Waste Hierarchy: Utilities
The topic for this week was Utilities, 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.
This week we're going to be covering Utilities, which is electricity, gas, water, phones and internet. These can represent a major cost for many organisations, and create a lot of unseen waste - especially in the form of emmissions which are direct contributors to the climate emergency. The first step is to measure how much you're using so that you can quantify future reductions and gain control of your use of essential resource.
Do you know how much your workplaces uses? Do you know where your phone and internet suppliers stand on sustainability issues and how much they use to provide your services?
What could you be doing differently?
You can REFUSE high emissions from fossil fuel use by switching to green suppliers of electricity, internet and telecomms. If you can move away from using natural or LPG gas completely then that will also save emissions and reduce stress on a non-renewable resource, although a number of energy companies are also working on greener gas solutions. These include using slurry waste from existing pig farms to create bio-gas, or getting bio-gas from organic waste stocks, all of which can be fed back into the gas grid.
Probably the easiest level to approach with utilities, REDUCING means looking at resource efficiency in an effort to use less (and certainly to waste less). I highly recommend the Green Champions Training on the Resource Efficient Scotland website for a step-by-step guide to measuring and reducing your usage, while appointing/electing an advocate to champion green efforts in your workplace can really help to drive change.
A big reminder here also that even the act of monitoring your use and displaying those stats for everyone to see can be really effective in increasing awareness and starting to bring those numbers down, without all the nagging!
The REUSE of utilities is a tricky one, and mostly applies to water. There are a number of ways to channel, store and filter greywater for reuse, and although we are lucky to have quite a lot of water in the UK (and do not suffer the water shortages of drier nations), clean water is still a valuable resource and pumping it, heating it and then taking it away again uses quite a lot of hidden energy, so it is still worth looking at ways to save and reuse it where you can.
Again, the RECYCLING of utilities can be a tricky concept, and so here we focus on fitting the utilities into the bigger picture of the circular economy that we're building. Here we look at the essential practice of neutralising the emissions we make ourselves by planting trees, and how we might support clean energy infrastructure or feed back utilities into the community.
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!