Burt's Bees employees stocked up two weeks of trash. They then suited up in Haz-Mat gear and dove in.
What they found is now saving them $25,000 a year and brings them much closer to their goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2020.By going through all that trash, employees found they weren't taking advantage of money- and waste-saving recycling opportunities. From what they learned with the experiment, they have now cut their waste stream in half, on top of the money savings.
Since setting their zero-waste goal 18 months ago, the company has cut their waste stream from 40 tons per month down to 10 tons. But going through their trash helped them figure out that there were things getting tossed that should have been recycled, and things that could be recycled if they're able to find outlets for them.
The excursion reinvigorated their efforts, and hopefully inspires more businesses to set similar goals. But it can do even more than that. It can inspire employees to change habits at work and at home.
"Once you've seen your garbage up close, it's hard to ignore it," jokes Shira E. Norman, a research consultant in the Chicago office of YRG Sustainability, a consulting firm that works with companies applying for LEED certification.
While there may be a certain "yuck" factor to picking through your company's garbage, experts insist the exercise makes a strong impression on employees that can inspire behavior change with far greater impact than any written report or e-mail alert, Norman says.
There's nothing like hands-on experience to get minds to shift gears. And we're pretty certain wading through two weeks of trash is a pretty intense hands-on experience.
More on the Impact of Trash:
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"
Recycling is Bullshit; Make Nov. 15 Zero Waste Day, not America Recycles Day
One Man's Mission: Not Throwing Any Trash 'Away' For 365 Days