As we continue our commitment to reducing HMFH’s carbon footprint through changes in our office operations, we knew consumption was an important part of the puzzle. Not only was it important to look at what our consumption patterns were, but also what we were throwing away. The goal some might say is zero waste—find a way to recycle everything and compost the rest. But when it comes to waste, transitioning from business as usual is easier said than done. At HMFH we’re tackling this like we do all things sustainability: set measurable goals and then begin! The first goal is to reduce, second reuse, third recycle (and in this case recycle also means compost).
Understanding our impact on the waste stream was more fun than we had expected (we enjoy data and experiments, especially when it’s in the name of climate action). We worked with our custodial staff to weigh the trash and recycling produced from our office for an entire month. Once that data was collected, we calculated our average per person and we surprisingly produce an equal amount of trash to recycling which averaged out to around 9lbs per person for the month. Not surprisingly for an architecture firm, the majority of our waste is paper and the other, potentially heavier, portion comes from our kitchen.
The main contribution to our kitchen waste is from lunch and grounds from our impressive coffee intake. Given that we had already purchased reusable office mugs, dishes, and cutlery, composting seemed to be the next natural step. We’ve been researching which company works best for our office based on our location and needs. By composting, we would not only reduce our waste but also contribute to the health of the soils which is one of the natural ways the environment pulls carbon from the atmosphere (also known as a carbon sink).
To further reduce our food waste, we’re setting up guidelines for vendors that will require they use catering companies that support our goals for waste reduction. We are asking for buffet style instead of individual lunches, no single use cutlery/serve ware and no individual drinks. We plan to push this even further to only use companies whose desires to combat their contribution to the climate problem match ours, that list is still being developed.
Our paper use is seemingly much harder to tackle. The business of architecture requires a lot of paper, changing the way we work requires educating our staff and clients about why or when we might decide not to print. One step we’ve already taken is to install multiple touch screen monitors around the office for design coordination among project teams and purchased one that can be moved as needed. We’ve begun to research different modes for note taking: tablets with special pens that will save documents via the pad that is written on. The rest is an ongoing conversation with project teams to make sure we’re all on the same page about the goal of reduction. What we can’t reduce we plan to continue to recycle.