50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line

Sheridan has been around for 50 years, so we decided to come up with 50 ways you can green-up your work life and reduce your office waste line.

Each week for 50 weeks, the Office for Sustainability and Green Teams will be challenging you to take a green action in one of the following 10 categories: eating, drinking, cleaning, meeting, computing, ordering, leaving, commuting, being, and knowing. The challenges will progress through each category for five cycles. So there will be five different ways in each category for you to act on. As we announce a new challenge each week, a new leaf will come out in this Sheridan sustainability tree below.

There are five writers who create content for each post. They are Jacinda Frazer, Neil Baldwin,  Melissa Friesen, Dave Clark and Wai Chu Cheng.

We hope you will take on these challenges and help Sheridan move towards Mission Zero. Stay tuned for a new Challenge every week!

Week 1 – Eating

Refuse bags, excess packaging, and unnecessary condiments on take-away food

  

Welcome to Week One of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. In this week, we invite you to consider refusing bags and any excessive packaging and condiments when taking out food.

One Thing You Can Do:

When you order your takeout lunch at the Cafeteria or restaurant, one thing you can do is specify to your server that there is no need to provide the takeout bag. As well, you can pick up only the condiment items you will need.

For example, at Subway Sandwiches, do you really need an additional bag when your sandwich is already neatly wrapped in the sandwich paper? As well, ask yourself do you really need all the condiments? Remember condiments come in packages. If you don’t need the condiment, you are saving one package from being disposed into the landfill site.

Concerning Facts:

According to a new cradle to grave study, we are becoming a “plastic planet”.

Around 9.1 billion tons of plastics have been produced since 1950. All kinds of plastics are found everywhere. They are used for packaging from plastic bottles and consumer goods to construction materials and everyday clothing. The problem is that plastics do not break down easily and the majority of the materials end up as waste in landfills and litter on land and in oceans, lakes and rivers. What is alarming is that scientists found plastics in the body of marine animals, including planktons. Planktons are small microscopic organisms feeding many other animals above them in the food chain. In the Scientist video above, you can see that a plankton is eating plastic. This shows one of the key dangers of plastic litter in the environment.

Week 2 – Drinking

Decline a double cup when ordering hot drinks; avoid sleeves, lids, or straws unless necessary.

Welcome to Week Two of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we talked about refusing bags and any excessive packaging and condiments when purchasing food. This week, we invite you to say “No” to double cups, sleeves, lids, and straws when possible.

One Thing You Can Do:

Make/purchase your own mug cozy! If you want to reduce your “waste line” but a single cup of your morning Joe burns your hand, consider making or purchasing your own reusable fabric mug cozy. You can find adorable ones online, make one yourself, or ask a crafty friend to sew or knit you a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. You can also purchase a silicone re-usable lid or stainless steel straw if these are must-haves for you!

If you are up for the challenge of making your own cozy, the video above below provides a fun, eco-friendly, no-sew tutorial.

Related Facts:

Did you know that the disposable paper cup is embedded with plastic lining which helps insulate the cup but makes it non-recyclable at the same time? As part of Sheridan’s Zero Waste initiative, Sheridan is diverting the paper cup from landfills. At the Zero Waste station, the paper cup goes to the Green bin (“Organics” bin), the plastic lid and the cup sleeve go to the Blue bin (“Mixed Recycling” bin). However, when the lid and the sleeve are not separated from the cup, they become contaminants in each of the three bins. According to our 2016 Waste Audit, the paper cup with lid/sleeve were among the top contaminants in the Green and Blue bins. Specifically, they contributed to 2.8% (or 3,366 kg annually) of contaminants in the Green bin, and 3.1% (or 5,900 kg annually) of contaminants in the Blue bin.

You can help reduce contamination of the Zero Waste station by creating your own re-usable cup sleeve!

Week 3 – Cleaning

Think before you discard anything — Can you reuse or re-purpose it?

Welcome to Week 3 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we talked about saying “No” to double cups, sleeves, lids, and straws when possible. This week, we invite you to think before you discard anything —  Can you reuse or re-purpose it?

One Thing You Can Do

Reuse plastic bags.  Plastic bags are typically offered after a purchase is made, so keep a bunch nearby when shopping, in your purse, car, knapsack, etc. so it will be easily accessible for you to reuse.  This will also allow you to decline receipt of more bags.  There are many other ways to reuse plastic bags.  For example, you can use them to cover plants from frost, use as extra padding when packing or use as gloves to cover your hands.   See the following website for 60+ ways to reuse plastic bags.

Photo Credit

Part 2 Concerning Facts

Canadians use 9 to 15 billion plastic bags a year, which is enough to circle the Earth more than 55 times, according to the Greener Footprints website. Plastic bags can be placed in your recycling bin in some municipalities, however they are not biodegradable.  So what happens to the bags when they are recycled?  They are taken to a recycling centre and are melted down to create new batches of plastic bags. This process is much more efficient than making the bags from scratch and gentler on the environment.

However, most plastic bags are not recycled. They accumulate in the ocean, they litter our streets and natural areas, often clogging drainage systems and contributing to flooding. They take at least 1,000 years to break down.  They fragment into smaller and smaller pieces, making them more likely to be eaten by marine and land animals.  They also are made up of petroleum, so continued and increasing use of it accelerates the depletion of valuable fossil fuels. According to Greener Footprints, 8.7 plastic shopping bags contain enough embodied petroleum energy to drive a car one kilometre. (David Suzuki Foundation)

So reuse your plastic bag, wash it regularly and recycle it when it cannot be used any longer!

Week 4 – Meeting

Instead of printing copies of documents to bring to a meeting, use electronic copies or simply share with a colleague.

Welcome to Week 4 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we asked you to think of ways to reuse or repurpose an item before discarding it. This week, as we continue our journey through 10 different themes (10 categories x 5 successively greener challenges = 50 Ways), we look at more sustainable ways to have work meetings.

One Thing You Can Do

As an attendee, bring soft copies of documents, not printed copies, or share with a colleague. Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, Publisher, etc.) and Acrobat Reader PDFs can all be easily viewed on your computer or tablet, and those applications also have features to make “on the side” notes. So plan ahead to have access to electronic versions, whether logging in to your Sheridan account on your computer/device, putting them on a USB key, or simply email the documents to yourself and let the meeting organizer know you will not need a printed version. If you cannot do without a paper copy perhaps arrange in advance to share with a colleague or two! Every sheet not printed makes a difference — see below!

Some Facts

We often joke about “killing some trees” when we print documents, but since most printer paper has a high percentage of recycled content, the trees may be the least of our worries. When you create paper versions of temporary/working documents, or documents there is no reason to retain in print form, think beyond trees. Think about the energy and resources used to create the paper, to package it, to market it, to ship raw materials to the factory, and finished paper from factory to wholesaler to retailer to Sheridan. Think about the energy used by the printer and about the little piece of carbon footprint with each use (every print job reduces a small portion of the printer’s life cycle). Think about the chemicals (toner) introduced into the world with each page you print. Think about the energy, and more chemicals, that will be used to reprocess your document when you discard it into recycling within hours or days of the meeting, and that paper is mostly “down-cycled” to gradually lesser grades.

Learn more about how paper is recycled. Recycling is better than landfill. Re-using is preferable to recycling. But not creating the object in the first place (Reducing – the other “R”) is even better. You have the power to choose not to bring additional things (paper, chemicals, packaging, etc.) into the world and to reduce *your* carbon footprint in the process.

Log in to Sheridan’s Papercut account via Access Sheridan (under Software Installation in Sheridan Resources) to see the breakdown of resources used by your print jobs. You may be surprised by the amount of carbon being used.

Week 5 – Computing

Save paper by limiting yourself from printing out emails. Consider including a do-not-print “it’s green on the screen” tag in your signature block.

Welcome to Week 5 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we asked you to think of ways to use electronic copies of documents when attending meetings instead of printing out physical copies. This week, we look at ways to keep your electronic-mails (a.k.a emails) just that… electronic!

One Thing You Can Do

Many people are already used to reading emails on the screen rather than on hard copies. You can encourage other people to have this green practice by including a “Think Green, Leave it on the Screen!” (or similar) footnote to your email signature. The goal is to reduce the number of printed emails and attachments not only at Sheridan, but at ALL offices with which we, as an Institution, communicate on a daily basis.

Some emails between certain individuals necessitate the creation of a “paper trail”. With today’s technology, that trail doesn’t NEED to be made of paper. In fact, it is just as easy to create digital copies to eliminate the paper waste entirely! Consider exporting the email in question to a PDF file, and then storing it to a Sheridan network or SharePoint drive (or Dropbox, or Google Drive, or OneDrive, or… or… or…). Accessible to whoever you choose, this drive or online folder can replace the traditional binder of old, shedding all of the paper waste that goes along with it… which, if we are being honest, might get read once before it gets shredded 5 years from now anyway!

If you need a signature on an official document, then make some inquiries to see if a digital signature would suffice. This is a feature available in Adobe Acrobat, and only takes a few minutes to set up.

Should you have any questions on how to do any of the above, a simple internet search should find the answers you need, or if all else fails, contact the Sheridan College Service Desk at ext. 2150, or servicedesk@sheridancollege.ca.

Some Facts

·       70% of used cartridges end up in landfill, taking hundreds of years to decompose ·        40-60% of help desk calls in an office-type environment are for print-related issues
·       The average lifespan of a printed document is 5 minutes ·        17% of all documents printed are never even used
·       A typical office employee prints 30 pages per day, or 10,000 pages per year, at an average annual cost of $725 ·        Office print expenses are typically the 3rd highest business expense after rent and payroll
Data Source: https://dbsxrx.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Print-Less-Print-for-Less.pdf

Again, the same as last week, log in to Sheridan’s Papercut account via Access Sheridan (under Software Installation in Sheridan Resources) to see the breakdown of resources used by your print jobs. You may be surprised by the amount of carbon being used!

Week 6 – Ordering

Before ordering office supplies, check if they exist elsewhere in your department.

Welcome to Week 6 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we asked you to save paper by avoiding to print out emails and reminding others to do the same. This week, we look at ways to reduce the need to order office supplies.

One Thing You Can Do:

Before ordering supplies, it is a good idea to check if they exist elsewhere in your department. Find out if there is any shared space that your department is using to keep supplies. If such a space does not exist, take the initiative to set up one with your colleagues and keep it organized and accessible to everyone in your department. This shared storage space can be a drawer or a cabinet. When someone is cleaning up their office, any reusable items that are still in good conditions can go to this shared space. A variety of items, such as document binders, pen holders and push pins should be reused to maximize their full life span.

Useful Resource: How to Sort Office Waste for Reuse?

By being prudent in ordering supplies, there will be fewer things to sort or dispose of when you need to clean up your office. This poster below has been created to help people to sort their waste when they need to move or clean up their office.  It shows some good examples of reusable and recyclable items.

 

Week 7 – Leaving

Make a point to turn off unnecessary lighting and follow a “last person out turns out the lights” policy.

Welcome to Week 7 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we asked you to think of ways to check and see if the office supplies you require exist elsewhere in your department. This week, we look at ways to reduce our electricity consumption by adopting a lights out culture when leaving communal workspaces for the day.

One Thing You Can Do

Sheridan is well underway with the various Integrated Energy and Climate Master Plan-related energy retrofits across its three campuses. The most visibly noticeable of these are the various lighting systems across Sheridan’s labs, offices, classrooms and communal spaces. While these new fixtures and related controls/occupancy sensors have drastically reduced the energy consumed by lighting systems on campus, even more savings can be realized by adopting a “last person out gets the lights” culture.

If you happen to be the last person to leave your specific workspace at the end of the day, take a minute to look around and observe any lights that might have been left on by mistake. Examples of this would include goose-neck desk lights, or desk-integrated task lighting, such as this one on the left. These lights are usually controlled by a simple on/off switch, and if left in the “On” position, will act as a welcoming beacon for those that arrive the next morning… wasting electricity in the process!

For more information on how to use the new lighting controls in each of the spaces above, see the Mission Zero Lighting Controls page.

If you happen to be the last person to leave your specific workspace at the end of the day, take a minute to look around and observe any lights that might have been left on by mistake. Examples of this would include goose-neck desk lights, or desk-integrated task lighting, such as this one on the left. These lights are usually controlled by a simple on/off switch, and if left in the “On” position, will act as a welcoming beacon for those that arrive the next morning… wasting electricity in the process!

For more information on how to use the new lighting controls in each of the spaces above, see the Mission Zero Lighting Controls page.

Some Facts

  • According to Zion Market Research, the global LED lighting market accounted for US$26.09 billion in 2016, and is expected to reach US$54.28 billion by 2022, growing at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 13%
  • LEDs have a general life expectancy of 50,000 hrs. If used for 10 hrs/day, this equates to a total usable lifespan of 13.7 years! Perhaps they are worth the few extra dollars after all!
  • Save ON Energy Deal Days are on from October 6th to November 5th. Save on energy-efficient products at your favorite retailer! See ca/dealdays for more details and to download printable coupons

Week 8 – Commuting

In multi-car households, use the more energy efficient vehicle to commute.

Welcome to Week 8 of 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week we talked about turning off lights when you leave the office. This week, we invite you to take a critical look at the vehicles your household utilizes and choose the more energy efficient vehicle to commute the farther distance.

One Thing You Can Do:

If you are part of a multi-car household, the driver who has the longer trip can take the more efficient vehicle to reduce emissions. Natural Resources Canada has a great list of the most fuel efficient vehicles which can help you make this distinction; in general, the smaller the vehicle, the more efficient it will be. Driving the more efficient car the longer distance will help reduce your family’s carbon emissions and reduce pollution.

Additional Information:

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, consider purchasing an electric car; there are lots of options available now at various price points. Electric cars are a great alternative to conventional gas cars as they have very low carbon emissions, do not require gasoline (think about the savings at the pump in addition to reducing the environmental impact of extracting and processing oil) and require much less maintenance than gasoline power cars. Below are some “Fast Facts” on Canadian electric cars from PLUG ‘N Drive:

  • There are more than 28,000 electric cars on the road in Canada
  • Provincial incentives in British Colombia, Ontario, and Quebec can save you up to $14,000 off your vehicle purchase and $1,000 off your home charging station
  • Driving an electric car can save you between $1,500-$2,000 per year on fuel and maintenance
  • Canada’s electricity is clean with the majority of our power coming from hydro and nuclear
  • Driving an electric car can reduce your vehicle’s emissions by as much as 90%
  • Canada has more than 4,500 public charging stations, 150 of which are Level 3 fast chargers
  • There are 23 models available for sale in Canada with more on the way

You can help reduce vehicle pollution by using your household’s more energy efficient vehicle for your daily trek to work!

Week 9 – Being

Take a break out of your day to reflect and you will be surprised how this can help you clear your mind and become more aware of your consumption needs.

Welcome to Week 9 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line.  Last week, we invited you to choose the more energy efficient vehicle to commute to farther distances. This week we ask you to consider the practice of mindful consumption.

One Thing You Can Do

It seems we’re always in a rush to get our destinations.  Whether it’s navigating the gridlock of rush hour or running late to a meeting, we anxiously scurry around to complete one task and then quickly move on to the next.  We subconsciously meet the demands of our daily routines without taking a moment to reflect and contemplate the impact of our actions on our self, community and environment.

Studies have shown that taking a few minutes out of our day to clear the mind can improve our quality of life.  Taking a reflective break helps to cultivate a sense of calm and centeredness.  These acts of mindfulness often encourage increased creativity, insight and personal responsibility.

Furthermore, individuals who are considerate towards self, society and nature, will also carefully attend to how their consumption needs affect others and their environment.   Dr. Sabrina Helm, Retailing and Consumer Sciences professor at the University of Arizona, describes “mindful consumption” as the practice of the consumer in adopting flexible options and novel approaches in the purchase, usage and disposal of goods which reduce his/her overall consumption.

Image Source

Here are a few more ways to create more space for mindfulness in our day.

  • Try arriving early to work or school so we can take a longer route. This creates an opportunity to be present in the moment and build exercise into our daily schedule.
  • If we drive to work, we could opt to park in a spot further away in order to appreciate time and receive some fresh air. We will also likely save time by not circling continuously around the parking lot searching for a nearby spot.
  • If we take the bus, we could get off one stop before our destination and take a different path to our destination while burning some extra calories.
  • We can take a short walk during our lunch or strategically plan to access a washroom that is further away to change the scenery and get a fresh perspective.

So why not give it a try!  Set a goal to intentionally schedule more physical-mental breaks during your daily routine and monitor how this practice impacts your waste footprint on earth.  Tip: To increase the likelihood of fulfilling this goal, partner with a colleague or friend and share how mindfulness has affected each of your consumption behaviours.

Additional information:

To learn more about being present and improve life with mindfulness, please visit the website here.

Week 10 – Knowing

Welcome to Week 10 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we invited you to consider the practice of mindful consumption. This week, we ask you to learn about what goes in which of the three Zero Waste sorting bins at Sheridan.

One Thing You Can Do

As part of our unique Zero Waste program, Sheridan is collecting organic waste and paper coffee cups in the Green bin, which is available in hallways and office areas across all three campuses. In every Zero Waste station, the three bins are set up side by side, from left to right: Green bin for Organic waste and paper coffee cups, Blue bin for Mixed Recycling waste, and Black bin for Landfill waste. To help Sheridan reduce the waste that is sent to landfills, one thing you can do is to take a closer look at the “Zero Waste Gets Real – What Goes Where” poster below. It indicates what goes into each of the three bins at each Zero Waste station. If you look carefully at the types of waste in each waste stream, you may find that they vary slightly from the acceptable items that go into your waste bins at home.

Useful Resource: What Goes Where?

To learn more about what goes in each of the three bins at the Zero Waste station, you can also do a quick search at the Mission Zero website. Some frequently asked questions are available on this page as well.

Week 11 – Eating

Bring reusable cutlery for your take-away food.

Welcome to Week 11 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we invite you to learn what goes in which of our three Zero Waste sorting bins. This week, we are going back to eating, the first of the 10 themes (10 categories x 5 successively greener challenges = 50 Ways). We invite you to bring reusable cutlery and napkins for your take-away food.

One Thing You Can Do:

One of the biggest challenges we are dealing with is the huge amount of plastic waste in our oceans. The plastic pollution is causing a high level of health risk to marine animals and potentially humans as mentioned in a previous post in September. We can address the plastic waste problem by reducing the use of packaging as it is mostly made of plastic materials. There are different initiatives in a number of developed countries addressing the plastic waste problem. France has banned the use of plastic cutlery, cups and plates. On a personal level, you can help by using your own cutlery when having take-away food. Your food would likely taste better with your green practice. Plastic cutlery is not recyclable. It goes to the Landfill (Black) bin at the Zero Waste station at Sheridan.

Concerning Numbers:

  • 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • only 14% of global plastic packaging is collected for recycling and only 2% is reused as packaging. In total, $80-$120 billion of value is lost annually.
  • It can take 450 years for some types of plastic bottle to break down; one type, PET, while recyclable, doesn’t biodegrade at all.

For more information, you can read the report The New Plastic Economy by World Economic Forum and the Throwaway Culture article by the UK Guardian.

Week 12 – Drinking

Save and reuse cup trays and sleeves.

Welcome to Week 12 of the 50 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Line. Last week, we invited you to use your own cutlery for take-away food. This week, we are going back to drinking, the second of the 10 themes (10 categories x 5 successively greener challenges = 50 Ways), and we ask you to save and reuse cup trays and sleeves.

One Thing You Can Do:

If you are one of those everyday heroes who picks up the coffee order for your office/buddies/family we are so SO thankful for your efforts! One way that you can reduce the waste caused by these coffee runs is by keeping and reusing the cup trays for each of your trips. You can even decorate or personalize your tray and share a bit of personality! And when you have to throw them out in the end, cup trays should go to the Green bin and the cup sleeves go to the Blue bin.

Additionally, if you like a sleeve with your drink, you can make one of our DIY cozies from last month or hang onto the cardboard sleeve provided with the drink and use it over and over again!

Additional Information:

We talk a lot about recycling and the environmental benefits of recycling over throwing items in the trash but often forget about the first 2R’s – reduce and reuse. If we consume less new product we stop pollution and environmental damage before it starts. The David Suzuki Foundation has an article on their website called “Five ways to recycle less” which provides some easy ideas for avoiding the necessity of waste management.