If you're already conserving energy, reusing and recycling paper and purchasing green office products at work, the next big step can be composting on the job and using it to green the surrounding landscape. If your office property permits use of the grounds in this manner, you can compost on site, and if it doesn't, you can still pursue other avenues to keep the compostable food waste from going into the garbage. (See References 1)
Assemble a workplace "Green Team" with committed leaders managing your office compost program (see References 3). Kick things off by publicizing your switch to a three-stream waste system, whereby the office will provide separate receptacles for trash, recycling and compost (see References 1, p. 98). An educational poster or exhibit near the lunch room can explain the program (see References 5). Place sealable containers for compost in your office kitchen, food preparation area or snack room. These can be 13-gallon kitchen waste cans or smaller lidded buckets (see References 3). Employees can add coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable wastes and eggshells to these bin (see References 1, p. 126). Avoid adding meat and diary waste.
A designated member of the Green Team can collect the food waste daily from the snack room and other collection points and place it in the central container or directly into the composter. It's better to assign this duty to a Green Team member rather than custodial staff to better keep an eye on what is going into the composter, recommends the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Your office may be able to switch to collecting food waste two to three times a week depending on how much volume you see. (See References 3)
Your composter set-up should match your needs and business aesthetics, recommends Trish Riley and Heather Gadonniex in "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Greening Your Business (see References 1)." Options include a compost tumbler or plastic compost bins and digesters if you have access to garden space and want to avoid the tumbledown look of a loose or fenced compost bin. If you don't have a yard or grassy area for the compost, you can use an electronic composter that dries and automatically stirs the compost or a worm bin. (See References 2, p. 20)
Food scraps, which constitute green or nitrogen-rich material, need to be mixed with brown or carbon-rich materials in the compost bin. Options for "browns" include dried leaves and grass, shredded paper and soaked and shredded cardboard. Follow the compost bin's instructions on how long to wait for your finished compost. (See References 1) If you can't gain permission to compost your organic waste on the premises, contact a local waste hauler to see if the vendor can handle compost separately from general trash and recycling (see References 1, p. 98). Or have employees take turns taking home the compost (see References 4).
- "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Greening Your Business"; Trish Rileyand Heather Gadonniex; 2009
- "Greening Your Office: From Cupboard to Corporation: An A-Z Guide"; Jon Clift, et al.; 2008
- City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability: Composting in an Office Space
- Green America: Green Your Office in Ten Easy Steps
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Best Practices at EPA's Laboratories; May 2011
Rogue Parrish is a writer and editor with Demand Media Studios.
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