Waste Hierarchy: Stationery
The topic for this week was Stationery, and here is the week's roundup!
We took the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid and used it to identify opportunities in the workplace for approaching consumption differently. As always, the idea of the Waste Hierarchy is to work through the levels in order, but ultimately for all levels to work together at the same time to prevent and minimise your waste.
Remember, it's ok to take it in stages, to focus on your quick-wins first and then move towards deeper change as you gain confidence.
I love stationery shops...the neat rows of multi-coloured items all lined up, the different types of paper, and the endless combinations and creative possibilities contained within each blank page of a shiny new notebook. I could happily get lost for hours in the aisles or pages of a stationery catalogue.
In many workplaces, there's even a certain amount of prestige associated with being in charge of the keys to the stationery cupboard, and a sharp eye needed to protect against the theft of the best post-its or premium pens. Yet there's no denying that supplies of this kind can add a significant amount of waste to our workplaces, especially when nearly everything is made of plastic or comes individually wrapped in plastic film.
Conserving such desirable (and easily portable!) supplies takes a shift in awareness from the entire organisation, and a refocus on how we can use what we need to use without being wasteful. For my own part, I have given up buying those many shiny new notebooks (and fancy pens, and new coloured post-its, and...) and concentrate on enjoying the bounty I already have.
Do you have any stories about stationery use (or misuse) in your workplace?
Packaging is the first thing to avoid on the REFUSE level of the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid, while some common stationery tools can be found in much more sustainable materials - always use up what you have first then look for better materials next time you're due to replace longer-lasting items anyway.
Also watch out for the tiny bits of avoidable waste, like the plastic wrapping on coloured paperclips or thumbtacks, or the use of staples (which can jam shredders or cause trouble in paper recycling and are best avoided altogether).
What can you refuse?
Behaviour change can be the most effective way to REDUCE waste from stationery - creating a culture of valuing resources can be really powerful for any organisation and can spread to other areas of the workplace to prevent even the smallest items being frittered away.
Changing to a green stationery supplier will also help you reduce the impact of the stationery you do need; not a fix-all solution as many products still contain plastic or packaging, but certainly a good place to start :)
Bringing REUSABILITY into your stationery use is simpler than you might think, with many new products to help you, from refillable pens and ink cartridges to reusable notebooks and planners. And as usual, buying high quality items that colleagues will value and use for a long time is better than buying cheap pens that run out the second time you use them and get thrown out or lost almost immediately.
You can design the end of your stationery into your purchasing decisons, making sure that all items have somewhere to go after they have outlived their usefulness.
Don't be afraid to contact brands and suppliers to ask them to work with you to find solutions to anything that doesn't fit into the circular economy that we're all building together. If it doesn't have a place in that new economy then it shouldn't be made at all!
As always, this is just one example of how to work through a problem using the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid; every workplace is different so don't be intimidated by all the different options, just do what you can and work towards long term change.
After all, working towards sustainability is a process, and starting imperfectly is better than not starting at all!