Many nonprofit centers I’ve visited do a lot to reduce their carbon footprint, from putting in super-efficient HVAC systems and bio-walls to replacing your trash-can with a recycling bin. Since approximately 20% of office waste is organic matter, the next step for many groups is to start an office composting program. Both centers I’ve worked out of, the Thoreau Center for Sustainability in San Francisco and The Alliance Center in Denver, have run successful composting programs for years. Here are some tips your space.
Contact your city’s waste management division. More and more cities are coming up with inventive ways to deal with food waste. If they don’t have a composting program, there may be a nonprofit program that does this work in your area, or your trash collection companies may be a resource.
Build your own composting bins. If there isn’t a commercial option available, some businesses have built on-site composting bins. You’ll have to make sure to keep food waste secure from local wildlife. Or you can compost inside through vermicomposting – a process that uses worms to transform your waste quickly. Another alternative would be to reach out to local community gardens who always need organic fertilizer.
Education is crucial. Make sure the people in your building know what is compostable and what isn’t. Clear signage with good visuals eliminates confusion. Thoreau Center took the visual concept a bit further with the installation of a mixed media sculpture that illustrates the three streams of waste – garbage, recycling, and compost – with real examples.
Purchase compostable paper plates and cutlery for events. The Alliance Center partners with a catering company that uses compostable materials for all their events. Be aware of the distinction between “compostable” and “biodegradable” products. Something that is biodegradable might contain chemicals that are harmful to the composting process. Beware of greenwashing in this area – some vendors will try to sell you biodegradable products in compostable packaging.
Empty the compost daily. If it’s not emptied daily and kept clean, it gets smelly fast – although if you have worm composting odor is less of an issue.
Composting is a great way to reduce your center’s carbon footprint and help the environment. As an added bonus, this practice may help tenants qualify for Green Business Certification in some cities. What is your center trying to do for a green 2016?