Towards Zero Waste: An Engaging Journey

 

waste audit to work towards zero waste

We’re not afraid to “get dirty” here at Badger. In fact, four times a year you can find us happily digging through our trash and recycling. Why? Because assessing our waste is part of our commitment to improving our impact and moving toward 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. Just as archaeologists piece together human cultures of the past by looking at what they left behind, we can also learn a lot about our environmental impact by examining what we discard.

Led by our Sustainability Committee (a cross-departmental group of employees), our waste assessments have unearthed valuable information that has led to significant changes in our environmental practices. And in 2.5 years of measuring our waste, we reduced our trash by 77%, sending only 8.9% of our “waste” to the landfill in 2017!

What we found:

Zero Waste Graphic

Lots of diapers from the child care center, which prompted two Badger employees to launch a cloth diaper company serving not just Badger but also the region.

11% of trash was paper napkins and towels. So we purchased energy-efficient electric hand dryers (the super-cool ones that work really fast!). We also switched to cloth napkins, laundered by the same employee-led cloth diaper company!

16% of trash was label backs. You know the paper that’s affixed behind stickers? Well, we use a lot of stickers–everything from beautiful art and logo stickers to shipping labels, so we switched to using labels with recyclable backing whenever possible.

Recycling and trash improperly sorted. Hey, even us Badgers aren’t perfect! So the sustainability committee has worked toward better education and awareness around what goes where. Now we have very little misplacement when it comes to trash and recycling!

A large percentage of our recycling was cardboard boxes. So we began a program to reuse our cardboard boxes, when feasible, in the shipments we send to our wholesale customers. We let them know the box has been reused using this sticker:

Recycled Box Label

Doing the right thing is a natural part of Badger’s culture. It is the collective effort of everyone working together in addition to making waste assessments an integral part of our culture and practice that has allowed us to make such significant progress so quickly.

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
  • Gloves
  • A tarp
  • A bathroom scale
  • A container to weigh waste in
  • All of your waste from a given period, typically at least one week

Process

    1. Separate your waste by stream: trash, recycling, and compost (if you compost) and find a tare weight for your container
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

Badger’s landfill diversion rate in 2017 was 91% diverted! Determine your landfill diversion rate using the following formula:

(Weight of recycling + weight of compost)
÷
(total weight of waste (compost + recycling + trash))
X 100
= your landfill diversion rate!

    1. 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!

Share your observations, and your landfill diversion rate, in the comments!

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