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Do you think addressing food waste in the office is too much of a bother? Doesn’t most waste happen in our households, restaurants and other food institutions? Reports show that most of America’s food waste comes from consumers – of which 60% makes up the workforce. Save for these unprecedented times that have pushed most of us to become remote workers, the Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that 82% of employed persons did all or most of their work at their workplace spending an average of 8 hours on days worked – and we find time to eat within those hours don’t we?

Performing a food waste audit will reveal just how much food goes to waste in our office cafeterias, lunchrooms and catered events daily and how that adds up to a huge amount per year. Food is the number one component taking up space in US landfills and it produces methane, a more potent greenhouse gas.

How to Prevent Food Waste in the Workplace

For companies with cafeterias, tracking the rate and quantity of food consumed over a period of time, and comparing that with inventory data can show how and where food goes to waste. Equipped with this information, waste reduction starts by stocking, serving, and/or producing just the right amount of food for a scheduled period. Larger offices with cafeterias should also consider making more significant investment in waste reduction through proactive policies and the use of systematic waste reduction systems like a biodigester.

For smaller businesses, consider addressing the habit of leaving leftovers by conducting periodic cleaning of refrigerators, encouraging employees to share their food if possible and bringing their food in reusable containers.

Avoid Wasting Food in Company events

Avoiding food waste, particularly for large events is often considered impossible because it can be difficult to know the exact number and preferences of different people that will be attending.

A solution is to include the goal to reduce food waste while planning the food menu. Explore ideas that will take into consideration effective packaging, smart servicing and records of past events. If you do not have any records of details such as how much food is provided versus how much is wasted in events, the most popular food menu, or people’s rate of consumption based on time of the day; make a note to start from your next event. Keeping a consistent record of such information can be useful for planning future events and help the company to steadily improve its food waste reduction initiatives. Check out more tips on how to avoid food waste in your company.

After we have put in all these good measures to prevent waste, we may not be able to avoid the disposal of food scraps like bones, fruit peels and coffee grounds but that does not mean they should end up in the landfill either. Here are some useful tips:

Simple and effective ways to manage food scraps and prevent ‘yuckiness’

Get a brown bin

Just as you have blue bins for recyclable materials, brown bins are meant only for organic materials. Providing brown bins stop food waste from being tossed along into general trash and divert them from ending up in the landfill. Locate the bin in an accessible spot – busy workers may become discouraged and revert to throwing food scraps in general garbage if brown bins are not positioned conveniently. You can avoid a yucky and smelly bin by lining the bin with a biodegradable bag – ensure to separate stinky scraps like meat, fish, bones and greasy food into another bag to prevent bad odor; keeping a lid on and recycling regularly (consider composting). Also ensure that everyone knows what is and is not acceptable in a brown bin; consider posting a visual aid on or near the bin.

Compost

Composting converts organic waste into soil carbon, averting landfill methane emissions in the process. After installing brown bins to collect your food waste, you can either start an office composting project and subscribe to composting companies that offer pick-up service. Litterless.com provides a comprehensive list of composting services across all states in the US. If your small business is located within a large building that has a cafeteria, you can think about collaborating with other like minded businesses to demand proper management of food waste and suggest composting to them.

To achieve effective results for reducing and properly managing food waste, employees play a huge role and must be properly educated and engaged. Consider assigning a food waste champion to spearhead the initiative and ensure proper coordination of all efforts. Choose someone who is passionate about the cause or someone from your company’s green team. Communicate what you want to achieve to your employees by telling visual stories. The Food Waste Toolkit is a great resource with infographics, factsheets and links to websites that can help get your employees thinking about how much food is wasted in the office and what they can do to curb it.

About the Author

Tosin Folorunso

GBB Green Ambassador

Oluwatosin (Tosin) Folorunso is a Master’s student of Global Sustainability, an entrepreneur, and content writer for Green Business Bureau. She is passionate about finding innovative methods to solving solid waste pollution with a focus on plastic and textile waste. She has performed various research on small-scale plastic recycling and founded a sustainable fashion brand (Sophie Meraki) that upcycles textile waste into new apparel, accessories and jewelry. Tosin enjoys taking long walks, photography and learning new languages (currently French and Korean).

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