By: Lynaya Astephen, Xerox Green Champion

Composting your way to a better planet

Picture the lowly bathroom paper towel. As paper, you might think it is at the end of the line, unsuitable for further recycling. Think again. Paper towel can be turned into compost, which reduces landfill and makes for a great soil conditioner — a natural alternative to fertilizer for gardens that also helps retain moisture.

For these reasons, the idea of composting is universally welcomed at their home. But what about the office? Will the process of moving the used paper towels from office to composter work, or will it interfere with business operations?

The Environment Committee at Xerox North American Inside Sales in Saint John, New Brunswick found a solution. The team began looking into composting in January 2015. They partnered with Fundy Region Solid Waste, who, like Xerox, is a member of Sustainable Saint John – an organization comprised of local businesses and organizations committed to knowledge sharing the most effective means of addressing environmental concerns.

“We met with our operation managers in the building to discuss their concerns, which included odors, fruit flies, the work process changes for the janitors, and keeping animals from getting in the bins outside,” says Brian Comeau, past Chair of the Saint John Green Team. “With these concerns satisfied, we talked to garbage removal companies and the cleaning staff to ensure a smooth roll out.”

The first load of paper towels was sent to the composter just prior to Earth Day 2016. With restrooms on three floors of office space, more than 30 rolls of paper towel per week are now diverted from landfill and are sent to a compost facility where the public can purchase the finished compost product at a low price for use in their flower gardens or lawns.

And that smell? That would be the flowers.

Give away, not throw away

Another worthy goal: promote more recycling in your building. The Saint John office already had recycling bins located on the first floor in their cafeteria, but they were not sufficient for a three-story building. The easiest solution: add more bins on each floor. Rather than purchase additional bins, the Xerox team worked with Sustainable Saint John to receive unused recycling bins from another member, which they were happy to give away, rather than throw away.

The new bins are located in the kitchenettes on each floor, complete with new posters that let people know what they can recycle.

Get up, walk, toss, sit down

How do you reduce the use of garbage bags when every desk has a garbage can?

The answer is simple: remove garbage cans from desks and encourage colleagues to walk to a centrally-located depository. This not only helps reduce waste, but it helps to promote additional exercise and makes less work for the cleaners.

The show-stopper: It’s not a great idea for employee morale.

But everyone likes ice cream.

That’s the nub behind another idea the Xerox team borrowed from a Sustainable Saint John partner. They offered a two-for-one promo: Give up one deskside bin and two people get ice cream. Timing is everything, so plan the swap for a nice summer day.

At Xerox, people lined up to get rid of their garbage cans, which were piled up to the ceiling.

For the Xerox Saint John team, their efforts are rooted in optimism and have been recognized with seven awards by the Sustainable Saint John organization. The team is most proud that they are able to meet their sustainability goals and help make our earth a better place to live.

To learn more about sustainability efforts at Xerox, read our Report on Global Citizenship.

Have some tips to share about how YOU have made your office greener? Let us know in the comments section below.