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Sustainability in the Powershop office

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Sustainability in the Powershop office
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At Powershop, we’ll always work hard to do the right thing by the environment and our customers, and sustainability is a big part of that.

If you’ve heard of Powershop before, you may know that we’re backed by 100% renewable generation. We also carbon offset all of the carbon associated with our operations and our customers usage, at no extra cost to our customers.

Helping to protect Australia's future is really important to us and we understand it's important to walk-the-walk if we are going to talk-the-talk regarding Australia's transition to a sustainable energy future and the impact we have on the climate. You can find out more about what we do at powershop here on our Renewable Energy page.

We are continuously making changes in our head office to make it more sustainable. Take a look at some of the ways we do this and the impacts it has had. Hopefully there’s some tips and tricks in here that you can borrow for your home or workplace.


1. Single-use items

Single-use items such as straws and plastic bags are a huge issue worldwide. We implemented the following initiatives to reduce the amount of waste created in, and around, the office due to single-use items, as well as to educate and encourage staff to implement similar programs at home.

Initiatives:
  • Provide reusable alternatives in the office to reduce takeaway food waste, such as metal straws and chopsticks, reusable containers, shopping bags at the lifts to grab before supermarket runs and reusable coffee cups.
  • KeepCup workshop to educate staff about the impacts of single use coffee cups.
  • Beeswax wrap workshops to teach staff about reusable alternatives and create excitement around reusable alternatives (Beeswax wrap blog).
  • Education around Bio-plastics to help staff make informed choices about plastic use (Bio-plastic blog).

Outcomes:

After introducing KeepCups and running an education session with our team we had visible changes in behaviour. We undertook our own survey both before and after the cups were introduced, and we learnt some interesting things.

Thanks to KeepCup’s education session and increased signage in the office, the team are now more aware of the environmental impact of disposable coffee cups: 95% being aware now compared to the 82% previously. Plus, more staff now say they would like to reduce or stop using disposable coffee cups altogether: 90% now compared to 75% in the last survey!

Interestingly, "How do you currently throw out disposable coffee cups" made very little change. With 20% saying recycle, 12% landfill and 68% splitting cup and lid.

Between biodegradable, recyclable or compostable (sometimes only the lid or only the cup) it’s enough to confuse even the savviest environmentalist. The cups can vary depending on where you get your coffee so it’s best to check on the lid and cup as to how to dispose of them. In general, splitting the lid (recycling) and cup (landfill) is the best way to go.

Since implementing these initiatives, our staff are more conscious of alternatives and many have implemented these initiatives at home. Check out our ‘Plastic Free July How We Went’ blog for some tips and tricks from our team.


2. Waste

Understanding what waste our office creates and where it goes after it leaves is important to us. By correctly separating waste into several categories (or waste streams) we can prevent it from ending up in landfill and instead it can be recycled into new products or used to create compost.

Initiatives:
  • Separation of waste streams: An initiative to further separate office waste has been a huge success.  We had to begin with education, but the team quickly caught on (download the posters for your home or office below). We now have separate collection bins for:
    • Soft plastics
    • Food waste
    • Coffee grounds
    • Co-mingled recycling
    • Paper
    • Landfill
  • Removal of personal desk bins was done to reduce contamination of waste streams. It’s much easier to throw things into landfill when that’s the only bin at your desk. By centralising bins, all waste can be sorted easily into the correct bin.
  • Waste audit is done every year to assess how we are doing separating out waste and to see what is happening with our volume.
  • Weekly report from Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group regarding how much food waste and coffee grounds we are diverting from landfill

Food waste, e-waste, landfill and recycling bins around the office
Photo of Powershop office food wastePhoto of e-waste from the Powershop officePhoto of landfill & recycling bins with posters

Outcomes:

Comparing our waste audit results from the last 2 quarters of 2019 compared to the first quarter of 2020:

Thanks to the introduction of separate food waste, coffee ground and soft plastic bins we have reduced waste going to landfill from 70% to 33%! Food and coffee waste now makes up 27% of our waste split. Food waste and coffee grounds are made into compost by the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group.

Thanks to this we are diverting around 5-6kg of food waste from landfill every day. The greenhouse gas that would be created by this food waste in landfill would be roughly 1.3 tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year. So, removing this from landfill is roughly equivalent to planting roughly 21 trees or charging 165,766 smartphones (EPA website).

For more information about separating waste and how Powershop is doing this head to our blog The Great Rubbish Debate.Image of Powershop waste posters To download the posters choose your option below
No Food waste bin

I have a compost bin
I have a worm farm
I have a council Food waste bin


3. Travel

We are fortunate to be based in Melbourne, a city which has an abundance of public transport options. Many of our staff already utilise public transport, walk or cycle into work.

Initiatives:
  • Each year we celebrate "Ride to work day", encouraging staff to walk, run or ride to work. We put on breakfast to celebrate this event and encourage staff to get involved - free breakfast always helps!
  • The Melbourne office has a Tesla electric car which is able to be borrowed by any staff member for free. This is often used to head to meetings or events to reduce emissions.
  • Staff travel survey in order to carbon offset any staff travel emissions and find out what types of transport is being used.

Outcomes:

Our staff survey asked staff to list any forms of transport they use at least once in an average week. From this we were able to see that:

From this we were able to see that:

  • 70% of staff travel via public transport (trains and trams) at least one day a week. 27% of staff walk to work and around 9% of our staff ride a bicycle to work at least once a week. Only 11% use cars as their primary form of transport
  • Out of 62 staff in our Melbourne office the cumulative carbon footprint from transport was 40 tonnes per year. This is roughly 6 tonnes per person each year (which we then 100% carbon offset).

*All data based on Powershop 2019 staff commuter survey results.


Ongoing

As our team grows we will continue to work on reducing our impact and improve sustainability in the office. Working to improve video conferencing software to allow remote meetings and improving working-from-home facilities to help staff reduce their carbon footprint.

Many of these sustainability initiatives are implemented by our Health, Safety, Wellness and Sustainability team. From running workshops to organising speakers to come into the office, they continue to challenge the whole team to think about every day sustainability initiatives and provide support.

We are always looking to make improvements but we hope these initiatives can encourage you and your team to be more sustainable and think more widely about your impact.

If you have any further suggestions, please feel free to leave comments below!


Related blogs:
“Bio-plastics” blog
“The Great Rubbish Debate” blog
“Going Plastic Free” blog
“Make your own beeswax wrap!” blog


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