers love it because they love green products, so you sell twice as many. Sustainable? That is the question.

Consumers really wrestled with this issue back when we were having the paper-or-plastic debate. It seems we may have resolved that one with reusable bags (unless you keep losing them and buying new ones every time you shop).

Now the issue is popping up again and again with retailers like IKEA questioning its own business model and product longevity, making headlines with a recent joke about “peak curtains.”  Allegations that technology companies like Apple are hooking users with upgrades and software that results in a cycle of planned obsolescence and waste and generating backlash. And consumers are coming out against the $5 throwaway t-shirt, cheap plastic trinkets, and a culture too willing to plow through resources to stay on trend.

Startups like Buy Me Once are pushing back on consumer culture, attempting to shift purchasing habits from disposable to durable, and investment in products that last. Begging the question, Why don’t they make ‘em like they used to?”

The tide may be shifting among consumers, and it may not be long until manufacturers are asked to deal with more critical, nuanced questions about consumption. It’s longer going to be about buying recyclable plastic cups for a dinner party, but not buying special cups to start with, shifting the emphasis from “recycle” to “reduce and reuse.” If you make disposable plastic cups, this could be a worrying trend, but if you are the planet, this could be the promise of progress.

Are you seeing changes in demand from customers or clients pushing for longer life-span built into product design? Do you feel that consumers will embrace the “pay more” for products with a longer useful life? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Reducing Waste Doesn’t Always Equate to Sustainability: Start Calculating the Impact of Tradeoffs in Sustainability Strategies

The SSC Team March 29, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

For years, organizations have been buying into the “waste less to be green” strategy. Sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – i.e. save some stuff for future generations.

So, it is natural to assume that by using fewer resources today, we are saving them up for our children’s children’s children. Sometimes this pans out, sometimes not.

Many industries would like the definition of sustainability to end here, because it means they can focus entirely on innovating production around using fewer resources, yet still producing profitable goods and services.

Win for the planet. Win for the pocketbook.

However, not all industries can use even come close to really being sustainable, just by virtue of existing at all (ahem, coal). We all know about these industries, and scientists and engineers everywhere are working to reduce our dependence on them.

But what about other industries? Does using less waste always correlate to an environmental “win?”

Research by Jason Jay, a senior lecturer at MIT, and his colleagues are suggesting that it is time to place some serious focus on the temporal tradeoffs in sustainability.

Let’s just say you have a product that is two pounds of plastic, but you innovate and reduce that amount to one pound – and customers love it because they love green products, so you sell twice as many. Sustainable? That is the question.

Consumers really wrestled with this issue back when we were having the paper-or-plastic debate. It seems we may have resolved that one with reusable bags (unless you keep losing them and buying new ones every time you shop).

Now the issue is popping up again and again with retailers like IKEA questioning its own business model and product longevity, making headlines with a recent joke about “peak curtains.”  Allegations that technology companies like Apple are hooking users with upgrades and software that results in a cycle of planned obsolescence and waste and generating backlash. And consumers are coming out against the $5 throwaway t-shirt, cheap plastic trinkets, and a culture too willing to plow through resources to stay on trend.

Startups like Buy Me Once are pushing back on consumer culture, attempting to shift purchasing habits from disposable to durable, and investment in products that last. Begging the question, Why don’t they make ‘em like they used to?”

The tide may be shifting among consumers, and it may not be long until manufacturers are asked to deal with more critical, nuanced questions about consumption. It’s longer going to be about buying recyclable plastic cups for a dinner party, but not buying special cups to start with, shifting the emphasis from “recycle” to “reduce and reuse.” If you make disposable plastic cups, this could be a worrying trend, but if you are the planet, this could be the promise of progress.

Are you seeing changes in demand from customers or clients pushing for longer life-span built into product design? Do you feel that consumers will embrace the “pay more” for products with a longer useful life? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Reducing Waste Doesn’t Always Equate to Sustainability: Start Calculating the Impact of Tradeoffs in Sustainability Strategies

The SSC Team March 29, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

For years, organizations have been buying into the “waste less to be green” strategy. Sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – i.e. save some stuff for future generations.

So, it is natural to assume that by using fewer resources today, we are saving them up for our children’s children’s children. Sometimes this pans out, sometimes not.

Many industries would like the definition of sustainability to end here, because it means they can focus entirely on innovating production around using fewer resources, yet still producing profitable goods and services.

Win for the planet. Win for the pocketbook.

However, not all industries can use even come close to really being sustainable, just by virtue of existing at all (ahem, coal). We all know about these industries, and scientists and engineers everywhere are working to reduce our dependence on them.

But what about other industries? Does using less waste always correlate to an environmental “win?”

Research by Jason Jay, a senior lecturer at MIT, and his colleagues are suggesting that it is time to place some serious focus on the temporal tradeoffs in sustainability.

Let’s just say you have a product that is two pounds of plastic, but you innovate and reduce that amount to one pound – and customers love it because they love green products, so you sell twice as many. Sustainable? That is the question.

Consumers really wrestled with this issue back when we were having the paper-or-plastic debate. It seems we may have resolved that one with reusable bags (unless you keep losing them and buying new ones every time you shop).

Now the issue is popping up again and again with retailers like IKEA questioning its own business model and product longevity, making headlines with a recent joke about “peak curtains.”  Allegations that technology companies like Apple are hooking users with upgrades and software that results in a cycle of planned obsolescence and waste and generating backlash. And consumers are coming out against the $5 throwaway t-shirt, cheap plastic trinkets, and a culture too willing to plow through resources to stay on trend.

Startups like Buy Me Once are pushing back on consumer culture, attempting to shift purchasing habits from disposable to durable, and investment in products that last. Begging the question, Why don’t they make ‘em like they used to?”

The tide may be shifting among consumers, and it may not be long until manufacturers are asked to deal with more critical, nuanced questions about consumption. It’s longer going to be about buying recyclable plastic cups for a dinner party, but not buying special cups to start with, shifting the emphasis from “recycle” to “reduce and reuse.” If you make disposable plastic cups, this could be a worrying trend, but if you are the planet, this could be the promise of progress.

Are you seeing changes in demand from customers or clients pushing for longer life-span built into product design? Do you feel that consumers will embrace the “pay more” for products with a longer useful life? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Put your office paper use policy down, on paper

The SSC Team November 19, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Paper is arguably one of the most important physical invention in human history. (People keep claiming “printing press,” but seriously. That’s like“car” without “wheel.”)

For all its importance, paper is capable of doing some major damage to wetlands, oceans, and forests.

According to New Leaf Paper’s recently released Life Cycle Analysis, recycled paper has a climate impact 100 times lower than virgin paper.

Recycled paper uses 75 percent less water, has no impacts on rivers or wetlands from recurring logging of large forests, and avoids the harvesting of multiple forest types.

The obvious solutions

Solve incrementally, not drastically

Making the decision to cut 40% of an organization’s paper use or increase budgets for paper by 40% probably won’t work. Instead, make it a change management effort.

Employees, department heads, and company management all need to understand the effort, be given clear direction, milestones, and goals, and feel that they are making a difference.

Here’s a sample of how you can manage the transition to using less paper: 

  • Ensure employees fully understand why you’re focusing on paper (Save the forests! Save the ocean!)
  • Ensure employees understand how much paper they’ve used in the last measurable period (A mini-paper audit, perhaps?)
  • Give department managers a monthly “paper budget” and not an all-access pass to the copy room (It’s easier to “run out of paper” at the end of each 30 days, and “get by,” than it is to conceptualize what a year’s supply of paper means. Learning to ration over time is more successful.).
  • Give each department a paper reduction goal
  • Reward and support employee efforts to reduce printing and keep costs down (money saved through paper reduction can be donated to a conservation organization).

The case for reducing paper consumption and changing the purchasing behavior is similar to all change management projects. Communicate, collect data, create an action plan with goals, and measure your success.

For help developing sustainability strategies for your organization, contact us! 

Reducing and Managing Food Waste presented by ITP’s Green Hotelier

Tara Hughes July 31, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Industry News No comments
FOOD WASTE

Reducing and Managing Food Waste in Hotels presented by Green Hotelier

Join us for a complimentary webinar about Reducing and Managing Food Waste presented by AGPOM’s Partner International Tourism Partnership on September 24th.

Register heregreen hotelier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every bit of food you throw away costs you and the environment.

According to UNEP, roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted. Additionally, according to the Food Waste Alliance, 68m tonnes of food waste are produced each year in the US, with around 39.7m tonnes going to landfill or incineration. One third of this is from full and quick service (QSR) restaurants. The saddest part is 842 million people in the world do not have enough to eat.

What’s the environmental issues cased by food waste?

  • When food rots it creates methane (CH4) which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide
  • Every time food is wasted, the water, energy, time, manpower, land, fertilizer, fuel, packaging and MONEY put into growing, preparing, storing, transporting, cooking the food is wasted.
  • If food waste was a country, it would be the world’s 3rd largest emitter of CO2

Reduced Waste = Reduced Expenses

By taking a few simple steps to waste less and recycle more, and by working out the cost of food waste to the business, hotels can reap financial as well as environmental benefits. Read more

Five of the Best Sustainable Packaging Resources

The SSC Team May 5, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
Enjoy this blog post from the SSC archives: There is a TON of really annoying packaging getting in the way of sustainability. (And here is a list of 12 great examples, just in case you needed a refresher.) To combat the problem, we're rounding up a list of our favorite smart packaging resources:

1. Consumer Goods Forum

In November 2011, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) released its, “Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability (GPPS).” The 74-page guide on packaging sustainability not only aims to help companies reduce their carbon footprint but also serves as a step in the right direction to increase efficiency and effective communication by creating a common language that consists of a framework and a measurement system. (Read our complete review here.)

2. "Cut the Wrap!" White Paper

Cut the Wrap! Packaging Waste and Strategies for Mitigation and Reduction” is one of our most popular white papers, and for good reason.  Packaging waste is an issue that affects almost all businesses, from food and beverage to electronics. Unfortunately most of the materials used in packaging is discarded in ever-growing landfills or burnt, causing severe pollution. This paper explores the various ways businesses can reduce or even eliminate their packaging waste, make smarter and more sustainable packaging choices, and utilize packaging alternatives.

3. Sustainable Packaging Coalition

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is an industry working group dedicated to a more robust environmental vision for packaging. Through strong member support, an informed and science-based approach, supply chain collaborations and continuous outreach, SPC endeavors to build packaging systems that encourage economic prosperity and a sustainable flow of materials.  The SPC makes available a broad range of publications and resources to further the vision and ever-evolving implementation of sustainable packaging.

4. COMPASS

COMPASS (Comparative Packaging Assessment) is online design software that allows packaging designers and engineers to assess the human and environmental impacts of their package designs using a life cycle approach. COMPASS helps packaging designers make more informed material selections and design decisions by providing quick visual guidance on a common set of environmental indicators.  COMPASS provides consistently modeled data sets for USA, Canada and Europe as well as tailored for materials and processes used for packaging to allow reliable apples-to-apples comparisons of multiple scenarios. In addition, regionalized solid waste modeling provides a waste profile of each scenario to help understand the end-of-life (EoL) implications of packaging designs.

5. “Balance: Efficiency or Sustainability?

This article by Katherine O’Dea is a great article on the current "sustainable packaging" debate. "A couple of weeks ago, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a report titled, “Sustainable Packaging, Myth or Reality.” It seems, however, the report doesn’t really debate the myth or reality question, but jumps right to the conclusion that “sustainable packaging is dead” and is being replaced by “efficient packaging.” How fortunate that would be for the “business as usual” crowd if it were true. But, having worked in the sustainability field for 20 years with a good deal of focus on sustainability in packaging for the past five years, I think PwC got it wrong." (Read the whole article here.) What are some of your favorite sustainable packaging resources? Leave a comment or join the conversation with SSC President Jennifer Woofter on Twitter (@jenniferwoofter).