People and Culture
Engaging Employees Around Waste Reduction

What Is It?

Software versus Hardware is a good metaphor for engagement versus facilities. Examples of facilities or hardware include waste receptacles and working with a waste hauler to offer single-stream recycling. Facilities (hardware) alone do not do the job. A campaign to change behavior (software) also has to be implemented so that the facilities are used properly. For example, just putting a green recycling bin under office desks does nothing besides take up floor space, but adding an awareness and education campaign about what goes in the bin increases recycling rates.


The benefits of an engagement campaign around waste can be different for different properties or cultures:

  1. Cost – reduction in waste hauling, janitorial labor and supply purchasing.
  2. Employees – gives employees a higher purpose as well as attracting top young talent that demands programs like this.
  3. Environment – reduced environmental impact associated with business, but even more impactful is the employees’ behavior taken home to family, friends and community.

Additional Resources

Framework for Engagement:

1. Pledge – leadership commitment is integral to an engagement program, but you also need to involve your stakeholders and create an internal team & area ambassadors to carry out the campaign.Pledge Framework
2. Identify Behaviors to Change

    • Examples: removing office waste bins, bottled beverage reduction, copier paper reduction, cafeteria composting
    • Chart the impact and likelihood of adoption of each of the behaviors. The behavior with the highest area becomes the campaign focus.Behavior Impact

3. Benchmarking – document the behavior like you would a science project with before/after metrics:

      • Hard Data – copier imprint counts, reems of paper, recycling rate, composting rate, # of bins
      • Soft Data – employee surveys, observation

4. Strategy

      • Uncover barriers and benefits through observation, focus groups or surveysBehaviors
      • Objective

        Encourage good behavior = increase benefits and decrease barriers

        Discourage bad behavior = increase barriers and decrease benefits

      • Engagment Technique – social norming, feedback of results, benign peer pressure, rewards
      • Communication Method – emails, website, signage, meetings, personal, prompts

5. Analysis – collect data and communicate the results

Examples of Challenge for Sustainability participants employing waste engagement

Examples of A Better City members employing waste engagement

      • Beth Israel Deaconnes Medical Center
      • Harvard School of Public Health

Case Studies and Resources

In The News