At Badger, we aren’t afraid of the “dirty” work. In fact, we dig through our trash and recycling four times a year. Why? Waste assessments are part of our commitment to improve our impact and move towards zero waste. Assessments allow us to understand the composition of our waste better, and to creatively problem-solve ways to send less to the landfill and reuse, compost, or recycle more.
Environmental ideals aside—this practice appeals to me on a philosophical level. I strive to live a life of continual self-improvement and evolution, of rigorous self-inquiry, inventory, and awareness. I do my best to review my days, asking myself if I walked with integrity, love, and kindness. Where the answer is “no” or “maybe,” I seek ways to right the wrongs or to better align with my actions with my values moving forward.What does this have to do with assessing waste? For me, examining Badger’s “waste” as a lens for advancing our environmental impact feels notably similar to my personal practice of introspection.
I won’t lie. When we first started conducting waste assessments, it wasn’t the most pleasant thing. The smell could be a bit intense, so we would apply Headache Soother or Stress Soother below our noses to mask the odor of garbage with the pleasant scent of essential oils. Since those early days, we’ve made lots of improvements, both to our process and to the waste stream itself.
Nowadays, conducting our waste assessments is a much more streamlined and less malodorous experience. Plus, it’s an amazing team-building and employee engagement opportunity. Led by our Sustainability Committee and staffed by Badger volunteers, our waste assessment program is built around collective Badger values, bringing us together around what matters to us.
In less than three years of assessing our waste, we have gone from sending approximately 29% of “waste” to landfill to sending only 5% of our “waste” to landfill, achieving a 95% diversion rate this fall. This means that we reused, recycled, or composted 95% of our “waste”!
And that’s where the warm fuzzies of gratitude come in. I am incredibly grateful to work for an organization that takes improving our impact to the next level. Doing the right thing is a natural part of Badger culture. And over a 2.5 year period, waste assessments have become a way of life, and something folks from across our organization are willing to participate in. It is the collective effort of all departments working together and incorporating waste assessments as an integral part of Badger culture and practice that has allowed us to make such significant progress so quickly.
Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. My mom and I cook for days, and our extended family joins us for a delicious meal. Every year, my dad asks us what we are grateful for, and we go around the table and share. My list is long, but being a part of this beautiful workplace community, engaged in purposeful work that is a mission-fit in my life ranks high!
What are you grateful for? Tell us in the comments!
A note: You may notice my use of quotations around the term “waste.” It’s not just because I love air quotes, though I do, and will be using them in excess to talk about “waste” at our upcoming Badger company meeting. Because the majority of our “waste” is not waste at all, but material that is recycled, composted or reused, calling it waste feels inaccurate, though vernacularly appropriate.
*A final note: While we no longer actually dive into our dumpster, I used artistic license (and a love of alliteration) in titling this blog. While we once would intrepidly dive in to pull bags of trash (you rock, Sarah!), we now work with our Facilities team to collect trash before it goes into the dumpster. Yet one more way we are learning from our actions and making improvements!