A few weeks ago, as part of our twice-yearly waste audit, some daring Badgers spent several hours going through our trash and recycling. While I won’t exaggerate and say that sorting through trash is how I would choose to spend my weekends, we certainly had fun enjoying one another’s company and working as a team towards the common goal of improving our environmental impact!
Why We Do It
Just as archaeologists piece together human cultures of the past by looking at what they left behind, we can learn a lot about our environmental impact by examining what we discard. From archaeologist to architect, we can then use that information to build a more sustainable future! For example, last year’s waste audit showed us that almost ten percent of our trash, by volume, was brown paper towels and napkins. This observation led us to seek creative alternatives to using these materials, which led us to installing energy-efficient hand dryers in our bathrooms. Last year’s audit also motivated us to expand our plastics recycling to include all plastics, numbers 1-7, and plastic film!
How We Do It
We recently conducted our second solid waste audit, approximately one year after the first audit. Our waste audits are fairly simple in that all of the waste produced in a given period (two weeks for trash, one week for recycling and compost) is sorted into categories and measured by both weight and volume. The intrepid sustainability detectives conducting our audits also make qualitative observations on the nature and quantity of waste in order to ask questions and seek improvement. We take safety seriously, so we wore appropriate footwear and gloves, and plenty of Badger sunscreen! We also rubbed a bit of Aromatic Chest Rub beneath our noses to mask the smell of trash!
Though Badger is a growing company, we essentially operate as a large household with three waste streams: compost, recycling, and trash. Due to our natural, holistic, and environmentally friendly approach to product formulation and business, we don’t produce hazardous waste.
What We Found
- For the first time, we calculated our landfill diversion rate, which is the percentage of waste we divert from the landfill through composting and recycling (see formula below). We are thrilled to say that our landfill diversion rate was 83.84%, meaning that only 16.16% of our waste currently goes to the landfill!
- While we celebrate our high landfill diversion rate, we realize that this is in part because we are currently recycling a lot of cardboard (70.58% of total recycling by weight, or 52.53% of our total waste stream by weight). We would like to find creative ways to reduce this number, and honor that the phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is in this particular order for a reason!
- We are proud to say that even though our regular workforce expanded by 18.9% this year (not including seasonal help, which also grew), we reduced our true trash by 25.68% by weight and 56.05% by volume!
Why We Share
You may be wondering why we choose to share the contents of our waste with you. As a Benefit Corporation and a B Corp, transparency and accountability are key operating principles we choose to live by. We do this out of honesty and integrity and as a part of a greater community striving to use business as a force for good. We hope that by being open and sharing best practices, we can help inspire and be inspired by others.
DIY Landfill Diversion Rate Calculation
If you are interested in learning about (and improving) your own impact, we invite you to conduct a mini waste audit to determine your landfill diversion rate at home! Here’s what you will need:
- A well-ventilated place to conduct the audit
- A tarp
- A bathroom scale
- A container to weigh waste in
- All of your waste from a given period, typically at least one week
- Separate your waste by stream: trash, recycling, and compost (if you compost) and find a tare weight for your container
- Measure recycling first as this will keep it clean of trash. Next, put recycling in your container and weigh it; be sure to subtract the weight of the container! Document these numbers. Do the same for trash and compost.
- As you look through your trash, observe what you see. Are there things that you could divert by making different purchasing choices? Are there items that could be recycled? Document what you see in writing or with photos for comparison with future audits.
- Document these numbers and save for comparison in future years! Think you can do better? Then set a goal for the future and brainstorm ways to get there!
Determine your landfill diversion rate using the following formula:
(Weight of recycling + weight of compost)
(total weight of waste (compost + recycling + trash))
= your landfill diversion!
Share your observations, and your landfill diversion rate, in the comments!