Waste Reduction At Work: Meetings

Meetings happen so often in the workplace that we probably do not think about the waste we generate when we attend. Here are some waste reduction tips for your future face-time requirements:

Send the agenda via e-mail ahead of time so you do not have to print it.

Not only will you help others decide whether this particular meeting warrants their attendance, attendees can also send you any corrections, additions, or deletions to the agenda ahead of time. Instead of going over the agenda in the beginning of the meeting, you can start the meeting with your first topic already since everyone already knows what the meeting will cover. No time wasted! If you sent the agenda ahead of time and you still plan to provide paper copies to everyone at the meeting, let attendees know so that they do not print a copy for themselves to bring.

Maximize your existing office equipment and tools.

Instead of paper copies, coworkers can use laptops and handheld mobile devices to view electronic copies of agendas and handouts. If you have a dry erase board, scribble the agenda on it; agendas are not usually kept for posterity anyway. Consider using a projector to project larger-than-life images of what would have been paper handouts.

Use compostable plates and utensils.

Food is a great way to get people to attend meetings. Unfortunately, these kinds of meetings create the most trash. If food will be served, remember to use compostable plates and utensils so that they can be tossed in the compost bin after use. Explicitly telling coworkers that they are using compostable serviceware and providing an accessible, clearly marked container to collect all compostables (and removing the trash can) at the meeting decreases the likelihood that these items would find their way into the trash. Not to mention, you would not have to scrape food off of plates if you use compostable ones since all food scraps (and food-soiled paper like pizza boxes and used paper towels) can also go into the compost bin. Here’s a list of compostable plates and utensils that are accepted here in Kirkland.

Keep track of attendees using an online event system.

Large meetings can be a logistical nightmare, but there are tools out there that can help. For our twice-a-year Sustainability Education Series, I find EventBrite to be a useful online tool to keep track of attendees (and it’s free to use). It allows me to advertise the events; keep track of registrations, cancellations, and waitlists; and communicate with all attendees for each event without having to open up any other software program (no need to open Outlook to receive individual RSVPs via e-mail, Excel to create a spreadsheet of attendees, or Word/Publisher to create a printed flyer).

Think reusable instead of disposable.

While most of our meetings are with the same group of people that we already know by name, some meetings are attended by people we have not yet met. Instead of using those sticky nametags that adhere directly to one’s top, opt to use plastic nametags with paper inserts. After the meeting, collect all nametags and replace the inserts for the next big event you are organizing. Besides, those sticky nametags never stay put: save people the embarrassment of finding their nametag stuck to other parts of their body and use a more durable and reusable nametag instead.

What have you done to minimize the waste at your meetings? Let me know!