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Reduce Costs by Quantifying Your Waste

Reduce Costs by Quantifying Your Waste

Before you can provide a solution to a problem, you have to understand what exactly the problem is. In the case of going green and reducing your company's waste, you must not only identify what kind of waste you want to reduce, but how much waste you're producing. By quantifying the amount of materials, paper, energy and other resources that your business uses inefficiently, you'll be better positioned to eliminate it. And doing so isn't just serving a noble purpose to your community and the planet - it will provide repeat bottom-line benefits for your business.

It's not as difficult as you may think either, experts say. Especially if you take these steps:

  • Treat waste as a commodity. That's right. Because it is - just like the inventory you order every month. When you view waste as an item that can be evaluated using a cost-benefits ratio, you can begin reducing it. Take a look at what ends up in your company trash bin, for example. Are there reports that you printed out that could have simply been distributed more cost-effectively - and in more green-friendly fashion - via an emailed PDF version? Are there office supplies that ultimately end up getting tossed because you bought too many? "Measure this by listing the items you buy and how much you spend on each," says Cassie Walker, author of The Green Office Handbook. "Set up an Excel worksheet to record your usage. After taking action, set up the worksheet to track results."
  • Prioritize.Quantifying your company's 'waste profile' is a bit of a tall order. So you first need to get a handle on what should be addressed in which order. The top priority should be the waste that drains the most in terms of expenses. Examine how much expense is incurred by having your crew trucks use fuel needlessly by idling too much, for example, or using equipment inefficiently. Or research how much you'd save by investing immediately into CFL lighting verses replacing lights as they burn out. Get a sense of what you'd eliminate by ordering just the materials you need, when you need them. Once you have the big picture, start implementing where you have the most to gain, then work your way down the list. "Green is first and foremost about conservation," Walker says. "But that translates to both environmental and economic goals. Your greening program should save money, as well as the environment."
  • Pinpoint not only what waste you have, but where it needs to go.There are many paints, solvents, adhesives, lacquers, metals and other materials that emerge as significant waste products within the building industry. But owners need to know what the local and federal laws are with respect to proper disposal, and then inventory their waste and make sure it's being routed to the right source. "Cost is an issue," says Dan Welby, director of corporate services at Environmental Data Resources, a company that helps businesses manage waste. "It happens time and time again when contractors dump these materials into a landfill. Liability can be strict. Any person responsible for a contamination is potentially liable for the cost of cleanup."
  • Take advantage of available tech tools.Environmental Defense Fund's Paper Calculator (, for example, is used by 3,000 businesses and individuals every month to identify and reduce the amount of paper they use. The calculator is part of a more comprehensive online resource for businesses to encourage waste reduction and other green efforts
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